If you’re like us, you spend most of your computing time in the cloud, using online applications. And, if anything, the trend towards online apps is gaining momentum as time passes. The days of desktop applications aren’t gone, but they sure are diminished as more and more web-based applications catch on. There are some apps that we use more than others, though. As 2009 draws to a close, we take a look at the five web applications that we used the most this year.
We should first define what we mean by a web app. The "web" part of "web app" is easy – each of the five apps we’ve chosen can be accessed through a web browser. The "app" part is a bit trickier. We decided that full-blown services, like Facebook or Twitter, were more than apps. Instead we viewed a web app as an application that could have been created as a desktop client, if the developer of the app had chosen to go that route instead of having the app reside on the web. We concede that the line between app and service can be blurry, but with that attempt at a definition in mind, here is our list.
Until recently, I didn’t even use a desktop client for email. A few years ago, this would have been unfathomable to me. Now, though, I almost exclusively use Gmail for all of my email needs. I do use Thunderbird to backup my email, but find that Gmail is just easier to use. If you’re new to Gmail, you’ll need to adjust to threaded conversations, but before long, you won’t look back. Gmail makes organization easy, allowing you to tag messages, set up filters, and more. Notwithstanding all of the newer apps out there, Gmail is the one that I use more than any other.
Our love affair with Evernote is no secret. Just a few of our many posts about Evernote included 10 ways to use Evernote to get organized, how to use Evernote as a GTD tool, how to password-protect Evernote, and how to use Evernote on the iPhone. One of the benefits of Evernote is that you can access your data on almost any platform, including Windows, Mac, various mobile devices . . . and via a web app. I frequently use the web app on my netbook, and on my work computer. Without that web app, Evernote’s usefulness would be greatly diminished.
If you spend time in Twitter and Facebook, and use multiple computers, Brizzly is invaluable. We previously wrote about Brizzly when it was invite-only, and now it is open to everyone. Brizzly allows you to use groups (and did so even before Twitter unveiled group functionality), has support for multiple accounts, and automatically embeds the content of media links, such as YouTube videos. What really sets Brizzly apart from the other Twitter and Facebook clients out there, though, is its simplicity. As a result, I spend more time in Brizzly than I do on Twitter or Facebook.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that Google Wave is Google’s communication and collaboration tool. Here at 40Tech, we love how it has transformed the manner in which we plan and organize the site. We use it to discuss site issues, to plan posts, and even to collaborate on posts. I also use it to monitor topics of interest, such as discussions about television shows, or discussions of current events (such as local discussion about the recent blizzard that hit the northeastern United States). Wave is now a regular part of my daily routine. Wave is invitation only, but we do have a few invitations left, so hit us up in the comments if you need one.
5. Google Reader
The #5 position could have gone to Google Voice or Google Docs, but when it came right down to it, I couldn’t ignore what might be the least sexy choice – Google Reader, Google’s RSS reader. While some people have started using Twitter for all of their information, Twitter’s limitations make it a poor substitute for RSS. Simply put, you can get more information from RSS, and review that information faster than you can with Twitter. I have numerous RSS feeds I monitor in Reader, and can access that information without having to click through to new pages. It is easy to take Reader for granted, but the simple fact is that I use it almost as much as any other app out there.
Do you have any web apps that you couldn’t live without? If so, let us know in the comments.