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December 30 2011

22:31

5 Ways To Kick Your Moleskine Notebook Up A Notch

moleskin notebooksOver the years, the Moleskine notebook has become a trademark staple for anyone dabbling in creative endeavors – especially writers and artists. In fact, the Moleskine is almost as iconic as the Apple laptop, the hipster glasses, and the daily visits to Starbucks.

But simply having one of these notebooks won’t be enough to spark your productivity and get your steam pumping towards optimal efficiency. Here are a few ways you can elevate your Moleskine from “just another notebook” to “I can’t live without this anymore.”

1. Stay Productive With Circle To-Do Lists

The most basic to-do list is often no more than a list of shoddy descriptions of tasks that are crossed out when completed. While this simplicity may be enough for simple tasks that are either “done” or “not done,” you may need a more elegant system for longer-term tasks.

moleskin notebooks

In steps the Circle Method. Basically, this method starts each list item with an empty circle beside it and gradually fills those circles with marks depending on the tasks’ completion levels.

  • New Item: To start a new item in the list, draw an empty circle.
  • Next Item: To distinguish the next task you want to tackle, place a dot in the center.
  • Item Started: To mark a task that you’ve started, cross the circle with a diagonal slash.
  • Item Cancelled: To mark a task as trashed, cross the circle with an opposite slash.
  • Halfway Complete: When you’re halfway through a task, fill in half of the circle.
  • Fully Complete: When a task is completely finished, fill it in all the way.

The method is smart and extremely versatile, allowing you to change the status of a task if necessary.

2. Organize Using The Quadrant Technique

If your notes require a lot of internal referencing, then the Quadrant Technique will be a lifesaver for you. The only downside is that it requires an initial time investment to set up the notebook.

Set up your notebook by dividing each page in half – draw a line through the center, separating the top from the bottom. This will create four quadrants: the top-left quadrant is A, the bottom-left quadrant is B, the top-right quadrant is C, and the bottom-right quadrant is D.

moleskin notebook ideas

Each group of four quadrants is called a block. Now go through and number each block, starting with 1. I like to place the number in quadrant A, but feel free to put it wherever you like.

That’s it for set up. Now, if you’re writing notes in quadrant 38C (block 38, quadrant C) and need to reference something in block 12, quadrant A, just insert a parenthesis: (12A). Done.

3. Create An Index In The Back

Set aside the last 10 pages of your Moleskine notebook and use them to create a system of indexing. This is extremely useful if you have notes on various topics and intend to reference them over and over again.

In order to use an index, you’ll need to number your pages from start to end. If you’re using the Quadrant Technique, you can use that as your reference instead.

Indexing itself is simple. If you have a page of notes comparing different laptops, flip back to the index and write on a new line, Laptop Comparison, page 38. Now, if you need to reference that comparison, you can find it easily. Instead of flipping through the entire notebook, you only need to flip through the 10 or so pages in the index.

The indexing system grows more useful as your notebook grows more packed with information.

4. Divide The Notebook With Plastic Tabs

Bump up your notebook’s organization by using plastic divider tabs, especially if you use your Moleskine for more than one purpose.

If you’re using the previously mentioned quadrant technique and indexing system, you might feel tempted to just fill out your notebook as you go. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it certainly isn’t optimal. Wouldn’t it be easier on your mind to split up the notebook in chunks and assign each chunk to a topic?

The plastic tabs, then, are a great way to visualize the different sections. Combine this with the other organizational techniques, and you’ll soon find your Moleskine becoming an integral part of your life.

5. Choose the Right Pen

Believe it or not, you can boost your Moleskine notebook to the next level simply by switching to a different pen. Which pen should you switch to? That’s entirely up to you. However, there are a few guidelines for which pens work well with the Moleskine.

moleskin notebooks

  • Choose a pen that doesn’t bleed. Using a pen that bleeds through the pages can be disastrous. At best, you’ll render clean pages unusable. At worst, you’ll render past work illegible. Mostly, you’ll just turn your notebook into a mess of ink spots, and that might keep you from wanting to use it anymore.
  • Choose a pen that doesn’t smear. Similar to the bleeding problem, a wet pen that smears easily will result in notes that can no longer be read. Even if you’re careful as you write, the ink will smear as soon as you close the notebook. Avoid smearing pens unless you want to wait for the ink to dry every time you jot down a note.
  • Choose a pen that feels comfortable in your hand. It’s amazing how holding the right pen can make you want to write more. Pen comfort is individual, so you’ll need to find one that fits your hand well. It doesn’t matter if you need a thin pen, fat pen, long pen, short pen, or one with rubber grips – get one that you enjoy writing with.

If you need a recommendation, try using the Pilot G2 pen. It won’t break the bank, it doesn’t smear or bleed, and it writes smoothly.

Conclusion

If you don’t use your Moleskine all that often, then you probably won’t gain much benefit from applying these tricks to your routine. However, if you use your Moleskine enough that you carry it around with you everywhere, then these tricks can heighten your notebook to the next level.  Let us know in the comments what tricks you use.

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December 27 2011

21:31

The Top 10 Video Game Movies Of All Time

video game moviesMedia crossovers can often be highly successful. Books such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Forrest Gump, and It’s A Wonderful Life have found new audiences after being translated into movies. But video games don’t seem to be able to make the transition quite as well. In fact, most video game movie adaptations suck. That’s just a fact.

Even several of the following movies aren’t of the highest caliber, but they’re the best of an average bunch, so us gamers will have to make do. Issues often arise when filmmakers try to stick too closely to the plot, which is why many of the movies listed below are merely based on elements of video games. It’s a much safer bet to lift characters or certain ideas from a game or franchise and explore that in greater depth.

The Top 10 Video Game Movies Of All Time

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Angelina Jolie was the perfect choice to play the movie version of Lara Croft. And the planets aligned to mean this was a movie worth making. Lara Croft is still an iconic character, but in 2001 she was at the peak of her powers.

Tomb Raider is one of those video game movies that benefited from gamers wanting to see their favorite title brought to life.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Absolutely gorgeous CG visuals make Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within worth watching. It’s probably my favorite film of this entire list. It benefits from its lack of needing to stick to a plot from an existing game, merely borrowing elements from the Final Fantasy series.

