This year has been a great 12 months for Internet based services. Some have been completely new while others have seen progress from earlier incarnations, growing from tiny seeds to fully fledged packages that bring tremendous benefits. One of the benefits of writing this blog is that people tell me their latest discoveries and being the sad devil that I am I fly off to give them all a test run. It has to be said that most fall by the wayside, but some not only stay the course but become day to day tools that I cannot do without. Here are my top five tools for 2010.

  1.  Evernote: This webclipping and note creation service just gets better and better. Early versions were memory hogs but what you can download today is a fast and sleek example of a tool that more and more people are finding they cannot do without. Clipping sections of text or an entire web page is simplicity itself with a right click or clicking on a button you can install on your browser and that is all you need to do. There are also versions for your iPhone, Blackberry or Android device so you can access your cuttings while on the move. Evernote operates a freemium package with a free version and a paid for version with more storage and other benefits. Judging by my recent usage I’ll be upgrading pretty soon.
  2.  Dropbox: I hopped between Dropbox and SugarSync for some time but eventually opted for Dropbox once you could link to any folder or directory on your computer. The thing that scores top marks for Dropbox is that it simply works out of the box, so to speak. Download the software – finally out of beta – install, link to what you store and off it goes. Earlier in the year I bought a new PC and one other service would not sync some of the stuff I had stored there whereas Dropbox just downloaded the webside material and dumped it on my PC, everything restored while I went into the kitchen and poured a beer! There’s a 2gb teaser and for a small monthly charge you can upgrade to put 50gb on the server. which is what I have done.
  3.  Mozy: Unlike the services offered by Dropbox, SugarSync and others Mozy is a backup service pure and simple. There is no facility to share files or folders with others, it just sucks up data from your chosen folders and stores it safely until such time as malodorous solids hit rotating blades and you lose some vital data. Restore is a simple process where you log into where your data is stored, you choose what you want to recover and Mozy creates a downloadable zipped file and even emails you when it is ready. You get a free 2gb but for the price of a beer or two a month you can upgrade to the unlimited service. Backups can be handled manually or scheduled to fit in with your life. Mine fires up mid-afternoon while I am still at the day job and by the time I get home everything is safe and snug. Again, I have subscribed to the premium version because of the security it provides for my growing pile of electronic data – and I haven’t even started on my MP3 collection yet!
  4.  Live Writer: When I started blogging I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Microsoft’s Live Writer but over time it has become an indispensable tool. Today’s incarnation is a slightly cut down version of Word 2010 which provides a wide range of formatting and editing facilities. Write your text, insert graphics, videos, maps, categories, tags etc and then hit publish and that’s it. If you don’t want it to go live just store it as a local draft. Top Tip: because Live Writer only stores posts in its own static My Documents folder, I link it to Dropbox and all posts and drafts are stored webside and then Mozy backs them up.
  5.  HootSuite: Twitter plays an important role in promoting my blog so a decent tool to manage every aspect of Tweetlife is essential and HootSuite is that tool. HootSuite suffered an unwarranted backlash when it changed to a freemium service and as I only have one Twitter account and I am not too bothered about statistics I have remained with the free version but if the blog grows that will change. I have tried the other Twitter clients out there and HootSuite remains my favourite. (Note: doing a comparison between HootSuite, Tweetdeck and Seesmic, Tweetdeck is picking up tweets the other two services are missing. More work needed on this…)

What are your essential web tools?