best of 2009: web tools

It came into your work flow this year and now you couldn't live without it. It has simplified or improved your online experience.

The best web tool I discovered this year is dropbox, which is a service that allows its users to store and sync files online and between computers. This has been great for me as I use one computer at work and one computer at home. It also allows users to share collaborative folders with others, which is awesome if I need to access my stuff using M's computer. I love the online storage system idea; I used Mozy for about 2 years to back up my files. I like knowing I can access my files easily if I need to. Yes, I use Time Machine to back up everything but things can happen to back up hard drives, too.

I also love bit.ly for shortening urls, which makes linking in blogs and tweeting much less painful. I have used it mostly for Twitter but also in emails to students and other places where it's nice to have a shorter url.

I've been using Wordpress for about 5 years now so it isn't a new 2009 discovery the way dropbox and bit.ly are. However, as more and more developers work to create plug-ins, templates and documentation for Wordpress I love it more and more each year. This year we got a revamped and streamlined dashboard as well as better security options. I love that I can install plug-ins and themes from the dashboard. When anyone asks me how to quickly and easily set up a website for their band or organization, I always suggest a blog of some kind and if I'm going to be working on it, I suggest a Wordpress blog. I gush when I talk about Wordpress and while there are other blogging platforms out there and other ways to blog, I have found the most success and the most help with Wordpress. And my WP love increased in 2009 with the changes and updates.

M started using Picnik some and I've played around with it a few times and there are some fun and interesting effects it creates. I think it's a great tool for those who don't have nor want to invest in Photoshop but still want to create cool photos. However, there is such a thing as an overpicniked picture and I've seen many examples from my students of this phenomenon on their Facebook photos. So, use it with caution.

I love geeking out about web tools. I'd love to know what web tools I should check out, which ones can't you live without?

*I should say that there are many web tools I use that were discovered in previous years and thus don't fit on this list: Pandora, Google Calendar, Vimeo and many more I've tried and abandoned but I'm still interested in what web tools you love, particularly as I plan my New Media Writing syllabus for next semester.