Recent Hollywood efforts have lessened the visual impact but it still looks sumptuous and has an interesting storyline to boot.

Mortal Kombat

The first Mortal Kombat hasn’t aged well. But then neither has the game series. This movie takes the literal approach to adaptation, and suffers as a result. With characters which work on a 2D level but fail when fleshed out. However, it has its fans, and has become something of a cult classic.

Avoid the sequel at all costs. Unless you enjoy ‘fatalities’ to the point you’d like to die from watching a terrible film.

Resident Evil

The first Resident Evil movie is a pretty classy affair. Milla Jovovich adds an especially beautiful element to the engaging storyline and rage-filled action sequences. Elements from the game are liberally sprinkled in amongst new plot devices which stop the whole thing grinding to a halt.

This is a survival horror film which lives up to the considerable hype afforded it.

Silent Hill

The movie isn’t as scary as the game it’s based on. But that would have been impossible to pull off. Silent Hill the game is a creepy, atmospheric affair, and Silent Hill the movie is very similar in style and scope. This is a film which shows up the biggest problem with video game movies: the lack of interaction.

Still, watch Silent Hill in a dark room in the middle of the night and be prepared to sense something is creeping up behind you once or twice.

DOA: Dead or Alive

If you dare to watch DOA: Dead or Alive then you may well lose a few braincells. This is not a movie for brainiacs, but then the game was hardly one for the purists, with the biggest draw being the animated bouncing of a certain body part. Yes, gamers are that easy to please sometimes. And so, it seems, are movie buffs, because this is one of the highest rated films on the list.

DOA: Dead or Alive is fun. No more, no less.

Max Payne

Max Payne was never going to be an easy adaptation. And the result of this attempt is a bit of a mess. It’s saved by the cinematography, which evokes an atmosphere very reminiscent of the film noir-styled game. Try to look past Mark Wahlberg’s woeful performance as the titular character.

This barely made it onto the list, only doing so due to the dearth of great flicks there are to choose from in this genre.

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands Of Time was an attempt by Hollywood to make a big-budget video game movie adaptation that worked. The film retains enough of the plot of the game to please fans while not sticking so stringently to it to make it unwatchable. The special effects of the Sands Of Time of the title are stunning to watch, somewhat making up for the lack of a cohesive storyline.

Worth watching for Gemma Arterton’s bare midriff alone.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Final Fantasy VII is a pure gaming experience. Newer RPGs such as Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are genius, but Final Fantasy VII remains many people’s favorite game of all time. The plot of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children will confuse those who have never played the game.

Advent Children is a lusciously animated epic showing what happened to the beloved characters after the game ended. And it was a bestseller on DVD and UMD as a result.

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva

Professor Layton is a phenomenon. And with good reason. Mocked by hardcore gamers, the storylines are involving, the puzzles cleverly constructed and difficult to break. The movie could have easily sucked, but the characters are present, the storyline is bizarre-yet-charming, and there are even a few puzzles thrown in to the mix.

Enjoy this film for the simple pleasures it affords.

Conclusion

Compiling a list of the worst video game movies of all time would have been easier, because this isn’t a genre bursting with gems. A desire to be positive, however, means I have recommended films that some people will abhor.

Do you agree or disagree with this list? Which videogames would you like to see turned into films from here on in? Uncharted and Halo are surely musts.

Image Credit: Ben Brown

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September 30 2011

18:01

10 Handy Alternatives If You Are Tired Of The Usual Lorem Ipsum Filler Texts

lorem ipsumI really wasn’t aware that Lorem Ipsum dated back to the 16th century and used by typesetters, It’s not very surprising that the term comes from Latin. It took a colleague’s article – What Is Lorem Ipsum & Where Did It Come From? – to make me aware of the surprising facts behind what has become known as ‘dummy text’.

Web designers probably have a kitty of Lorem Ipsum tools saved close by that’s useful for their web development work. Lorem Ipsum generators come in various forms; some of them allow customizing the dummy text generation with variable font widths, font faces, and other design elements. But there’s just so much you can take of the mock content. After a while your own brain goes to sleep in a dummy mode.

So, if you feel like chucking away the pseudo-Latin mumbo-jumbo and replacing it with some other nonsense text, here are a few options for you to consider.

Fillerati

lorem ipsum

Fillerati is perhaps the coolest and most stylish of the alternative Lorem Ipsum filler texts. Coded with HTML5, it’s also educational to a degree because it pulls text from classical works of literature (Helman Melville, Jack London, Jules Verne’s and Lewis Carroll to name a few). Google Translation APIs are used to convert the English text into multiple languages. You can apply markup tags and use a smooth slider to change the number of paragraphs on display. You can click the center circle to copy the filler text to the clipboard.

Fillerama

lorem ipsum text

Star Wars can have a bit of fun on the side with this filler text generator. Filler text is freely borrowed from TV shows like Dexter, Futurama, The Simpsons, and Star Wars among others. You can set the number of paragraphs, put in a few lists, and format with headers. You can copy the HTML on the left pane and use it to design your web site or blog (see Directory mention).

Adhesion Text

lorem ipsum text

Type in your characters, set a few rules, and the dummy text generator spouts out sentences taking your characters and the language you selected from a dropdown. You can insert characters in English, French, German, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, and Dutch. You can also use Latin, Cyrillic, Greek and even Arabic characters (see Directory mention).

Gangsta Lorem Ipsum

lorem ipsum text

This filler text generator takes a bit of a wild route by generating text in rap style. You might like it if you are a fan of rapper Snoop Dog. You won’t be able to make any sense of it, which pretty much makes it as good as Latin for most of us (see Directory mention).

Fuck Lorem Ipsum

lorem ipsum translation

This alternative to Lorem Ipsum has been definitely created by its haters, if you go by the name and the tag line. This is another of those little apps which takes its filler text from TV comedy, dramas, kids show, and other scripts. You can markup the text with paragraph, break, and hypertext tags (see Directory mention).

Bacon Ipsum

lorem ipsum translation

Generate ‘meaty’ Lorem Ipsum text that has more than a handful of meat (bacon) related words. This filler text generator is definitely not for the vegetarians.

