Thing #16

Get Organized with Web 2.0 Tools

While it may seem that the Internet is populated by people with endless time on their hands who are out to torpedo our productivity, there really are Web-based applications that can improve productivity--or at least make some things easier.

These applications fall into a variety of categories including online office tools like the spreadsheets and word processing tools we learned about in Thing #13, calendars, start pages, project management tools, to-do lists, personal organizers, sticky notes, online collaboration tools, and much, much more. A search on
“online productivity tools” turns up many lists of these tools.
RSS aggregators like Feedly from Thing #10 also help your productivity by helping you keep up with the news and information you need.
In this Thing, we have selected several organizational tools for you to try. These are tools that have use in schools and libraries, as well as at home.

1. Customized start page

A customized home—or “start” page— like the one above, lets you collect and organize all of the information that is important to you on one page that displays whenever you open your browser. Since it is online, you can access your start page from any computer anywhere. Netvibes, UStart, and Symbaloo are three examples. Each lets you choose headlines, weather reports, links to your email and RSS feeds, and dozens of other widgets (or gadgets, in Google) to manage information—or your life. Note that many widgets require a download.

2. Online calendars

Online calendars all offer similar features—add events, get reminders, search, repeat events, coding, etc. and of course, the hallmark of Web 2.0, the ability to share your calendar with others. Google and Yahoo! Calendars integrate with their other services and features. Other calendars include
30 Boxes and Upto.

Discovery Resources:
  • PDFConverter - converts files to portable document format (PDF) so they can be read on any computer
  • Zamzar - This program will covert one file type to another.
Discovery Exercise:
1. Look at the intro pages for each of the customized start page tools and choose one to create your own customized start page. Add, delete, and re-arrange the features and widgets on your new homepage.

2. Create an online calendar or to do list using one of the tools above.

3. Choose one other tool from the lists above to explore.

4. In your blog post for this Thing, address the following questions:
  • Which start page did you choose? Why did that one appeal to you? Will you make it your permanent home page?
  • How can the online calendars be useful to you?
  • Did you find a tool that has some uses for you at the school or at home? Which tool(s) would you recommend to others?
Challenge (optional)
1. Have a big project that you need to complete? Online productivity tools can help with complicated tasks involving multiple people, deadlines, and activities. Compare and contrast these project management services. Write a blog post and let us know what you think.
Project Management Services
2. Explore more tools from any of the lists above. Share any you find especially useful.

Photo source: