Blog Archives

Google Dictionary Extension for Chrome Gives You Definitions as You Browse [Downloads]

Chrome: This free dictionary extension from Google lets you view definitions from within web pages you visit. Just double-click a word to see its meaning in a pop-up bubble or get in-age translation of a foreign word. More »

Postponer Adds ReadItLater Integration to Google Chrome [Downloads]

Chrome only: Google Chrome extension Postponer integrates the popular ReadItLater service directly into Google Chrome, so you can save interesting articles for later reading, and easily retrieve them with a toolbar button. More »

Maggwire Offers Hundreds of Magazines for Free Online Reading [Magazines]

If you missed out on the free periodical fun with the now-defunct Mygazines, you can get your fill of free magazine reading online with Maggwire.

Unlike Mygazines, which ran into trouble by being the host of hundreds of magazines, Maggwire decides to take the road that involves fewer legal beatings by serving as a nice index to legitimate web presences of hundreds of magazines. Frankly this seems like a much better situation to be in, since it was novel, but not exactly efficient, to read scanned magazines online in the method employed by Mygazines.

While browsing Maggwire you can see article summaries, ratings, and whether or not anyone has commented on the article. When it comes time to actually read the article, you'll be sent to the actual publisher's website. Maggwire makes it easy to quickly find interesting articles from major publishers and magazines without the hassle of visiting individual sites—which many of us never quite get around to doing.

Check out Maggwire at the link below and if you have a favorite way for keeping an eye on your reading list of magazines, let’s hear it in the comments.

Top 10 Underhyped Webapps, 2009 Edition [Lifehacker Top 10]

As with rock music, video games, and other awesome pursuits, great web applications often don’t get enough credit for what they do well. We’re revisiting and updating our favorite underhyped webapps to give a new crop of contenders their due.

Photo by thievingjoker.

10. Freckle

Like previous underhyped champ Remember the Milk, Freckle doesn’t require you to learn a new set of rules or input methods to track how you spend your time working for clients. If you type “Writing copy for Benderson Corp. 1h45m,” it assigns a 1-hour-and-45-minute billing for Benderson. Want to make something non-billable, but still tracked? Add an asterisk after it. Freckle offers visually appealing reports about how you’re spending time for clients, but also how you’re spending your own time, giving you the chance to assess how you’re spending your time. A plan with one account and one project is free, and any of Freckle’s other plans can be tried for 30 days free, so if you don’t find yourself addicted to its charts and graphs, you can return to your spreadsheet. (Original post)

9. TinyChat

Setting up a live video, audio, and screen-sharing chatroom for up to 12 people at once seems like something that might require a dozen software installations and point-by-point walkthroughs. If you aren’t pitching a client so much as just trying to get folks talking, TinyChat handles the task admirably, and nobody has to do a thing but follow a link and turn on a mic or webcam. The rooms aren’t password-protected unless the chat owner has a paid account, but you can require chatters to sign in with a Twitter handle to verify identity, and control just who gets to jump in with their video or audio feeds. Pretty impressive stuff for a free web service. (Original post)

8. ScreenToaster

Your boss asks you to demonstrate exactly how “that thing you do with that program works,” but you’re at work without screen recording software installed. Fire up ScreenToaster’s site, load its Java-based applet, and you can record surprisingly decent quality screencasts and demonstrations, with audio voice-overs, at the push of a single button. When you’re done recording part of your desktop or the whole thing, you can have ScreenToaster upload the finished product to YouTube or ScreenToaster’s own site, download your screencast as a QuickTime or Flash file, and re-record audio if you didn’t hit it the first time. Here’s our own quick ScreenToaster test. Tell your viewers to hit the full-screen button for your screencasts and it’s like you’re hovering right over their shoulder, semi-patiently showing them just how it’s done. (Original post)

7. Lovely Charts

Sure, it’s a pretty presumptuous name, but Lovely Charts succeeds at what it promises. The Flash-based webapp produces very clean-looking charts for all kinds of purposes, be it a flowchart to describe a process, a diagram describing a network setup, conference seating, or whatever you might want to sketch out on the back of a napkin. You only get to save one chart at a time to edit later with a free account, but you can export any number of charts to JPG or PNG as often as you’d like. (Original post)

6. Instapaper & Read It Later

It's a really cool article or blog post you just stumbled across, but at the moment—right this second—you don't have time to read it. If you had a bookmarklet or browser plug-in for either the Instapaper or Read It Later service, you'd be able to quickly send that web page to your account for bookmarking. Once there, it can be stripped of all but essential text for reading, saved for offline reading in your iPhone, marked as read when you're done with it, shared with others—you get the idea. Read It Later offers a Firefox extension for offline reading, easy saving, and a lot more functionality in general, but Instapaper keeps it clean and simple on purpose. Both are great services that quietly do similar, and extremely useful, things. (Original posts: Read It Later & Instapaper)

5. YouMail

Not everybody can swing a smartphone, many smartphones don’t offer visual voicemail, and very few people (at the moment) get to play with Google Voice and its transcribed voicemails. For those feeling like their phones are under-powered, there’s YouMail. Sign up, follow YouMail’s instructions on setting up your phone to hand over your phone’s voicemail duties to its service, and you’ll be able to listen to or download voicemails from its web site or smartphone apps. With the limited free or paid unlimited transcription plans, the halfway decent speech-to-text versions of your messages are emailed or sent by SMS right away. If you want different voicemail greetings for different contacts, YouMail can do that, too. Whether you’re rocking the cheapest phone they had at the store or an iPhone, YouMail’s a great add-on. (Original post)