Blind Text Generator

lorem ipsum translation

Here you have a dummy text generator with a variety of filler options, from normal English to Kafka. Advanced options include customizable font styles, letter spacing, text decorations, and alignment options. You can wrap the code around all your HTML designing needs.

Malevole

Set the number of paragraphs and click on generate. This handy and simple dummy text generator helps you do away with traditional Lorem Ipsum text and instead use text from classical English literature.

Multilingual Lorem Ipsum Generator

I wanted to try out Esperanto as a filler text, and I found it here which gives you quite a few multilingual ways of trying out your placeholder text. You can of course go for the traditional Lorem Ipsum text or choose from other languages (including Japanese and Chinese).

Duck Island

lorem ipsum

An alternate Lorem Ipsum generator that gives you filler text inspired from The Matrix? You can try it out here. Then, you have a few more options ranging from classical Latin to Techno Babble. The screenshot shows the output after your select The Matrix option.

Searching for alternatives to Lorem Ipsum generators might seem like much ado about nothing. But as a web designer or anyone who uses filler text day-in and day-out, the sight of the same stuff could start to get on your nerves and eyes. That’s where these interesting and varied options come in.

Which of these stand a chance of being your favorite? Or do you use a text generator that’s not on this list? Let us know.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


August 09 2011

19:31

7 Interesting Free Movie Sites That You Might Have Missed

free movie sitesWhat’s with the movies? Online movie sites may be bursting out from every nook and cranny of the digital world, but we cineastes never stop queuing up. Every website based on movies and films is worth a glance at least.

Movie websites come in all flavors and colors. We, at MakeUseOf.com, have done our bit to cover some of them (go right below for our previous best links). But it’s an awfully large world to cover even in multiple leaps.

Just as we have missed a few more interesting websites on movies, you also might have done the same. So, let’s again dim the lights, crackle the nachos, and showcase seven more interesting, free movie sites.

Chasing The Frog

free movie sites

You can turn to Wikipedia if you are in the habit of researching movies after (or before) watching them. Or you can also turn and chase frogs here. Chasingthefrog.com goes deeper into the origins of some of the most popular (and not so popular) Hollywood films. Is the movie you are watching (and believing) really follows the script or does it take a few cinematic liberties. It’s the latter which is often true; even then it’s good reading to find out the distance between fact and fiction.

Kids In Mind

free online movie sites

The movie websites helps out parents by rating on movies sex, nudity, violence, gore, profanity, on a scale of 0 to 10. The site goes deeper and also gives the reasons behind the ratings. It is a very good resource to read before you buy the tickets for a weekend show or go for a DVD rental. Reviews and ratings are objective and some ratings go against the ones in the popular media which lean more towards the demands of the market.

Matcha

free online movie sites

There are lots of movie recommendation engines out there. You might be familiar with Jinni. Matcha is a new one on the block. It is still not open for public access and is invite-only right now. It does the same thing a bit differently by pulling in your video subscriptions from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube (and more) to give you recommendations that might be to your taste. It gauges your tastes and those in your social circle, combines that with what’s trending, to give your more relevant results.

Comedy Assistant

free online movie sites

This site was suggested by one of our readers when we were talking about 5 Websites To Make Your Own Personal Movie Lists.  As the name says, it focuses on funny movies only and suggests what to watch. You can catch trailers, reviews, and news too. The site has a nice index listing actors, directors, movies, and trailers.

Fast Rewind

movie sites

Go here if you are above 40 and want to relive some of your wonder years with some movies from the 80’s. The site is all about going retro and gives you all the dope on 578 movies from that period. You have behind the scenes stories, movie trivia, and bloopers to read through.

Imp Awards

movie sites

Posters are always a movie lover’s delight. You might keep them as collectibles; turn them into DVD covers for your collection; or just admire them. Impawards.com features one of the largest collections of posters you can find on the web. You can search by actors, directors, design artists, or go by year and alphabetical names.

All Movie Photo

free movie sites

You can browse through stills of upcoming movies on many film websites like IMDB.com and RottenTomatoes.com. All Movie Photos does a specialized job of it. The site helps you catch stills from movies that are coming to those that have already gone. But I was disappointed that I couldn’t take a sneak peek at the some stills from ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, especially when some other sites do have a few.

We can always catch a movie at the theatres, but it takes sites like these to give us something more. Here are five more links that could do just that:

5 Websites For Catching Movie Goofs & Bloopers
10 Websites For Famous Movie Quotes
Watch 5 Cool Fan Films Online & Keep Track Of Other Upcoming Fan Productions
8 Websites To Get The Inside Scoop On Comic Book Movies
10 Websites For SHORTEST Movie Reviews (on Twitter)

Do you know about any other offbeat and interesting free movie sites? Let us know.

Image Credit: morgueFile

7 Interesting Free Movie Sites That You Might Have Missed is a post from: MakeUseOf


August 03 2011

15:31

5 Cool Word Sites That Are A Bit Different

cool word siteAs a blogger and writer, words hold special significance for me. It’s sometimes about discovering new words or finding out unknown meanings of the known ones; it’s also about going to the root of a word and searching out where it has branched to.

The numerous word sites available reflect this richness. We word lovers are better for it because it makes learning new words more fun.

The different type of word sites helps us explore the language in all its uniqueness. That also helps us fall in love with the language. My continuing search for cool word sites – regular or offbeat – has made me stumble on to some that most of us might miss among the crowd of the more popular ones.

Here are five more word based websites to explore and keep.

WordSift

cool word site

It’s a web service which we have covered before. But a mention again is due because I find it immensely useful to construct a summary on any data that I paste on it. Any long piece of information is constructed around keywords, and WordSift usually manages to highlight the important ones. WordSift helps you to visualize the vocabulary structure of text by creating a tag cloud of important words. The bigger the word, greater is its frequency. You can sort the words and move them around with the mouse. Visual Thesaurus, the Google Images and video searches, and also the sample sentences help students create word associations.

Hot For Words

word sites

If words can be sexy, then this site shows how. The beautiful face behind the site belongs to Marina Orlova, a former model and now a linguist (more specifically, a philologist). Her YouTube series where she traces the origins of everyday English words is an internet sensation. The website complements her YouTube channel. The downside is that the site may not be suitable for kids. But it’s definitely the most entertaining word and vocabulary site out there.

