Here’s my list of favorite, must-have, daily use Web and tech products (mainly software) inspired by Michael Arrington and his annual list over at Techcrunch. For some reason, this year, he hasn’t published a list (yet?). [Here's his list from Jan 1, 2010.]
There are 19 products on this list most of which I feel are the best web services available today. And while I absolutely use many more times that number of online web services and other software on a regular basis, I took a cue from Mr. Arrington’s list, and this is the top must-have services and products that I couldn’t live without and that I use practically every day, and in most cases in both my personal and work life.
Gmail. Hands-down, the best e-mail webmail account and client out there. I gave up using Thunderbird — excellent product as it is — years ago and now use Gmail exclusively. Throw in its excellent array of powerful (yet optional) add-ons in Gmail Labs and its ability to suck in mail from other accounts and you have a winner. Gmail may be the best example of a perfectly executed Web 2.0 service.
POBox. This might be the best service you’ve never heard of. It’s an e-mail forwarder. Essentially, I’ve had the same e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for over 10 years now, although I’ve had lots of different e-mail accounts (email@example.com) with different providers.
PObox just forwards my mail wherever I’d like (in this example from firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com). It also does spam checking and filtering using a slew of methods and controls, further simplifying my life. I can also have multiple email aliases (ex: firstname.lastname@example.org). The basic service is more than worth the $20/year of never having to send out an e-mail that says “Hey, please note my new email address.”
Dropbox. Still a freebie, Dropbox simplifies syncing up files across your computers and sharing folders and files with friends. Using web services can be as easy as Dropbox with its non-intrusive app that runs on your computer (Windows/Mac/Linux) or your mobile device (iPhone/iPad/BlackBerry/Android) quietly uploading and downloading whichever folders you told it to share/sync.
Of course, you can also access those files via the Web as well. Upgrade to paying accounts to get 50 or even 100GB of storage.
Evernote. One of my newer ‘acquisitions’ if you will. Evernote is the king of note-taking web-based applications today with versions for your computer, mobile device and the Web that are all kept in sync.
Things you can drop into an Evernote folder include photos, web pages, scanned documents and raw notes. Evernote indexes them all, and in particular does a nice job of scanning text in images. And of course, you can share notebooks (folders) as well.
Evernote is another great example of a well-done Web 2.0 service.
Toodledo. Another of my ‘new’ pick-ups. As much I loved RTM (Remember the Milk), I had to migrate over to Toodledo (TD) as it just had all of the compelling features to support my GTD habit. Plus I could share lists with my co-workers, even allowing them to assign me tasks. The premium version is a mere $15/year and worth every penny.
1Password. If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a few hundred Web logins, and you’ve probably been using your browser’s built-in password tool. But what do you do when you go to your laptop or your phone or iPad? Where are your passwords then?
Agile Web Solutions’ 1Password solves that problem nicely by letting you keep them in sync with Dropbox. It also does a better job of ‘remembering’ passwords that some websites try to stymie the browser from doing so, and will also perform a 1-click and fill-in login.
Available now for Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad an Android platforms. And by the way, their support is fantastic.
Backblaze. Backups. You had better be performing them! With increasingly cheaper disk space and higher capacity broadband access, backing up to the cloud is now a common service offered by a slew of providers, including Backblaze, Mozy, Carbonite, Box.net and drop.io.
I went with Backblaze as it’s unlimited, continuous backups for $5/mo, encryption of my data and a non-intrusive application.
Skype. The future is here. Video phones are actually already here in the form of web-based video chat, and Skype is leading that charge. The basic service is still free and they’ve even recently introduced group video chat.
Facebook. Who doesn’t use Facebook? Need I say more? You already know we have a fan page, and I find it a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. And let’s face it – it’s just a fun web product.
Delicious. Or del.icio.us if you have fond thoughts of the good ol’ days. Sure, there were rumors of Yahoo shutting it down, but those have been quashed for now, and any other company would be thrilled to buy out this venerable social bookmarking service.
Twitter. I have to confess to being one of those people who didn’t much see the point in Twitter in the early days, not to mention that it really isn’t being used for the messages its founders envisioned. But Twitter has exploded and you need to be on it if you want to get your message out via social networking channels [also see Facebook].
One of the most important things that Twitter ever did was to create a very open API that allowed hundreds of developers to create clients and tools that far exceed Twitter’s web interface. For example, I use TweetDeck and HootSuite far more than I ever use Twitter.com.
WordPress. It runs this blog and over 13% of the top 1,000,000 largest websites, and WordPress 3.0 has been downloaded over 30M times. Its open-source nature and the huge selection of plugins and themes makes it a tough platform to avoid.
Google Reader. The web-based RSS reader that makes reading hundreds of feeds easier with its keyboard shortcuts and feed data that seems to go back infinitely into the past. Now if they would just introduce sub-folders, I’d be thrilled.
Google Docs. More free Google Web services goodness. Docs is all you need for real-time collaboration and online, accessible-anywhere storage and sharing. Google Docs also proves you don’t need the F22 cockpit of controls that Microsoft Office gives you.
Google. Remember their original business – that search thing? Yes, I use it daily, and so do you. And they only keep making it better.
And this was just the start of their slew of free online services.
The last 2 products are the only hardware-dominant ones although they have their online ‘cloud’ component as well. Sure you still need a piece of hardware in the form of a computer, smartphone or tablet, but everything you do is shifting to the Web, to the cloud. I’m already there and loving it, although I’m always afraid of what happens when the Internet connection dies or the servers/datacenter with my precious bits have issues.
DVR/Digital Video Recorders. Remember when we didn’t have these? Yeah, life was tough then. I feel helpless when I can’t pause, rewind or cue up a previously recorded program – every time I go to a hotel room comes to mind. My drug of choice – DISH Network’s receivers with built-in DVRs rock. Tivos rock too.
Livescribe. This is the only thing product that I don’t use every day, but I would if I were a student or went to a lot of meetings. The term smartpen is perfect. The Livescribe Pulse smartpen came to market almost fully baked. You can read my full review here, but for $99, you need to get one now and thank me later.
And don’t worry, they’ve also got a web service online that let’s you get to your notes via the Web and/or share them with friends/colleagues.
That’s it for now. Tell what you think are the best online services in the comments. See you next year!