Handy tools that make life easier

Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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I'm sure you've heard of Mega, Kim Dotcom's file-hosting service, and it's very handy, not least because you get 50GB of free storage. But there are plenty of other useful online tools you may not know about.


Ever get a suspicious looking text message with a mysterious web address? If you see a link like this bit.ly/15q47YL (don't worry, that one's safe) it can be hard to decipher. Fortunately, a site called longurl.org lets you enter that address to find out where it leads without you having to visit it and potentially expose your computer or phone to risk. If you want to shorten a link, so that you can put it into an email address easily, bit.ly and tinyurl.com are designed for that.


A few months ago, I found a great site called workflowy.com, which is an organising tool combining outlining and to-do list. It's really simple to use and has short videos that walk you through. Workflowy is a website, but it also has an iOS app, and you can even use it offline. And no matter where you make your changes, they all get updated to the central list. If you alter things, it even sends you an update at the end of the day to tell you what changed. I use it for shared to-do lists - and I think it would be handy for tracking chores if you're flatting.


I'm amazed that more people don't know about the Wayback Machine, at archive.org. It's a project that has been taking snapshots of the internet since it began. Want to know what Trade Me looked like in 2007? It can help. It has helped me recover an entire blog that got accidentally deleted.


Google can handle all kinds of conversions, whether it be currency, weights and measures or language translation. If you want to convert New Zealand dollars to Indonesian rupiah, or find out how many nautical miles is equivalent to 15 furlongs, Google can handle it. Just type in, for example, "5 tsp in grams" and marvel. Google translation is found at translate.google.com.

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If you, like me, sometimes print out web pages for later reading, it's annoying to find that you've also printed all the adverts and extras. A site called printwhatyoulike.com lets you select just the bits you want, avoiding all the fluff.


Sometimes, you want a little more depth than a regular search engine can offer. If you want, for example, to know the unemployment rate in Wellington in 2007, then a better spot to try and find it (apart from stats.govt.nz) is wolframalpha.com. Wolfram Alpha is part database aggregator, part computational analyser and part search engine, and it can produce clever results for intricate queries. However, it does take a bit of getting used to if you only use Google or Bing.


Choosing randomly is harder than it looks, but random.org can help you select a random coin toss, number, and more. Can't find a six-sided dice? You can roll it online. It doesn't do rock/paper/scissors, though.


If you discover that you're down to your last egg, three grapes and a bunch of wilted spinach, it's time to head to supercook.com. Rather than a recipe website, Supercook lets you type in ingredients that you have to hand, and then looks for recipes that fit the bill from many online recipe sites.


If you have a bunch of old tech gear lying around. Or maybe old furniture, games... whatever you want to get rid of, it's likely someone could use it. But if you can't sell it on Trade Me, where do you go? Freecycle is one option - it lets you exchange stuff or give your gear to someone who needs it. You can find your local group at freecycle.org.

Zara Baxter edits New Zealand PC World and has reviewed gadgets for 15 years.

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