I’ve been on something of a web app kick lately. I really like the idea of creating,editing, and sharing documents and computing power “in the cloud”, accessible by whomever you want from wherever you want on whatever system you have handy.
The field of web-based productivity is growing by leaps and bounds, and seems to be on the brink of becoming mainstream and ubiquitous. That’s good news for mobile workers like me, who can never be completely sure where, or on what kind of computer, we may need to access our files. 2007 has been a good year, with great strides in core productivity apps like word processors and presentation software, and some interesting developments in specialized areas like collaborative brainstorming and todo list management.
Because I love you, lifehack readers, here are 11 of the best web apps released in 2007!
bubbl.us: Flash-based mindmap creator bubbl.us allows you to quickly and easily make effective, attractive mindmaps that can be exported as images or as HTML outlines, or shared with others who can add new items or draw new connections between existing ones.
Buzzword: I’ve raved about Buzzword before, but it bears repeating: this online word processor is both gorgeous and a joy to use. Running in Flash, as you’d expect of an Adobe product, Buzzword works well and has a pretty full set of features already, and promises off-line functionality and PDF export in the near future.
Empressr: Another Flash-based app, Empressr allows users to create and share slideshows using text, images, videos (including webcam captures created on the fly), and other rich media. Presentations can be shared on the Empressr site and can also be embedded in users’ own pages.
Highrise: From the good folks at 37signals comes Highrise, an enterprise-grade contact manager and customer relations manager. 37signals sets the standard for web 2.0 apps, so you know it’s good: clean design, a highly functional interface, and interconnectivity with other 37signals apps.
Jott: A combination of speech recognition and live workers backs this “note to self” service, allowing Jott to produce remarkably accurate transcriptions of your spoken messages. Originally Jott simply recorded your message, transcribed it, and sent it to you to someone in your contact list, but their new Jott Links service connects up with various web services allowing you to post to blogs, add appointments to your online calendar, tweet with twitter, and add todos to your todo list.
Mint: Online money management made almost frighteningly easy, Mint allows users to add all their bank accounts, credit cards, stock trading accounts, and other financial information into a simple, clean view. Although some have raised concerns about the security of all this sensitive information, Mint’s model was impressive enough to garner the TechCrunch40 Top Company Award (and $50,000 seed money).
Nozbe:Modeled on David Allan’s “Getting Things Done” approach, Nozbe aims to be the ultimate GTD app. With easy-to-add next actions associated with contexts and projects, Nozbe comes pretty close!
Sandy: Sandy is a virtual assistant centered on your email. You email Sandy with (almost) natural language statements, like “Remind me to call John Smith at 8am tomorrow”, and Sandy emails you a reminder at 8am tomorrow to call John Smith. Coupled with Jott, Sandy is a really exciting service!
Scrybe: The much-anticipated release of Scrybe left some feeling let down, but hype aside, Scrybe could well become the online calendar of choice. Flash-based Scrybe uses a natural-language parser similar to Sandy’s, allowing new entries to be created quickly and easily. The developers say they’re hard at work on integrating Scrybe with Outlook, which would make Scrybe a hard one to beat.
Todoist: Billing itself as “useful, fast and easy to use”, Todoist can be nothing more than a todo list — you start typing into the text box, select a due date, hit enter, and move onto the next. With a little specialized syntax, though, you can format lists, search for multiple criteria, manage your lists from Gmail, and integrate with external services like Launchy and QuickSilver.
Vitalist: Another contender for the GTD app, Vitalist also offers next actions, projects, and contexts (unlike Nozbe, you can create your own contexts), as well as a virtual “tickler file” and a mobile-optimized version. GTD apps are a highly personal product — one person’s way of getting things done might be nothing but a series of obstacles for another — so it’s good to see so much competition and innovation in this space.
While not all of these are necessarily the best in their class, they do compare favorably with more established apps like Basecamp for project management, Remember the Milk for todo lists, and Google Calendar for scheduling. Some, like Sandy and Jott, essentially create new classes — try explaining to your grandmother just what, exactly, Sandy does!
What excites me is that these represent only the first, or in some cases the second, step for web-based applications. Any of these apps will help you be more productive, but imagine them integrated and refined 5 years from now — using Jott to call Sandy to schedule a payment in Mint and placing a todo in Todoist telling you to call in three days to make sure the payment is received. Maybe it won’t be these apps or these companies, but if not, the ones that follow will have the creators of the apps above to thank for blazing the trail.
So, what have I missed? What else came out this year that’s exciting you? What rounds out this list to an even dozen? And what have I included that’s old news around your neck of the woods? Let me know in the comments!