You Are No Galley Slave

Ashish Bhatia        Print Edition: October 2011

Ever encountered a file with a weird extension that makes you go, "WTH do I do with this?" Want to spread you tweets out over time rather than flood your followers timeline all at once? Need to goad someone into doing something for you? Got to pore over a document in realtime with an associate or a client who is halfway across the world? These tasks appear if not difficult, at least displeasing. But all this and more can be done with just minimal effort- and gratis to boot. All you have to do is venture out into the World Wide Web and check out these very useful tools.

1. MINDMEISTER A superb web-based brainstorming and mind mapping application, Mindmeister lets you outline your thought streams as they come. MindMeister is one of the most popular free apps around. This easy-to-use thought plotter offers very decent options for composing and drawing out your thoughts as and when you want. In its brainstorming mode, other MindMeisters (anywhere on Earth) can work collaboratively and simultaneously in real-time on the same mind map and see each other's changes as they happen. And since you also have the iPad, iPhone and Android mobile versions of the app, you can tweak, tune and view mind maps even when you are on the trot.

2. COOLENDAR What do you get when you blend a calendar with a to-do list? That's right, the Coolendar. Actually, this is more of a to-do keeper than a calendar, only your tasklist is not free floating and everything has a set date. The best thing about Coolendar is that it is pretty, uncluttered, undaunting and easy to use. When a task is due, it simply zaps an email to the Google account you've signed in with. (Yeah, no registration is required to get going here.) Integrate it with Google Talk and you'll get a reminder for a new item on your to-do list via a chat message. And it automatically syncs with your favourite calendars-Google Calendar, iCal and Outlook.

3. BUFFER, listen up! Buffer is a very nifty tool if you want to space your tweets out over time. So with a tool like this, you need not spam your followers with a deluge of tweets at one go. And maybe it saves you some time during a workday as well.That's wonderful. But here's the not so wonderful bit: a gratis account, unhappily, only allows you to keep 10 tweets in your Buffer. Some of you may sorely miss Facebook integration. The scheduling also could be made simpler. But overall, it a super concept that works well.

4. PDF TO EXCEL The now ubiquitous PDF-or Portable Document Format-allows you to exchange formatted ("fixed layout") electronic documents or document "captures" as files and have them appear securely on the recipient's screen exactly as they were intended. But there are times when you have to reverse the process, that is go from PDF to document. And this is most needed when you're dealing with number figures and charts. For this you can use PDF to Excel to quickly and easily create highly, editable XLS files. This will make it a cinch to re-use tables and spreadsheets from PDF files in Excel, Google Docs or whatever you prefer.

5. SHOWDOCUMENT /main.jsf Need to attend a Net or web conference where you also need to share docs, or work the whiteboard, or discuss particular elements on a web page- all collaboratively, across cities/countries/continents? Try this file sharing and web meeting platform. You can set up any of the above and simply mail the join-in code to your cohorts. They arrive at the site, type in the code to join you online for synchronised co-browsing, commenting, or editing. Any uploaded file or web page can be marked with a pen/highlighter tool, etc, during sessions. A free accounts entitles you to three participants and a 30-minute session.

6. COPYTASTE This web tool allows you to create specific private URLs for data that you want to share with your associates. All you do is copy-paste the stuff you want to share--quotes, stories, tips, or upload an image or video--and simply share the specially generated URL. You can make your page private or public, allow comments, and post including formatting-rich text. Sadly the site is vague on instructions and fetching restricted (with a discrete code) can be galling. No registration required.

7. COMETDOCS What do you do if someone sends you a file with weird sounding .ods or .sxm extensions instead of the regular .txt or .doc that you are used to? You may even find it difficult to view the contents of such a file. A quick-fix solution is the services of a file converter like Cometdocs. This is a convenient online billet that converts documents file formats from one that you can't handle to something you can. Cometdocs doesn't convert just .doc files. It can handle audio files, PowerPoint-like presentation sequences, image formats (JPEG, PNG, TIFF, PDF), spreadsheets, etc. In fact, it can take on more than 50 types of online conversion here. Zamzar ( ) is the another option.

8. MONKEYON Getting people to do things can be quite a task. Here's a website that takes on the onerous task of autoprodding them into action until the deed is done. Quite simply, the tool allows you to create a to-do list (along with associated deadlines) for others and it keeps sending them reminders (like a "monkey on their back") until they complete the task and activate a kill process to silence the reminders. Registration is very simple and usage is a lark. No monkey business this.

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