Jerry’s Web Picks
As reviewer and computer industry observer, I run across stellar Web sites. My current top-tier picks usually focus on practical resources rather than fun and games. Asterisks (*) in the category column denote recently added or updated recommendations.
Generally, the following links keep my site’s navigation bar on the left so you can easily return after sampling a site. If you’re ready for in-depth use of a particular destination, you may prefer to leave my site by cutting and pasting (or typing) the destination’s URL into your browser’s address box.
If you have additions for the list, please tell me the site’s URL and why it’s great. Similarly, if a link no longer works for you, please advise so I can update the list for everyone.
You can add individual listings to your browser’s bookmarks or favorites list. But I suggest that you do what I do: Bookmark this page and surf the Web from here. Doing so helps to keep the best sites in the following categories in one place.
|Web searching||The best Web search site can change faster than you can blink. I’ve written about a ton of search engines, but I continue to be impressed with Google.
http://www.google.com. One of biggest personal frustrations is all of the pop-up and pop-under windows generated by Web sites.One of my favoriate solutions is entirely free, Google’s tooolbar. It’s effective and a quick download. The trick is to consider its verious options so it works the way you want. Don’t miss it!
But I’m also a believer in Fast Search & Transfer. Not only is it fast, but its proprietary method to prioritize matching results is awesome.
One of the most promising search-engine sites is now Northern Light.
AltaVista is a mainstay among search engines. Its strength lies in “power-search” options.
If you aren’t sure what search term may meet your needs, you might try Yahoo! While strictly speaking not a search engine, Yahoo!’s well-organized categories of sites helps you quickly drill down to what you want. The human touch they give to site descriptions shouldn’t be overlooked, either.
Direct Hit is particularly helpful if you want to find the home page of, say, a specific corporation for which you know the company name.
|Surf anonymously||Does it bug you that Web sites you visit as well as individual snoopers on the Internet can follow your every move and learn a lot else about you, too? If so, one way to fight back is to surf anonymously by routing your requests for Web pages through one of the following site’s servers. IDsecure (one of two solutions at the IDzap site–their other solution is free) is probably the best, but the others are free and work well enough for many of us.
|General research||The people who bring you the Information Please almanac offer a well-designed site where you can search a dictionary, an encyclopedia, almanacs–or all of the above simultaneously. The site is useful for everyone, but may appeal especially to families.
At Merriam-Webster’s site, you can look up any word in Merriam-Webster dictionary or thesaurus.
Microsoft’s Encarta site contains an entire knowledge base and online learning center.
For general research, Britannica.com offers the renowned, top-of-the-line encyclopedia as well as hundreds of popular magazines, though they’ve now implemented a fee-based system for full access.
|* Techie research||Ever wonder what that newest computer term means? Find out at TechEncyclopedia.
If you have a question about Microsoft Word (and who doesn’t?) check out the All About Microsoft Word™ area of this site.Besides providing extensive help, it lists key third-party solutions, not only for Word but also for other Microsoft products.
|Answers galore||If you have a question about almost anything, check out Ask.com. Askmehelpdesk.com offers similar support.
|News||Oooh, where to begin with general news sites?! I prefer CNN and MSNBC, but here are all of the major US outlets:
|Language translation||Do you want to translate English to German–or perhaps Chinese to English? No Internet site yet offers stellar translation (to prove it, translate something from English to Hebrew and back again–oy!). But in a pinch, the following sites translate text that you type–or cut and paste–with some success. Most of them also fetch a Web page you specify that’s in another language and present it in your browser in your native tongue.
If your translation needs are more substantial–you need a lot of material translated, your source or destination language is more obscure, or you need the human touch for more accurate translation–choose a professional translator from a list of the American Translators Association.
|Weather||You can find several great weather sites, but my favorite is Weather.com. Note that Weather.com now also offers flight arrivals and delays information. See the Travel listing in this table for the direct URL for the latter information. (AOL users: Try the Weather button on your software’s toolbar.)
|Travel||Some quality sites of individual airlines and other travel services aside, the best general online resource these days is Expedia.com. Even if your primary criterion is price, I usually recommend Expedia.com over the various “Cheap Whatever” sites. You might as well go where you’ll get price, overall selection and services, and usability all tied together with a bow. Keep an expecially open eye in this rapidly changing categories. These days, the key to be best deal is to find a packaged deal of flights, cars, hotels, etc. That’s the current battleground in this category. Some hunting and searching in what has become a largely commodity service can provide amazingly cheap overall trip fairs.