What Does That Mean

word sites

WDTM is a question and answer site that’s devoted to words and their meanings. If you are confused over a word and its usage, maybe you can post your word problem here and wait for an answer from the community. You can contribute and earn ‘Karma points’ to move up the value chain on the site. The site is trying to build a free, community powered dictionary of English idioms, buzzwords, and catch phrases from around the world.

Tag Galaxy

word sites

Tag Galaxy is another cool word site that is more about visual representation of data than about words. But you can use it in some cool ways because every word you enter here becomes a keyword surrounded by related words. Oh yes, it’s all in a 3D-like photosphere with photos drawn from Flickr. The central word becomes the sun, and the related words turn into planets. You can spin the globe in any direction as it starts drawing in photo-tiles on its surface. Clicking on a photo enlarges it links to the original Flickr page. You can use it create interesting world associations combined with images.

Corpus of Contemporary American English

cool word site

The 425 million word strong collection is the largest currently available. The words have been collected from diverse sources – spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. It is constantly updated and has powerful search features which allow you to wade through the extensive collection. You can search using word, phrase, related words, substring, part of speech, synonyms etc. Word comparisons across different genres can be made for usage differences and context. Here’s a YouTube video that shows you how to get started with the corpus.

If you missed our previous collection of websites on words and vocabulary, fret not. Here are some:

That’s quite a collection. Tell us about your favorite word site.

Image Credit: Shutterstock


Need Assistance? Ask questions to MakeUseOf staff and thousands of other readers on MakeUseOf Answers!


5 Cool Word Sites That Are A Bit Different is a post from: MakeUseOf


July 29 2011

18:31

5 Websites For The English Writer That Help In The Search For Clichés

The French gave us the word. We English speakers use clichés like rubber-stamps. Too much of it of course, disturbs the prose and is never recommended for good writing. Embellishing them here and there while speaking or writing is almost a natural habit for most of us. By its very definition, clichés should be avoided like the plague. Oh there! I just used it in a sentence.

Clichés are overused expressions in our language. Clichés start life as a novel expression but soon lose that appeal because of overuse. By then most clichés seed themselves into the English language.

As an English language learner or even as a writer who thinks he knows it all, referencing clichés is good exercise (just so you can eliminate them!). They say there’s a cliché born every minute. These five websites on clichés’ could help you locate (and eliminate) some of them.

Clichesite

The site has a collection of clichés that’s 2100 strong. You also get euphemisms, sayings and figures of speech complete with definitions and explanations. You can check out one every day and even submit your own. If you are looking to reference some of them, use the search or go by category.

Cliché Finder

Cliché Finder is a simple site with a large text box. Enter your text and it tries to highlight the clichés you have used in red. Too many and you could do a rethink on your writing and remove some of them. It is not perfect by any means because it references a list of common clichés; if yours isn’t in them, then the app throws an error.

Sports Clichés

I wish I could call this a fun site, but if you enjoy sports in any form, you get bombarded with clichés by commentators and journalists. Sports journalism (and perhaps political reporting) is the place where clichés have a free run. Check out this site and are sure to exclaim – I have heard these all before. Take the 20-question challenge in the end and see if you have the stock to make it as a sports reporter. There’s a little section on political clichés too tucked away within the site.

Cliché Web

This site gives you more clichés than you can shake a stick at. It is well organized into categories that collate general, money, food & drink, and animal clichés. You can also search by the first letter. It is also one of the oldest cliché websites on the web and has been kept updated, so you can expect to find a strong collection.

101 Clichés

If clichés are a part of the English language, can they be kept apart from the world of marketing? This website was a campaign against the rash of hackneyed words and phrases in trade magazines, PowerPoint presentations, and hundreds of websites. The battle seems to have been lost, but the site is littered with ‘101 dead bodies’ of clichés which came in sight of the crosshairs. The 101 clichés listed here make for a nice reading thanks to the nice layout of the site.

These websites could prove to be useful for your writing. It’s a good advice that says avoid clichés but favor idioms. There’s a nice article archived at BBC that published the results of an online survey looking into some of the most irritating clichés of our times. Check it out and also let us know the ones that drive you up the wall.

5 Websites For The English Writer That Help In The Search For Clichés is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: english, words, writing

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July 22 2011

18:31

10 Almost Useless But Interesting Twitter Apps

twitter appsWho knew that 140 characters could be informative, opinionated, controversial, and hilarious? Well, Twitter is all that and we continue to revel in it. You might think that you have seen it all as an old Twitter hand. Almost is not all as these ten interesting Twitter apps will tell you in 140 characters or less.

Still new to Twitter? Check out The Complete Guide To Twitter

There are lots of Twitter apps out there -some useless; some interesting; and some bit of both. But all in all, they are fun tools to play around with just your Twitter username.

So, let’s look at ten Twitter apps, from a virtual fortune cookie to one that can calculate how much your tweets can cost our planet in terms of paper.

Threetune

twitter apps

Twitter as a fortune cookie? Well this one is – with a click its takes a random Twitter message and hands it to you as a ‘hidden’ cookie message. If you have a few seconds to spare between some serious tweeting, try it out. Be warned, some tweets may be offensive.

Twonvert

interesting twitter app

As you can make out from the screenshot, this app takes your normal text and converts it into shorthand. Not exactly useless because I can shave off something from my SMS bills if I can condense two messages into one thanks to shorthand –  if I have the time to write it twice.

Twitter Loo

interesting twitter app

The time spent in the loo is a personal moment for many. Twitter barges into that sacred space by asking you to share what you are doing (or how) while sitting on the throne. Here the “pictures” tell the story. I will let the app speak for itself because I didn’t have the gumption to try it out on my followers.

Tweet Calories

interesting twitter app

The interface is really cool and you would think that they mean business. Maybe they do, because behind the flashy interface is creative marketing for a Brazilian gym. The app basically calculates how many calories you are burning while tweeting. It puts in several assumptions for arriving at your burn rate, so my own assumption says that it’s more of a fun tool rather than a scientific one.

Foamee

interesting twitter application

Teetotalers and those who like tea more than coffee can opt out of this one. It’s all about sending a virtual I.O.U (a beer or a coffee) with a tweet. Well, a virtual thanks is not so useless after all. The messages show up on the ‘Foamee Pub’.

