The web has grown from a quirky collection of esoteric information into an indispensable medium for sharing data and increasing productivity. Here are four extraordinary web sites that offer real value for real people. And the best part is, they’re free!
Think of Evernote as a giant file cabinet where you can store and recall just about anything. Documents, web sites, pictures, notes – practically anything digital can be stored. It’s as simple as clicking a button in your web browser, uploading from your smart phone, sending an email to a special address or dragging and dropping into the Evernote software. Take a picture of whiteboard notes, and it will recognize written words and make them searchable. Search for sesame chicken and you’ll see the picture of the lunch menu from the new Chinese place you just uploaded and also the recipe you clipped from the web a few weeks ago. Plus, free apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry make your information available anywhere!
If you use multiple computers, Dropbox is a must. Dropbox provides you with 2 gigabytes of free online storage space and a program that synchronizes the files you store there on all your computers and even your smart phone. That’s enough space to store thousands of pictures and documents. When you add a file to Dropbox on one of your computers, it will automatically appear on all of your other computers. Want to share files with others? Dropbox allows you to email a friend a special link that gives them access to a particular file or a folder full of files. It’s also a sensible way to send files to others that are too large for email.
GoToMyPC has spent millions of dollars marketing its remarkable service that allows you to install software on one computer and then remotely access it from another. What you may not know is that a smaller company, LogMeIn, offers the same service with a few less features at no charge. LogMeIn lets you view the screen of your work computer from home, or your home computer from work, or either one from the road! It works on Mac or PC. With a paid app, you can even view your computer’s screen from your iPhone or Android over 3G!
Can anything make financial management fun? Mint comes close. It brings all your accounts into one place, helps you set a budget and goals, and lets you view everything like a dashboard with colorful charts and graphics – even on mobile devices. Concerned about security? Mint is owned by Intuit, makers of the popular Quicken and Quickbooks software and has bank-level encryption to keep your data safe. Mint comes with the recommendation of Kiplingers Magazine, CNN Money and over 4 million active users.
So what’s the catch?
Why would companies spend millions to create services they give away for free? The answer is simple. They have figured out how free can actually make money. Each of these web sites, except for Mint, offers a paid version with premium features that are not available in the free version. If you need more than 2 gigabytes of space, for example, Dropbox will provide 50 gigabytes for $10 a month. Mint suggests services that it thinks will be useful to you, like playing matchmaker with credit cards that offer perks that are the most beneficial to you based on your spending habits.