4. PDF to Word

If you need to grab elements from a PDF, edit part of its text, or cut down its size, you might try converting it to a Microsoft Word file. For doing that task, PDF to Word is more than just adequate—it's darned impressive. We were kind of amazed at how well even the most complex of PDFs we had access to (an invitation to a snooty art installation opening) were flipped into almost exact facsimiles in Word format. Simply upload a PDF, provide an email address, and your document is on its way to you. Maker NitroPDF has other free PDF tools worth checking out, and paid software to entice you with, but PDF to Word is a webapp that does exactly what it says, no catches or gimmicks. (Original post)


It’s hard to say that doesn’t have a fairly persistent marketing push behind it, but for all the helpful functions it offers, the service doesn’t get enough notice. Besides giving anyone 100MB of temporary file-sharing space without any sign-up required, can handle the rare faxing job, record voice memos by telephone, set up quick multimedia presentations, and more as developers hack on the open API. Having recently been assigned as Yahoo Mail’s default large attachment handler should bring out of semi-obscurity, though its deeper functionality still deserves a bit more attention.

2. Fonolo

If calling a company’s customer service line and dealing with automated answering systems fills you with a certain kind of dread, you need a Fonolo account. The free service has diagrammed the customer service phone trees of more than 500 major firms, letting you click the point in the call you want to be at (“Press 4 to cancel an account …”), then taking care of the tedious number-punching up to that point, calling you to connect exactly where you want to come in. With its latest update, Fonolo can even record your call, giving you the power to get better customer service with detailed records. (Original post)

1. The Aviary suite

Aviary is a webapp maker that specializes in fully-featured Flash apps, and they’re seemingly engaged in a dare to see how much users can get done entirely in a browser. Jackson West called Phoenix the best online image editor, and our readers agree. They’ve got a lighter, faster version dubbed Falcon, and if you want to annotate an image that’s already on someone’s server, you can paste its URL after and it’ll quickly import the image for your editing pleasure. Most recently, and most impressively, they’ve launched a full-featured audio editor that we totally geeked out over. If you can remember their name, you can benefit from Aviary’s host of impressive in-a-pinch tools.

What underrated webapps are making life easier for you? Which smaller-scale sites do their jobs better than the big guys? Trade your tips in the comments.

Google Book Downloader Downloads Books to PDF [Downloads]

Windows: Thanks to Google’s drive to add more and more books to the Google Books project, including thousands of public domain volumes, you’ll find quite a nice selection to choose from. Google Book Downloader helps you download them to PDF.

Update: It’s come to our attention that use of this application is locking some users out of Google Books because downloading full books from the service is a violation of their terms of service. As such, we’ve redacted the link. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Let’s get one thing out of the way from the start. Google Book Downloader will not let you pirate books. Apparently this app attempts to download more than the allotted preview of limited-preview books—hence the removal of the link and the lockout by Google. It will however let you download books that are flagged as full-access, such as books in the public domain and books with limited-preview—although you'll only get the preview parts, not the entire book.

While using the application isn't as simple as say, right clicking on a file and saving it, the difficulty level isn't high. Once you've installed the application, fire it up, and feed it some books you want to download. Although the instructions for the Add dialogue box indicate you can use ISBN numbers, we didn't have much luck with that. Since you're already searching Google Books to find the books you want, you might as well cut and paste the URL for the book at Google Books—that method never failed.

Once you’ve added your books they’ll appear in the download queue. From there start the downloads and let it go. Occasionally as the application pulls down data you’ll need to enter a captcha to keep the pipeline open, but other than that it’s an unattended process.

Google Book Downloader is freeware, Windows only and requires .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 or above.

Lazyfeed Is a Topics-Based Feed Reader [Newsreaders]

New webapp Lazyfeed is a topics-based newsreader that delivers the latest news focusing on subjects you’re interested in. Rather than delivering new content from specific sites, Lazyfeed only updates when it finds something new based on one of your topics of interest.

The idea behind the service is nice if you’re not all that dedicated to your favorite blogs and news outlets, but it’s lacking if you have a few favorite sites and want to keep up with them in addition to your preferred categories. I guess that’s the whole “lazy” part of Lazyfeed: The content comes to you, and you don’t have to go through the effort of adding feed after feed to your newsreader.

So while we can’t imagine ditching our dedicated feed readers for a Lazyfeed, it seems like a nice baby step into the world of newsreaders for folks who just aren’t ready to take the plunge to something like Google Reader.

Repeat “A-E-I-O-U” to Read Faster [Back To School]

School work involves a fair amount of tedious reading, which is why knowing how to get through and comprehend text quickly is a useful skill to have. Looking to learn? Try incorporating the A-E-I-O-U method.

In the above video demo (warning: 15 second ad) posted on instructional web site 5min, speed reading guide Chris offers his advice on how to plow through your words. According to Chris, you can do so by choosing a passage and voicing “A-E-I-O-U” or “one, two, three, four” as you read the text. He goes on to say that the average person reads between 125-250 words per minute because they’re still reading with their larynx (even if not out loud). To read above this level, you need to read just with your eyes, not your larynx. Chris suggests that repeating the above phrase will help train you to stop voicing the word using your larynx, which will apparently help you to better visualize the text in its entirety and thus get through your required (or other reading) faster.

We’re not promising you’ll get through ten books a day, but the idea makes sense and certainly seems like it could speed up your reading a bit. Looking for an alternative way to get through Geology 101? Check out a few more previously mentioned speed-reading techniques.

How to Speed Read [Boing Boing]

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