1. There are a ton of tools, toys, and time-wasters available
2. It is mind-bogglingly immense and you will never be able to see it all
With this in mind, I have set out to bring you the best free things the Internet has to offer. Tools you can use at home or work, games and toys for entertainment, or just your average weekend time-wasters: the goal is to find the best free resources and share them with you. Check back often, you never know when I’ll find another great free site!
Have a resource you’d like to share, or have you been unable to find the one tool you really need? Leave a comment and I’ll try to sniff it out for you.
PocketMod: Customizable Pocket Organizer
Amazing concept, and so simple you’ll feel silly for not thinking of it yourself. Basically, it’s the premise that the easiest way to organize is to write everything down on a sheet of paper and keep it in your pocket. Now take that, amplify it about 100 times, and you have PocketMod.
The PocketMod website is a program that allows you to create a printable organizer all on a single sheet of paper. You use the website to determine what ‘modules’ (mods) you want to include on your paper; you can choose eight out of a total of 35 available mods. They’ve thought of almost everything, from calendar pages to a shopping list, Sudoku to music sheets. Available mods are on the left-hand side of the site, and the mods currently selected to print are on the right-hand side. Click one and it will appear in the middle, larger sized for you determine if it will meet your needs. If so, click and hold the ‘Drag to Page’ icon and drag it to the page you want it to appear.
Once you’ve decided which mods to use, you click the button to send it to print. You can leave it at the default US Letter size (8.5 inches by 11 inches), or you can chose to have it print on a custom size of paper.
Now that you have your printed page, get ready for the actual PocketMod magic: the folding. It is a little difficult the first few times, so make sure you watch the video they have available on the site. Once you’ve got the hang of it, though, you’ll be whipping out PocketMods left and right!
Incompetech: Customizable Graph Paper
At the very top of the page you will notice their logo: “Ugly website. Brilliant content”. Both are true. Imcompetech offers a variety of customizable freebies such as calendars, mailing labels, and graph paper. What makes them different is that your items are created as a PDF which you can then save to your computer to use again and again.
While the calendar and mailing labels are nice, the graph paper is pure brilliance. Want graph paper with 1 inch squares? Done. A grid where the vertical lines are darker or lighter than the horizontals? Done. What about a grid that doesn’t actually have lines, only dots or cross-hairs where the lines would normally intersect? Already thought of that, too. They even offer Axonometric Perspective graph paper. I have no clue what it is, but it sounds intriguing…
For those wondering “What could I possibly do with graph paper?”, here’s a list of suggestions:
- Use graph paper to determine the layout of your garden or landscaping.
- Rearranging the furniture in your house? Try drawing different layouts on graph paper first so you’ll know before-hand if the couch will block the doorway, rather than moving the couch umpteen times.
- Quilters might find standard graph paper or Axonometric grids helpful when designing patterns.
- As a website designer, I use the dotted graph paper as my jumping off point for site layout. A horizontal sheet of paper is a fairly good representation of a computer screen, and the dots help keep everything tidy and aligned.
- In college, I always took my class notes on grid paper. It made it easier to keep my outlines, well, lined up.
Picnik: Online Picture Editing
Looking for a quick and simple way to clean up your digital photos? Try Picnik, the online editor from Seattle-based firm called Bitnik. Since it’s online, there’s nothing for you to download and therefore no worries about drivers, disk-space, or spyware. You can upload photos from your computer, take a shot with your webcam, access photos you’ve uploaded to an existing Flickr account, and more. Once you’ve selected the photo, there are a variety of tools available to you in two major categories: standard editing and creative special effects. There’s even a real-time zoom tool in the lower right-hand corner of the screen so you can see how your changes affect the entire photo or just a portion.
Once you’ve completed your masterpiece, you can save your photo to your computer, print or email it, or save it to your existing Flickr account.
Foreign Service Institute: Language Courses
This is the online repository of Public Domain language courses developed by the Foreign Service Institute of the US government. Currently, there are 19 languages available. The courses offer text instruction, audio files you listen to on your computer, or both. There is an active forum available with 441 members where you can report bugs in the files, request languages, and discuss the language you’re learning with others.
For most people, this one is an entertaining time-waster, pure and simple. They have archived eleven years and 85 billion pages worth of the Internet. While there is certainly academic and scientific value to the project, most people will use it as a nice trip down memory lane. Remember what Google looked like in 1998? What about Lycos in 1996? Even better, what about the website you designed in college? Yup, they’re all there and more. And yes, they’re ugly.
Ah the good old days of web design, when there were only 256 colors and tables…