Overheard It

interesting twitter application

Twitter is a digital grapevine and this site tries to prove it by posting all the fun things people overhear on Twitter. Most of the tweets are humorous, so you will actually have some fun ‘eavesdropping’ on what people are saying all over the social network. E.g. “Today, I overcome my phobia of President Bush.”

Zzzz

interesting twitter application

It’s one of our favorite words in the English language and this visualization app takes advantage of it in an artful way. It searches for tweets containing the words ‘Zzz’ or ‘Zzzz’ and then generates it as shown in the screen above in real time. It’s a simple visualization project and is not intended to put you to sleep.

Sleeping Time

Let’s follow the previous Twitter app that actually does something for sleep. Enter the Twitter account name and this simple app tells you ‘when do they sleep’. It takes into account the period of inactivity of a person on Twitter.

The Print Effect

Enter your Twitter username and find out how much it would take to print your entire Twitter timeline. Then you can compare the results against some ‘metrics’ like kangaroos and tennis courts.

Tweet Wasters

twitter apps

Finally, if you have been spending the last few minutes on the above sites, expect to get a tall score in this one. Tweet Wasters as the name suggests how much time you have spent (wasted) on Twitter.

The list of Twitter apps is long. Some will survive the churn; most will fall by the wayside. But while they are there these Twitter apps will take fifteen seconds of our attention. Which Twitter app has intrigued you recently…not as much for its usefulness, but more for its quirkiness. Let us know in 140 characters or less.

10 Almost Useless But Interesting Twitter Apps is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: fun, Interesting, social networks, Twitter

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July 20 2011

15:31

July 19 2011

19:31

5 Websites That Alert Book Lovers About New Book Releases

new book releasesAny book lover will tell you that there’s nothing that beats the pleasure of browsing the aisles of a bookstore and leafing through new books. Discovering new books and new authors (and liking them) is akin to El Dorado for a book lover. But just like everyone else, the digital age has given the book lover another set of eyes to find out what new books are getting released and where to grab them. Welcome to the world of book tracking and notification services.

Today, we have social communities built around books (Shelfari, GoodReads), online recommendation engines (e.g. What Should I Read Next), and online retailers like Amazon which can alert you when a book becomes available. All of them have their own way of notifying you of new book releases. Some are tailor made around your interests while some are broad based with weekly or monthly newsletters. The five book recommendation websites mentioned below belong to the former and are like homing missiles when it comes to alerting you about new releases.

Track New Book

new book releases

Tracknewbook.com is one of those neat book discovery websites that helps the book lover stay informed with a timely notification service. You can track a book by its author, subject, or your own keywords. You can track books across all formats from hardcover to audio books. But it’s the option of Seed Book (beta) tracking that had me interested in their offering. Seed Book lets you pick any book as a ‘seed’, and then you receive alerts on other books that are similar to the one you picked as the seed. It’s great for stumbling into new books and new authors, especially if your reading habits are very selective.

The Book Discovery service is also a unique install that you may not find elsewhere. It’s a browser plug-in supported for most browsers that recommends books that are related to web site you visit. For instance, if you visit Makeuseof.com you can expect to receive recommendation related to computers. It’s not always perfect though. (See Directory mention)

Book Buzzes

new book alerts

Book Buzzes is far simpler than the previous new book notification website. You just have to log-in and then enter your favorite author into the Author text box, choose what type of book you’re interested in and your locale, and thus create a ‘buzz’ which will land in your inbox as soon as it spots a new release. The book title in the alert is linked to Amazon. (See Directory mention)

Any New Books

new book alerts

This new book alert service also follows the same pattern. You have to select the genres you want to receive alerts for, and then they come into your inbox every week. You can select multiple genres of course for the once-a-week alerts. You can also opt for a general weekly email that will feature a generic selection of the best new books each week. You have categories for Kindle eBooks and audio books too. Sign-up is very quick with just your email address. (See Directory mention)

Author Alerts

new book alerts

Authoralerts.com lets you create a watch list of authors whose new book releases you would like to be reminded about. The site uses news release information from Amazon. You get the information on new releases via email or a RSS feed. Ten alerts are allowed.

Wowbrary

new book releases

Wowbrary treads a different path by focusing on U.S. libraries alone. You feed it your zip code and the service lets you know by email or RSS about your chosen public library’s newest books, movies and music. The service is free and U.S. specific. (See Directory mention)

Alert and notification services remove the drudgery from watching out for things yourself. Book lovers have more ways to keep track of books. Here are two more for you to read –

The only thing you have to keep your eye on is your inbox. Let us know the value of new book release alerts amidst all the other book web apps you may have encountered so far.

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5 Websites That Alert Book Lovers About New Book Releases is a post from: MakeUseOf

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July 18 2011

19:30

5+ Awesome Food Blogs That Will Tantalize Your Senses & Might Even Inspire You To Cook

Cooking for ourselves is not always a top priority for most of us. We know we should, we know it’s healthier. But when we come back home from work, hungry, we just want to put something in our mouths and get it over with, even if it’s just cereal and milk.

Food blogs can provide some excellent inspiration and many times I found myself cooking simply because I found a recipe I really wanted to try. To be really inspiring, a food blog should look good, have a lot of good, informative pictures, and of course, interesting recipes! Below I mention several of the slickest, most inspiring food blogs I know. I hope these help you find some motivation!

The Pioneer Woman Cooks

For all you cowboys and cowgirls out there, The Pioneer Woman Cooks might be the last cooking blog you’ll ever have to visit.

Along with numerous (really, there are lots of them) pictures and mouthwatering recipes, The Pioneer Woman provides stories about living in a remote farm somewhere in the US, and I found that her blog helped me pass long boring days at the office, and then inspired me to cook when I got back home. As I mentioned, each recipe is accompanied by a lot of pictures, so if you need someone to hold your hand while you cook, here you’ll get a picture of every single step.

The blog is very stylish, and there is a very accessible bar at the top that lets you browse between specific categories – even ‘Cowboy’ or ‘Cowgirl’ approved recipes! So even if you’re a real cowboy, The Pioneer Woman has some good original recipes for you. Don’t miss the holiday section for some specialized holiday cuisine, and the 16-minute meals for some swift cooking suggestions.

