When your job involves writing, there are a number of online facilities you can use to make your job easier. Whether it’s for researching, transferring files between you and your colleagues, or editing images – there are a whole load of websites out there, totally free. Below is a list of some great websites that helped me out in a lot of my writing projects in 2009.
ALERTS / STORAGE / BACKUP
Google Reader (an amazing free blog reader, you can put any RSS feed in here – I also use it to monitor Google Alerts, very useful if you’re trying to monitor a certain topic in the news. I used it last year (and am still using it now) to monitor alerts on Lady Gaga when I was writing her biography (“Just Dance” – due out on February 18th 2010 – cover art is now showing on Amazon, which is terribly exciting).
Let’s get Google out of the way – another very great service they offer is Google Docs. Basic online documents that you can share between a number of people. Great for collaborative work – I’ve used it to share flat plans and schedules between me and the other Kruger editors – and for creative work on the go that you want to save somewhere really safe.
Dropbox – for the second year running, Dropbox has been one of the most useful online backup facilities I’ve used. I’ve used it for freelance work and when working on Kruger (as all four of us who regularly need to exchange files live in different cities). I’ve got Dropbox folders on my laptop and my home computer, which update each other automatically when you’re hooked up to the internet. This year me and some friends did a top ten tracks of 2009 – I shared one of my Dropbox folders with them all, and they all put their top tens in there. No Yousendit-related bother at all. Very useful indeed.
FILE CONVERSION / IMAGES / GENERAL
Zamzar – online file conversion, covering a wide range of different image, document, music, video and compression formats. Free for files up to 100MB or more if you sign up. You can put in the url of a video on YouTube, and Zamzar will convert and email you the video or just the music. You can convert video files from your computer or the internet. Really very very handy.
Flickr – excellent online photo storage/gallery/community. Also with basic photo editing, if you don’t have any on your computer.
But if you’re looking for good, free photo editing software, try GIMP (or The GNU Image Manipulation Program). Like Photoshop lite… and totally free to download.
Two blogging platforms did it for me in 2009 – Tumblr and WordPress, which I used to build a few work-related websites. Really quite easy when you put your mind to it, though it helps if you have an ounce of graphic design skill (I do not).
My web hosting is through FatCow, who offer unlimited bandwidth and storage, run off green power, and are pretty damn cheap. I’ve not experimented with any other hosting providers, but they offer online chat support and have WordPress (and other) installation files in their dashboards.
There are a million (yes, really) sources I look to for daily updates on music – I’ve narrowed it down to my top four essentials:
1. The Hype Machine
Follows thousands of blogs around the world and sees what artists real people are blogging about, in real time. If you’re looking for an MP3 of a track you just can’t find anywhere, if you can find it on the Hype Machine then you can use Zamzar to convert it and email it to yourself. Smarts, non?
2. Resident Advisor
Because my main love and interest lies in alternative electronica/dance music type stuff, Resident Advisor is the bomb beeeeee for up to date news, reviews, features, podcasts, mixes, downloads, event listings…. an excellent resource for anyone into this kind of music.
The key source of news and information on all kinds of underground music. Pitchfork’s website is amazing, and they curate a yearly festival. These guys really know their stuff, and their news feed is one of the fastest and best sources of info for alternative musicssssss.
4. XLR8R Magazine
A music mag that concentrates on leftfield electronica, hip hop, dubstep, etc etc. Despite being based in San Francisco, their musical remit is pretty much European (lots of Brit/German producers and DJs). The design is awesome, the music they cover is wicked. I’ve got a lot of love for this little mag, which I started reading in 2002. Go XLR8R!
Boing Boing – an amazing resource of weird and wonderful tech-related news stories.
The Enemies of Reason– excellent Bristol-based writer who dissects all the ridiculous right wing shit in the papers that you see and that enrages you on a daily basis. I can’t recommend this blog highly enough. Go subscribe! Now!
Have I missed any off? What websites did you find useful/helpful in 2009?