We all discover new web apps each year but not every one of them gets the recognition it deserves. With 2011 drawing to a close, we wanted to highlight the 10 we felt deserved a bit more hype.
Image: Melissa Downey.
Note: Thanks to everyone who contributed suggestions. We looked closely through them all and quite a few of them are on this list!
10. Mini Apps
To start off the list, we're not singling out any one app in particular. We're focusing on the many little web apps that provide one simple feature or do one thing well. These are apps like Every Time Zone (an app that displays what time it is in every time zone), Umbrella Today? (an app that gives you a weather report that is as simple as letting you know if you'll need an umbrella), and notepad.cc (which is just an instant notepad in your browser for whenever you need it). Additionally there's Spreeder, which helps you speed read any text and improve your reading comprehension, SleepyTime, which calculates when you need to go to bed for the optimal wakeup time and SimplyNoise, which is a simple white noise generator. There are too many to list here, but they're all pretty clever and useful. We could do an entire top 10 on these little guys, but that'll have to wait. For now, enjoy the previously mentioned six as well as 0to255, Mixest, PDFMyURL and Copy Paste Character as well. (There, now you have 10!)
Aherk is an interesting web app that was designed to help you blackmail yourself. Let's say, for example, you have an embarrassing nude photo of yourself and you need to wash the dishes. Aherk! lets both of those things work in your favour. You provide Aherk! with the embarrassing nude, set a deadline and then hopefully wash those dishes. If you succeed in washing the dishes, you post evidence on Facebook and your friends can vote if you completed the task sufficiently. If you did, you'll escape embarrassment. If not, Aherk! will release the photo. Assuming you have good, trustworthy friends and are motivated by fear, this is a neat and scary way to get things done.
Previously mentioned Asana is a free web app to help groups collaborate on multiple projects. The individual user will be able to keep track of his or her own responsibilities, dependent tasks and sub-projects and all of that individual activity will contribute to the whole. Users will be able to see what their co-workers are up to on a given project and quickly get updates without the need to check in. If you've got a team (or are on one) with a variety of projects that need management, Asana is a web app worth checking out.
Previously mentioned Cryptocat makes private instant messaging very simple. You just head over to Cryptocat, start a chatroom with a name of your choice and send people the URL. Your chats will be encrypted and wiped out after the chatroom has had a one-hour period of inactivity. While spies and secret agents probably ought to use something a little more secure, it's a great private chat option for the rest of us.
Previously mentioned Teambox is a web app designed to help multiple people, on any kind of team, communicate better. Rather than assuming one method of communication is ideal, it takes a note from social media and other web paradigms to offer methods that best suit the type of communication needed. Status updates are handled like Twitter messages, complete with "@" message functionality. Longer-form messages can be sent to teammates when necessary. Users can collaborate on lists and create pages, too, to help everyone collaborate using the best method possible.
It's hard to remember all the great and important stuff you come across each day, so it helps to write it down or just dump the information anywhere else so you don't overload your brain. But physical and digital notes get lost or forgotten all the same, which is where Thinkery comes in. It's an app where you can just input anything you need to remember. There are a lot of apps that attempt to manage all kinds of information you might have on your brain, such as the popular Evernote, but Thinkery takes it a step further by interpreting what you tell it.
For example, if you put in an Amazon link it'll know you're interested in a specific product and include the product information. If you prepend a word in a sentence with a "#" sign it'll automatically tag those words so you don't have to bother doing it manually. These are just a few examples, but there are more applications. Thinkery was designed to help you get your thoughts out quickly while still keeping them organised, and it does that very well.
Cloudtact is a web app that keeps your contacts in sync across all your devices and lets your contacts keep everything up-to-date so you don't have to make constant changes every time someone moves or gets a new phone number. You sign up, enter your own information and then ask all your friends to submit their contact info. When they do, you can then sync all that information with Google, Android, your iDevice and/or your Mac. If everyone you ask submits their contact info, you won't have to do much of anything — Cloudtact will keep everything up-to-date across your devices without any intervention on your part.
Pixlr is like having a simplified version of Photoshop in your browser. It's incredibly responsive, shares practically the exact same keyboard shortcuts as Photoshop and is very easy to use. You can import photos from various sources or start with a blank canvas. It even comes with complex layer support that allow for several blending modes and layer styles. If you don't have Photoshop handy and need to do some image editing in your browser, Pixlr is a really fantastic alternative.
Although we've discussed WorkFlowy in the past and it's been around prior to 2011, we've been accused (by a few readers) of not giving WorkFlowy its due, seeing as it's a really phenomenal, surprisingly rich list-making app. It feels a lot like a plain text document, but as you start creating your lists you realise you can navigate through each item like you're navigating a website.
1. If This Then That
If This Then That (or ifttt for short) is, by far, one of the coolest web apps we've come across this year — so much so we put together a complete guide with plenty of helpful examples. The basic premise is that ifttt performs an action if a certain condition is met. For example, if it checks the weather and it appears to be raining, you can set it up to send you a text message. If you get a new email from your mother, ifttt can initiate a phone call. Those are just a couple of examples. There's much more you can do. It's really one of the best tools to come along in quite awhile, so take the time to get to know it. Ifttt can seem a little intimidating at first, but you'll get the hang of it quickly. If you need help, or a few ideas to start with, be sure to check out our guide.
For additional under-hyped web apps from the past, check out our 2009 edition. (Sorry 2010 web apps, we neglected you.)