Noble Pig

Not as styled as Pioneer Woman, Noble Pig is for those of you who want to cook, but are deterred by all those fancy blogs out there that make you feel like everything is really complicated.

Using simple pictures and lots of good humor, Noble Pig provides some awesome recipes, and some of the best recipe names I’ve seen out there. I mean, how can someone not make something called “Ridiculously Addictive Lemon Squares” or “Hello Belgium, You Had Me At Waffles”.

It seems to me that as time went by, the writer of Noble Pig got more serious, and a lot of the really fun recipes are older ones (make sure to browse through those!), but the recipes are still inspiring, and there are quite a bit of wine reviews as well, if you’re a fan. All in all, a good catch for some good food!

2 in 1: Cherry Tea Cakes and Hot Polka Dot

I initially meant to mention only one of these blogs, as they are both mainly aimed at desserts and are in general similar in feeling. But both these blogs are so fetching and so inspiring, I simply had to mention both of them, even if together.

If you are very visual, you are going to love these two blogs. Cherry Tea Cakes even offers an all-picture index, so you can look for that special recipe while browsing food pictures. Both these blogs offer mainly dessert recipes, but very interesting and imaginative ones, and if you’re looking for a recipe for a birthday cake for someone special, or simply for a way to be a hit in tomorrow’s party, chances are you’ll find it in one of these two blogs.

Hot Polka Dot is probably one of the best looking blogs I’ve ever laid eyes on, and it looks like someone is putting a lot of hard work into it. I just can’t wait to make some Heebee Jeebees!

FoodPornDaily

Yes, there is actually a website by that name. And if you don’t know it yet, you’re looking at your favorite new time-waster (if you’re even somewhat a foodie). FoodPornDaily is not your traditional food blog – there are no actual recipes. But there are pictures. Beautiful pictures, and lots of them.

All you have to do is click the picture, and there comes a new one! You get the name of the dish laid out nicely over the picture, and many times there will be a link at the bottom that will lead you to the recipe.

Aside from being a time-waster and a great inspiration, FoodPornDaily is also a great way to discover new and interesting food blogs. Click. Drool. Repeat.

Bonus – Pimp That Snack!

While not being a food blog, and not even aimed at inspiring you to cook, I couldn’t write about good food websites without mentioning Pimp That Snack.

If you ever aspired to re-create your favorite snacks in giant form, you’ll find all the advice and inspiration you need at Pimp That Snack, because this is a site that is dedicated to people who do just that. Aside from the sheer fun of seeing people’s adventures recorded, I actually found myself considering if I should make a giant version of a Cream Egg. There are actual recipes and methods of preparation, so maybe this could be a good activity for your next party!

Conclusion

Just writing this post made me want to make so many things. Even if these blogs don’t initially attract you, give them a spin, and browse a little bit. I’m sure you’ll find something in one of them that will make you get off the couch and run to the kitchen (and if not, you can always order in).

Let us know in the comments how you faired!

Image Credit: Shutterstock


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5+ Awesome Food Blogs That Will Tantalize Your Senses & Might Even Inspire You To Cook is a post from: MakeUseOf

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July 15 2011

18:31

4 More Amazing Graphical Ways To Browse & Read News

graphical newsStrangely, while watching news has stayed on the normal course, reading news has taken varied (and interesting) routes. There has been no better medium than the web to explore news in all its different avatars. RSS feeds and news tickers have become old-hat when you have more interactive apps coming in. Thanks to information overload, visualizing data has come into the picture…literally.

Data visualization starts with the idea of giving you a graphical tool to wrap all that information around your head. In the case of news, it ends with a really cool and interesting way to see news a bit differently.

Some of the data visualization based apps that focus on news may be experimental. It’s difficult to say whether graphical news apps will take off or not; but for now they remain as offbeat ways to browse and read news.

DoodleBuzz

graphical news

It’s called a typographic news explorer. The interesting graphical news app is meant to break you out of the usual way you browse for news – from the top down. This one fosters creativity. It all starts with a doodle. You get a blank canvas and a search box. Search for a news item and then just doodle around to get all interlinked stories. As you doodle on, the news items branch out and you can go on a wild, chaotic journey through all the information that’s out there. Doodling also gets you the original source of the news. It’s difficult to explain this app in words – try it out.

tenbyten

graphical newspaper

To describe the site in their own words – Every hour, 10×10 collects the 100 words and pictures that matter most on a global scale, and presents them as a single image, taken to encapsulate that moment in time.

If that went over your head, just launch the app and play around with the little thumbnails. At the backend, the app has scanned the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources (ABC, BBC, Reuters etc.) and culled the most important keywords using a special algorithm. The top 100 words are chosen along with their images. This human history goes into the 10×10 grid. You can check it by the hour and also go back into history with the cool timeline.

Oursignal

graphical newspaper

We have featured this cool graphical news app before in our directory of news apps. It’s like a news aggregator with a difference – a visual one. Just like any other news aggregator, it plucks the most popular news stories from Digg, Reddit, Delicious, Yahoo! Buzz and Hacker News and displays them in one place. The more popular the story the bigger it appears on the homepage. Clicking on the square takes you to the source. You can also preview it in the bottom frame. With a registration and log-in, you can set about customizing the ways news squares will be displayed like choosing a theme and entering your own choice of feeds. The results are not always perfect but you can try it out. It’s also quite similar to NewsMap which is a Google News aggregator.

Newser

graphical news

Newser makes news reading more fun by taking news stories from around the world and showing them as thumbnails on a grid. Clicking on them takes you to the news stories. This is not really offbeat, but nonetheless a visual departure from the normal way of scanning headlines. We had taken a previous look at Newser when we mentioned 5 Great Multi-Source News Websites.

 

These five web apps are interesting visualizations. They may not allow you to read ‘between the lines’ but they serve to break you away from the commonplace. If you are looking at more interesting ways to digest news, check out the articles below:

Do you know about any other interesting visual ways to browse news?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

4 More Amazing Graphical Ways To Browse & Read News is a post from: MakeUseOf

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July 11 2011

23:30
22:30

5 Fun & Useful Terminal Commands You Can Use More Than Once [Mac & Linux]

mac terminal commandsThere is a ton of information on the Internet about various Terminal commands and ways to customise your Mac or Linux machine with the Terminal. There are lots of secret settings in OS X, and it’s very common to see a command like this:

com.company.product entry valuetype value

defaults is a command-line app for editing plist files, i.e. app preference files. write is a feature of defaults and it’s a command which adds an entry or edits entries of plist files. defaults is a hard application to use, so you could use an app called Secrets, covered on MakeUseOf before, to take advantage of these without learning the command.

