25 Web Sites to Watch

25 Web Sites to Watch

Organisers, Searchers and Optimisers

The Web has so much information that it's hard to keep track of everything. These sites will help you pull content together and move around the Internet more efficiently.

The Web is just as chaotic as the world - but Pageflakes can organise both of them for you. This super-customisable version of a home page enables you to pick the news and information feeds you want to read, and to specify the "flakes," or applets, you want to include. Flakes let you add all sorts of cool stuff to your page - movie times, to-do lists, a notepad, e-mail, a horoscope - even sudoku or a personal blog. If you're looking for one-stop browsing, this is it.

If you spend more time than you should googling folks, you need to check out Spock.com, a search engine designed to dig up information about people. Start by typing in a name, or a search term that describe a group of people - for example, Motown Singer, or Rastafarians. The site then searches through various social networking sites such as MySpace and Friendster, along with more-general Web sites, and reports on what it finds.

For many searches, you'll get multiple categories of links. For instance, type in Barack Obama, and you'll get groupings like 'Democrat', 'Senator', and '2008 Presidential Candidate'. Click any link, and you'll find pages related to both Obama and the larger category. There are also links to photographs, tags, Obama's Wikipedia entry, his Senate site, and so on. Spock is currently in beta form (its public launch is scheduled for sometime before September), and at the moment you need an invitation to gain access to it, but with luck you can wangle one by filling out the form on the site.

Data and graph fanatics, you have a home. Swivel, holds a mind-boggling array of charts and graphs - from a line graph illustrating the relationship between wine consumption and crime in the United States over the past 30 years to a pie chart showing the percentage breakdown of bird flu cases in 14 Asian countries. But the site's most outstanding feature is its ability to integrate different charts containing seemingly unrelated data. Want to compare the national murder rate to the cost of a first-class stamp, or to total hours of media use in U.S. households, over the same period of time? Now you can.

The Internet is the best research tool in existence. That's the good news - and the bad news. Though finding information online is easy, keeping track of it all can be tough. Most people end up copying and pasting information from Web sites, printing it out, or bookmarking pages - with no good way to keep it all organised or find what they want fast.

Clipmarks solves the problem neatly by installing a toolbar that hitches on to Internet Explorer or Firefox. As you surf the Web, use the Clipmarks toolbar to clip and save sections of a page - text, graphics, and even YouTube videos. Clipping something automatically archives it under your Clipmarks profile, though you can also save it directly to your blog or send it via e-mail. You can even share your clip collections, or look at archives that other users have assembled.

One reason the Web sometimes feels poky, even when you use broadband, is the Internet's Domain Name System. When you type a URL (such as www.pcworld.idg.com.au) into your browser, DNS servers must translate that alphanumeric information into a numeric IP address (such as that Web servers and your PC can understand. Typically your ISP's DNS servers handle the translation work.

But OpenDNS speeds up the translation (called "name resolution") by handling the process on its own high-speed DNS servers. The service includes other cool time-savers, as well, such as the ability to create keyboard shortcuts. For example, instead of typing www.pcworld.idg.com.au each time, you might arrange to type in the letter p and jump immediately to your favourite online destination.

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Preston Gralla

Preston Gralla

PC World (US online)
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