4 Web Tools You May Have Missed

I encounter so many web apps over the course of any given day that some tend to get lost in the mix, especially the oddball little applications that do something that isn’t in my standard workflow. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate how useful and creative those apps are, just that I end up setting them aside to come back to later.

So here I’m going to give those apps a chance to shine, because even if I can’t personally use them during the course of my day-to-day business, it’s entirely possible that many of you can. Accordingly, here are four oddball little web applications that do things you may not even have realized you wanted one to do in the first place. Read More about 4 Web Tools You May Have Missed

5 Alternatives to Keeping a Fax Machine

This week, I landed a big client. Emails flew back and forth and, finally, they sent me the final version of our contract. I digitally signed the PDF and emailed it back. No good — the contracts department for this particular company required that I send a fax in order to be able to verify the signature. I actually do have a fax machine (combined with a scanner and a printer) sitting on my desk, but I no longer keep a landline to hook it up to. This is the first time in months that I’ve even had a request for a fax.

Luckily, though, there are plenty of online options for sending faxes, so getting the contract to my client through their preferred method of communication wasn’t impossible. It was still time-consuming — I had to print off, sign and scan back in the contract to meet their standards — but I got it done. Here are a few of the more useful virtual fax options available. Read More about 5 Alternatives to Keeping a Fax Machine

3 Ways to Create a Lifestream For Your Brand

Increasingly, brands are getting into social media and social networking — we see them everywhere we go online these days. One of the most popular campaigns was last year’s Skittles web site relaunch, which cleverly included a “lifestream” of all of its social networking content and activity from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. It generated quite a buzz, and other companies rushed to do similar things for their own brands.

Here are some simple ways to display a lifestream of all of your social networking activity in one place. Some solutions involve using a third-party service, while others require the use of a free plugin or widget for your blog. Read More about 3 Ways to Create a Lifestream For Your Brand

Traveling Over the Holidays? Check Out This List of Free Wi-Fi Spots

Many web workers will be traveling over the holidays. If you’d like to stay connected at least some of the time, check out this handy list of nationwide chains offering free Wi-Fi access over the holidays from PC World — from McDonald’s to Panera Bread to Starbucks to Barnes & Noble, you’re not likely to be far from somewhere offering free Wi-Fi, if you know where to look.

As Om and Stacey noted on GigaOM last month, many companies also are sponsoring free Wi-Fi hotspots in some useful locations for travelers, such as Google (s goog) offering access in 47 airports across the U.S, and Yahoo (s yhoo) providing Wi-Fi in Times Square in New York. Google is sponsoring in-flight Wi-Fi on Virgin America flights, but if you’re flying with another carrier, you could try one of these codes for free in-flight Wi-Fi from Gizmodo.

Still struggling to find a hotspot? Check out Mike’s post, “14 Ways to Find a Wi-Fi Signal.” If you’re planing on using public Wi-Fi, you should also read our guide to using VPN to secure your sessions — a few free, easy-to-use applications can secure your data from hackers, even in public locations.

Where’s your favorite free Wi-Fi spot?

(via Lifehacker)

4 Tips For Dealing With App Outages

By our nature, web workers are dependent on online tools to do our work. Sometimes those tools become inaccessible, though. For example, recently a hosting outage took down 37signals’ Basecamp, an app that many web-based workers depend on heavily.

These outages can quickly become crises. How do you know what step to take next on a project if the project is entirely managed on a site that is currently down? How do you get in touch with a client if you usually only communicate through that same project management tool? You may not be able to work quite as fast without your tools, but these tips can help you keep the situation from escalating. Read More about 4 Tips For Dealing With App Outages

TripIt Adds Facebook Support

TripIt — the handy service that we’ve written about previously that organizes your travel itinerary by collating confirmation emails that you forward to it — has added Facebook Connect support. Facebook support was TripIt’s most-requested feature, and enables you to publish upcoming travel details automatically to your Facebook News Feed, which should be a useful way of letting co-workers, colleagues and clients know where you are going.

What travel or location services do you use?

How to Create a Business-friendly Facebook Profile

Many folks tend to use their Facebook accounts either for personal or business use, not both. However, those of us in a one-person business can find it effective to combine the two, with a little help from Facebook’s privacy features.

To draw the line between personal and business use, I assign a Limited Profile setting to business contacts to control what they can see in my profile, and bear in mind Nancy’s advice about using social media: “What you get from me online is 100 percent me…but you don’t get 100 percent of me.” When I do anything in Facebook, I remember that a prospect or client might see it, even if they shouldn’t have access to it. You just never know what spills over.

Let’s get to work on creating an effective profile for business and personal use. Read More about How to Create a Business-friendly Facebook Profile

oDesk Staffing to Offer Benefits to Freelance Workers

oDesk, the online marketplace for freelancers, announced yesterday the creation of oDesk Staffing to help provide freelance workers access to employer-style benefits, including group health benefits. It will also manage contract employees for small firms, providing their benefits and handling their payroll and taxes.

Freelancers typically have difficulty securing access to a comparable range of benefits to what they’d have in an employment situation. This is especially true of health benefits, as I’ve written previously.

How is oDesk trying to fix this? oDesk Staffing extends its existing 1099 system by letting you elect to have a W-2 employed relationship status with the company. Read More about oDesk Staffing to Offer Benefits to Freelance Workers

4 More Tips for Using Google Wave on Your First Project

After writing “6 Tips for Using Google Wave on Your First Project,” I’ve been learning more about Google Wave (s goog) as my client and I use it for document collaboration and communication. Since I wrote the initial post, we’ve gotten a better handle on the features that are helping manage our Waves and related communications.

Here are some more tips on using Google Wave:

Use folders to organize your waves. I agree with early Google Wave critics that say that it can get a bit noisy. As my client project includes more than one document, I looked to folders to better organize my Waves. To create a folder, go to the Google Wave Navigation panel and click the “+” button next to “Folders.” Then enter the name you desire for your folder in the box that appears. You can drag and drop your Waves into the folder as long as you have Google Gears installed (No word yet if this is going to work under HTML5). You can also select a Wave in your inbox and then choose “Move To” from the More Actions drop-down list. A list of your folders will appear; select the folder where you want to move the Wave. Read More about 4 More Tips for Using Google Wave on Your First Project