Most of the time, you will edit the same plist entry only once. After the preference takes effect, you will never need to enter that command again. However, there are some commands which are really useful and can benefit you if you learn them. Here are 5 useful commands that can be used more than once.

SSH

This can be used to securely remotely login to another device which has remote login enabled. It is commonly used to login to jailbroken iPhones and send files. It is also used to repair computers without a display attached or to make sure they are still working. SSH can also be used to tunnel web traffic.

If you’re on OS X, you must make sure that remote login is turned on in the computer you want to remotely login to. You can do this by going to the Sharing pane in System Preferences, then ticking the “Remote Login” checkbox. Note down the bit in quotes after, “To log in to this computer remotely…”

mac terminal commandsThat’s what you have to type into the terminal to log in to that account on that computer. To login using SSH, simply type:

ssh user@host

Where host is the IP. Then verify that you want to connect and enter the remote computer’s password. From there, you can issue commands from the Terminal remotely.

For Ubuntu, just install OpenSSH, by using:

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

Then check your IP address by clicking nteworking icon on the menu bar, then clicking “Connection Information”. Check your IP address (not the “broadcast” one) and note it down.

ubuntu terminal commands

To login remotely, type in the same as before.

say [OS X Only]

This is limited to OS X machines. Sorry, Linux users. But for you Mac users, say just makes your Mac speak. You would type in:

say TYPE IN SCRIPT HERE

No quotation marks are needed to enclose the speech or anything. Alternatively, you could first type in say, press return, and then everything you type after that is what the Mac will say. This can be use to make your Mac sing as well, if you type this:

say -v Cellos "TYPE IN SCRIPT HERE"

Just add -v to change the voice to a voice of your choice. This time, you’ll need the quotation marks.

mv + cp

This command is very useful for moving things. But this is easier to do in the file browser, why the CLI? Well, if you put a dot in front of a file with most UNIX-like systems, like Linux and all POSIX-compliant systems, like OS X it hides the file. With OS X, you cannot just add a dot. It doesn’t allow you to. So use the Terminal to hide your top secret project, because mv is also used to rename files. cp can copy files if you want.

mv ~/Desktop/sourcename.txt ~/Documents/destinationname.txt

With Linux, you must put the two locations in single quotes.

cd

To navigate to a location on your Terminal, just type:

cd location

You can also drag the folder to the Terminal window after typing cd  and then press Enter.

ubuntu terminal commands

This shortcut works on both OS X and Linux, though it’s a tiny bit easier on OS X. To navigate to your home folder, just type:

cd

ls

Use ls to see the contents of a directory. First you must cd into the  location. Then just type:

ls

This even allows you to see invisible files. Now, can you see how the last three commands link to each other? Now you can find files you hid. If you forget the filenames exactly, this will help you. Now you can restore the hidden files, using the mv command to remove the dot.

mac terminal commands

Conclusion

What do you think? Have you ever used the command line before? If not, did you find these tools easy to use? What other command line tools can you recommend? Tell us by commenting below!


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5 Fun & Useful Terminal Commands You Can Use More Than Once [Mac & Linux] is a post from: MakeUseOf

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18:30

5 Personal Finance Sites That Will Help Get You In Shape

personal finance sites

In these tough economic times, not being financial literate can cost thousands of dollars and a lifetime of savings. Most of us never learnt about personal finance in high school—few or no courses are taught on the subject, though it’s equally as important as learning reading, writing, and math. Most of us learn personal finance through trial and error. Many people avoid the subject all together and live simply from pay check to pay check.

But thanks to the Internet, there are several outstanding, information-filled personal finance blog sites that can help you become more conscious of your spending habits and what it will take to get you financially in shape.

Of course, some of these personal finance sites have ebooks and other resources for sale, but I suggest you start with all the free information about the basics of budgeting, saving, and investing that you can actually read and put into practice before you pay for a financial course or some get rich scheme.

I also suggest that you actually subscribe to one or more of these blog sites. The key to becoming financially literate is to study the subject like you watch your favorite television program. Subscribe to the newsletters and RSS feeds of these and other similar sites, and I guarantee you that in a few weeks time you’ll start thinking differently about your finances.

The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm’s The Simple Dollar personal finance blog site emerged out his personal experiences of a “financial meltdown” starting back in April of 2006. He started his blog “to tell the world about what [he] had learned and help people to who were struggling with the same things.“

personal finance sites

Hamm, the authorThe Simple Dollar: How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of His Dreams, writes about an extremely wide range of topics, from cooking recipes that keep you from wasting money on going out to eat, to 25 Revised Rules to Grow Rich By. Other subjects on the site include bad spending habits, dealing with debt, living frugally, grocery shopping, and organizing your money.

The ChristianPF

Bob Lotich’s The Christian Personal Finance features a large collection of daily posts about budgeting, banking, jobs and careers, debt elimination, insurance, investing, making and saving money, and free stuff.

finance sites

His site is geared towards people of the Christian faith, but I think it can appeal to anyone. Some of his popular articles include, How to Pay Your Mortgage Off Early, 20 Best Ways to Save Money, Get Out of Debt, 25 Top Paying Jobs Without Degree, 15 Ways to Cut Your Expenses, 250 Bible Verses About Money, and Why You Need an Emergency Fund.

MintLife Blog

I’ve recommended Mint.com‘s online financial management system as an effective way to develop and monitor your personal financial budget. Mint.com also includes a much re-tweeted blog site called MintLife.

finance sites

Recent MintLife articles include When Does It Make Sense to Refinance?, Support Your Local Business—Invest in It, Impulse Savings: Use Your Shopping Habit to Feather Your Nest Egg, and Investing 101: Understanding Core Earnings. MintiLife is definitely worth subscribing to or at least having on your Twitter follow list.