Another long-time favorite is Travelocity:
And if you want everything tied up with a pretty bow, the renowned Fodors handles your airline tix through Expedia, books theatre tix, and much more:
ORBITZ is an exception to my usual rule of avoiding “cheap fare” sites. ORBITZ is good and covers a full range of travel services.
Both Weather.com and Trip.com offer flight arrival times and delay information at the following URLs:
|Maps||If you’re a map freak like I, don’t miss Microsoft’s TerraServer. Simply addictively wonderful!
Oh, and don’t miss Expedia.com (but only if you are willing to allow your browser to accept Internet “cookies” that track your Web travels) or otherwise MapBlast!, MapQuest, and Yahoo! Maps….
|General shopping||For comparative shopping across a broad range of products, mySimon takes my top prize, but others rave even more about DealTime.com and Shopnow.
If you want to name your product or service and have vendors bid, try Onvia.com:
The hands-down leader for auction shopping is, of course, eBay.
Amazon.com is best known for discount purchasing and searching for books. While Amazon.com is branching into many more categories than you can shake a mouse at these days, I’m partial to their site primarily for books.
|Telco comparisons||What are the best rates for land-line and mobile phones in your area? Decide.com and Point.com can help you sort out the options.
The following sites are good places to look, too. (Note: The pop-up ads at cutmyexpenses.com can be a tad frustrating, though.)
http://longdistance.coes are good places to look, too. (Note: The pop-up ads at cutmyexpenses.com can be a tad frustrating, though.)
|Law||The best all-purpose legal site for nonlawyers was and remains Nolo.com.
If you need an attorney in a certain area of practice or geographical location, that mainstay of legal publications, West Group, now makes their directory of attorneys available online and free of charge. Searching for right-on-target attorneys is a breeze.
The FindLaw for Business site tends to provide some of best features of the above sites. Nolo tends to be best site to teach yourself about the law, while West Group’s site may still be best source for a referral to an attorney. But for both purposes, I recommend that you also check out FindLaw, too.
|Medical information||MDchoice.com has now expanded from a physician-oriented site to provide a range of vetted information for consumers. With consumer medical information on Web ranging from invaluable resources to out-and-out unreliable urban legend, it’s great to have what appears to be a trusted central starting point at our fingertips.
Need help with medical terms? Check out the online medical encyclopedic dictionary, continually updated by physicians.
|Shipping||Do you ship documents? Do you want the most economical service that meets your requirements? If so, you have several good choices. Navigate to InterShipper, ValueShip, iShip.com, or SmartShip.
|Money matters||Sending and receiving money online now is a snap with the outrageously popular PayPal.
NetLedger is the rage these days for companies with up to 25 or so employees. It offers power and flexibility, and you avoid updating the software in this ever-changing category every year or so; NetLedger does it for you.
|Computer viruses||Okay, admit it. Sometimes you suspect you might have contracted a computer virus, but realize it’s been too long since you updated your antivirus software. There’s no substitute for resident antivirus software to protect against a virus striking, but often you can obtain some peace of mind just by checking for a possible infection after the fact. Begin with the real-time virus resources on this site. I also use Trend Micro’s stellar, free, online virus checker in a pinch, including when I have questions whether even the latest update to my resident antivirus software may have missed something–which happens. Visit before you need to use this resource, because the first time you run their online software can take awhile…the last thing you need in a potential crisis.
Symantec now also offers an online security check at:
Trend Micro offers additional free antivirus resources at:
Panda Software offers a similar resource as well as a virus encyclopedia at the following URLs:
McAfee offers a variety of related services at the following URLs: