3 free webtools that have made significant improvements

I’m a self-proclaimed webdork. But as a webdork and the developer of some websites/blogs, there are a number of free web tools out there that are not only awesome, but have recently gone from "awesome" to "awesome-er."

(Formerly known as "google homepage" or "personalized homepage.") Not only is this the best and easiest feed reader on the planet, now it is the best looking and most flexible. A couple months back they added the ability to select a theme. Having been a longtime user of my.yahoo I was pretty leary of this because Yahoo’s themes were lame. But iGoogle’s theme’s take it one step cooler! The themes actually morph to your current weather, season, and time. For instance, the beach theme shows the sun rising and going across the sky to match your current solar position. When the sun goes down, the moon comes out. Other ones show your homepage raining or the characters putting on shorts depending on my local weather conditions. Also brand new to iGoogle is "Make your own gadget." This allows you to easily make a widget or gadget that you can share with friends. Totally sweet tool that I’m positive loads of people will learn to love. Seriously, if you don’t use iGoogle (duh, it’s free!) than you aren’t experiencing the web properly.

Analytics As a webdork, this is a major site I use regularly to see where all my traffic is coming from, doing on my sites, and going when they leave my sites. Of course, it’s free which adds to the joy… but they also just did a major remodel job on this thing. The dashboard layout is much more detailed and the statistics are now much more integrated and much "deeper." For example, the map feature now gives me the ability to "drill down" to find out exactly where users are coming from. Before it just showed this globe with little dots on it. Now I can see traffic from specific towns… unfortunately not from specific homes! For the church site, this is massive. Now we can see if our traffic is coming from our target demographic. Love that.

More than just a counter for me. Sitemeter gives me easy access to simple site statistics… perfect for a blog. They just released a site redesign which I totally dig. Besides the nice new look to their pages the biggest enhancement I’ve enjoyed is that it requires me to login to see my traffic details. So, for non-Adam’s it will show a summary of Adam’s blog traffic. But for Adam it will show the normal details. Not a major change, but something that makes this free tool now "awesome-er."

Though not really new, an honorable mention must go to the best free application on the net: Google Docs. They’ve taken the most used features of Word, Excel, and soon  to be PowerPoint and made them usable on the net for free. For example, 100% of the publication process for YMX is now done on Google docs. Once the article comes to us, we can create a document on our page, share it with all the people involved in t he process so they can collaboratively work on the article at their own pace, and we can export it to the main site easily. Trust me, when this thing catches on, handing in papers at school is going to cease altogether. You’ll just email the teacher/prof a link… they’ll grade it and publish their thoughts on your document and send it back. Even for business, I see this as a powerful underutilized tool that can revolutionize the way documents are created and distributed.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

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