GetRich Slowly

GetRich Slowly has been selected as one of Time Magazine’s best blogs of 2011. The site features daily personal finance information on maintaining a savings account, CD rates, home and mortgage, dealing with credit cards, insurance, and getting out of debt.

finance sites

When you subscribe to the sites email newsletter you will receive a copy of his free ebook, Learn Hot to Make Your Money Work Harder for You.
finance web sites
Spending a weekend reading articles from this and other sites will provide you with the personal finance education that you never received in school.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

New York Times bestselling author, Ramit Sethi takes a slightly different approach to personal finance.

Sethi, whose site hosts 250,000 readers per month, doesn’t focus on small frugal ways to get financially in shape; instead, his approach is for you to spend money consciously and invest in things that will make you money—so you’re not trying to build a nest egg simply by skipping those Starbuck lattes you’re hooked on.
finance web sites
Sethi uses a mixture of blog posts and self-made videos to provide tips and financial insight on categories including earning money, buying a home, credit card perks, how to negotiate deals, automating your finances, starting a business, and the psychology of money. You definitely want to have Sethi’s site on your RSS feed.

Worthy Mentions

Other worthy mentions for good personal fiance sites include: The Digerati Life, a site for digital and technological savvy readers that provides information and tips about credit cards, best brokers, savings, mortgage, and refinancing rates.

FinanceDad is produced by Mark, an Accounting Manager for a large company in St. Louis, MO.
finance web sites
His site focuses on frugal living, retirement planning, and investing, and it contains hundred articles on money saving tips and strategies.

If your income is very limited, you will definitely want to subscribe to the The Frugal Life which features hundred of tips on living within your means. The site contains articles on practical topics such as auto savings, getting rid of clutter, do-it-yourself how-tos, home business ideas, and saving on your utilities.
personal finance sites
The sites listed above are among my personal finds; I‘m sure there are others that should be on the list. Let us know which personal finance sites you subscribe to.

For other MUO articles on personal finance, start with these posts:

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

5 Personal Finance Sites That Will Help Get You In Shape is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: finance, money, money management, save money

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17:30

8 “Best Online Investing Websites” to Improve Your Gains

best online investing websitesWe are looking at your money. Of course, with the chockfull of posts we have already posted on the subject of making and saving money. The inspiration comes from the web, which seems to have a bountiful of resources on creating wealth.

Investing right is a lot about timeliness. That’s where the right information bolstered by real-time data is the need of the second. The good websites on investment advice go beyond ticker tapes. When you have so many websites to pick from, how do you decide on the best online investing website?

Well, you try them out and pick the one that works for you. Most of these websites have portfolio tools that help you manage your investments online.

So, here are eight more to sift through for some of the best online investing websites with aids and tips.

Wikinvest


best online investing websites

Wikinvest always deserves a mention whenever you talk about online investing aids. Wikinvest Portfolio Manager is a comprehensive website that lets you make the most use of your online investment portfolios. The site’s data import tools allow you to easily and quickly setup your portfolio account by bringing in data from external brokerage sites with a few clicks. You not only get to see all your accounts in one place but also have easy access to portfolio analytical tools supported by real time data and visualizations. Wikis also cover company reviews and performance metrics, making your investment decisions all the more sounder. The Money School is where you should go if you are just starting out with personal finance and investing.

StockMapper

best investment websites

Stock heat maps are visual aids which constantly update and tell you what’s going up and what’s down in the financial markets. StockMapper is a collection of many such heat maps which reflect the volatility of today’s financial markets. The stock heat maps cover some of the major exchanges like NASDAQ, NYSE, and Eurotrac. You can use the heat maps as a ‘dashboard’ and apply filters to get the information you want according to all the relevant indices (there’s a 3-D map too). Clicking on the color coded stock points also brings up news feeds related to that particular stock or company.

FINVIZ

best investment websites

This site is another stock visualization tool. The stock screener also works with various filters and you can even create your own custom screeners and map it to the online portfolio for the stocks you want to focus on. You can save them as presets and use them later too. The web app supports multiple charts with which you can monitor aspects like different sectors, futures and forex markets, or high performing stocks easily (among other things).

Guru Focus

best investment websites

Learning how the best investors invest can fast track you and your investment pile. The site doesn’t have a direct portfolio management tool but it’s job is to guide you to pick the right stocks. The site serves investment ideas through financial news, insights, and commentaries. The site is not about short term investing. The Real Time Guru Picks is a membership based feature but most parts of the website are free.

Stockpickr

investing websites

The site is part of The Street network of financial information websites. It also found a place in Times annual list of best websites (2007). As the name says, all the financial hints on the site comes from tracking the portfolios of many of the top mutual and hedge funds and super investors like Warren Buffett, Wally Weitz, and George Soros. The articles that fall under Stock Ideas are must read for helpful insights. If you have time on your hands checkout The Stock Game for some real-time simulated stock trading.

Yahoo Finance

investing websites

Yahoo Finance along with Wikinvest finds a place on our 107 Best Websites on The Web list. Along with financial headlines, you get you get free stock quotes, portfolio management resources, international market data, message boards, and mortgage rates. Also, Yahoo Finance is localized just like its main portal for some major countries around the world. Some new features to look at include the streaming codes, smart lookup for to find quotes faster, a new personal finance section, and more. Then of course, there’s the Experts panel and Money Guides among the tools.

Financial Times

investing websites

This top-notch publication needs no introduction. For worldwide coverage of the latest financial trends, this publication is the one to read. But then it also covers regional markets like Asia, the Middle East, and India just as well. Don’t forget to check out the lineup of tools (as in the screenshot) or the many blogs that are on the second tier of the website.

MarketWatch

best online investing websites

Anything from Wall Street Journal is a must read if you want to invest wisely. Apart from the topics, companies, people, investment aids, and markets in the news, do take a look at the podcasts and the Virtual Stock Exchange Game. The section on investments has a range of tools that could help to make your decisions more carefully planned out. For instance, the list of top IPO performers (and worst too), mutual fund comparisons, and the other screening tools are worth a bookmark. The My Portfolio section is lets you track your investments.

The eight sites and their investment tools are for the serious investor. You would need a fair degree of know-how to tackle the data that’s thrown out. Reading our other wealth related articles could lay the groundwork. Here are some of them: