Are you tired of seeing the same old sites every time you open your browser? SaveDelete reveals 50 clever ways you can go beyond your usual bookmarks and discover the web’s latest innovations.
Whenever researchers conduct surveys to find out the most popular online activities, the results are usually the same: shopping, banking, social networking, entertainment and news. Websites in these categories are so integral to our lives that we often don’t bother to look at any others; indeed, it’s claimed that on average we only visit five to seven sites on a regular basis.
But with useful new tools being launched every day, there are lots of online innovations waiting to be discovered and explored. These range from clever tricks you can do with videos and photos to ways you can improve your life, unleash your creative skills and make everyday tasks much easier.
In this article, we round up 40 exciting and interesting new sites that we think you’ll love. Most of these have a practical purpose, but some are included purely for fun. We’ve also chosen 10 unusual but useful items you can buy online.
Improve your skills
Recipe websites usually assume you have some basic cooking experience, but not everyone knows how to slice an onion or carve a joint. Improve your culinary skills by watching the how-to videos at BBC Food Techniques, which cover a variety of easy, intermediate and advanced tasks. Once you’ve mastered a technique, you can then apply it to one of the suggested recipes.
A new feature on the Guinness World Records website lets you compete to become a world-record holder. Click the ‘Set a Record’ button, pick a challenge and upload the video evidence of your feats. Recent examples include the fastest time to shell a boiled egg, the highest score on Bejeweled Blitz and the most rubber bands stretched over a face in one minute.
Verbling helps you master a foreign tongue by taking part in video conversations with native speakers. The site pairs you with a random person to talk for five minutes in their language and five in yours. If you get on well, you can chat for longer and resume your lesson in your next session. Currently, only English-Spanish exchanges are available, but more languages will be added soon.
Do you use the same words too often or let your sentences run on too long? Find out by pasting a sample of your writing into Pro Writing Aid, which will analyze your style and produce a report that highlights area for improvement. The long and you’ll be alerted to aspects such as over used words, clichés and ‘ sticky sentences’ that slow the reader down.
Improve your artistic skills by installing the free Android and iPhone app How to draw, from Artelplus. This provides step-by-step instructions for drawing 70 different cartoon animals, characters and objects, including dogs, superheroes and trees, either using a pen and paper or onscreen (ios only). The graph-paper background helps you get your picture’s proportions right.
Save Someone’s Life:
Become an organ donor:
Help save lives by adding your name to the Organ Donor Register. The sign-up process only takes a minute and you can choose to donate any of your organs and tissue, or specific body parts such as your kidneys, heart and eyes. Your details will be matched with your NHS number and your medical records updated accordingly. You can remove your name online, too.
The microvolunteering site help from home lets you earn money by charities by playing online games. For example, you can take the give vaccines trivia quiz to support the fight against life-threatening diseases, or play go fish to help the ocean conservancy tackle overfishing. The more points you score, the more money is donated to good causes by advertisers.
Explore the World:
Get close to a baby polar bear without being mauled by its mother through the two live video streams at Explore.org. The camera follows a five-month-old cub called Siku, who lives in the Scandinavian Wildlife Park, Denmark. Watch him learn to swim, fall over a lot and pad around his enclosure in an adorable manner, while other Siku fans share their thoughts and observations. Highlights are shown when the live feed is off-air.
In the same way that blue plaques commemorate the addresses of notable historical figures, Zoopla’s purple plaques mark the former homes of current celebrities. For example, you can discover where Lewis Hamilton once lived or view Jk Rowling’s old abodes. If someone famous once lived in your house, tell Zoopla and you could potentially boost the property’s value.
NASA’s amazing Eyes on the Solar System site lets you fly around planets, moons, asteroids and the Sun, as if you were an astronaut in the Voyager2 spacecraft. You can take featured tours of the cosmos, zoom and rotate celestial objects, and view photos, videos and maps. The site uses NASA data collected by mission dating back to 1950, which makes the astronomical experience impressively realistic and means you can travel back in time as well as across space.
How could you fare if your nearest city was hit by a 15-megaton nuclear weapon? Probably not too well, but you can check your chances of survival using this morbid map. Enter your location (or let the site detect it), and specify the bomb type and the population of its target. We found you can stay alive by hiding in the Scottish Highlands, but would you want to?
Improve your Communication
Make free voice and video calls:
Vox.io is a new Skype rival that lets you chat to friends over the web for free, without even needing to download any software. Just click a contact to start a voice or video conversation, or send the person a link to get them to call you back. Web and iPhone calls to other vox.io users and free, but you need to pay to phone landlines and mobiles.
Unsubscribe from Multiple mailing lists:
Clear your inbox of junk mail by signing up with Unsubscribr. This handy service lets you remove your email address from multiple mailing lists with a single click, rather than hunting for individual ‘unsubscribe’ links. The free version of Unsubscribr detects and deletes junk messages sent to your Gmail, Yahoo mail and AOL Mail accounts in the last five days. For $2, the premium option will scan the previous 30 days.
If you really want to get someone’s attention, send them a few words through Gzaas. With this free tool, you can create huge, screen -filling messages in your browser and share them over the web. Type a message, click ‘gzaas it’ and customize the style, color and background. Gzaas then generates a link for the message that you can email people and post on Facebook and Twitter.
Boost your brain
Get expert answers to any question:
Who invented hair gel? Is there a KFC in Malaga? Are my thumbs too fat for an iPhone? These are some of the queries shared and solved on new Q&A site Beepl. The site addresses your questions to people most likely to know the answer, to help you get expert advice and avoid timewasters. Queries are also posted on Facebook and Twitter so friends can chip in.
Learn an astonishing fact:
There’s no shortage of trivia on the web, but for fun and fascinating facts, it’s hard to beat today I learned something new updated daily, this blog gathers photos and videos about “things that fall outside common knowledge”. For example, did you know that Chinese iPad knockoffs are advertised by an Asian Steve Jobs? That the animal in the Firefox logo is really a red panda? Or that Samsung started in 1938 as a company selling dried Korean fish?
If you don’t have time to visit individual newspaper websites for the latest headlines, Muck Rack lets you track their journalists’ Twitter feeds to find out what they’re talking about. The site covers dozens of news sources across the world, including BBC News, the Guardian and the Times, and is a great way to read reporters’ views that might not make papers’ published editions.
Enhance your music & video
If there’s something important you need to do today, use your favorite song as a reminder. Online Music Alarm lets you set a you tube video to play in your browser at a time of your choosing. you can set multiple alarms using different videos and install the Chrome extension (bit.ly/alarm288) for easy access to the service. It’s free to use and you don’t even need to register.
Make your own silent movie:
Copy the success of the multi-award-winning movie the artist by creating your own silent films from you tube videos, Paste the URL of a clip into the Artistifier and it will be instantly transformed into a black-and-white movie, complete with a swinging soundtrack (no dialogue, of course), authentic screen flickers an blurry borders, and caption cards at appropriate points.
Create instant video playlists:
Searching You Tube for a particular artist usually uncovers all manner of karaoke versions, parodies and other irrelevant results. Tubair solves this problem by finding only the top videos for a specific band or singer without all the usual You Tube clutter. Just enter the name of the artist and click the only button to create a playlist, or hit similar for videos from related acts.
Edit audio and video files online:
Why bother downloading separate audio-and video-editing programs, when you can trim, enhance and apply effects to your media files online, using Filelab Web Apps? This excellent free service lets you upload movies and music from your hard disk, then edit them in your browser using its simple but powerful tools. These include echo, tempo change and volume adjustments for audio files; and transitions, titles and a handy timeline view for videos. You’ll need to install the Firelab plug-in first, sign in using in using Facebook if you want to save your work.
Solve a Mystery
If your digital camera is lost or stolen, you may be able to recover it through Stolen Camera Finder. Upload an image taken with the camera and the site will detect its unique serial number and match it with other online photos from the same device. You can then contact the photographer and ask them to return your snapper. A useful new tool compares images on your Pc against recently uploaded pictures on Flickr, but note that not all camera models are supported.
If you’ve got a photo on your PC of an unknown place, person or object, you can use Google’s ‘search bu image’ tool to identify the mystery subject. Click the camera icon in the search box, choose ‘Upload an image’ and select the picture from your hard disk. Google will then display a set of visually similar images, and let you click through to their websites for more information.
If you see a font on a poster, website or magazine page that you’d like to use in your own creative project, Identifont can help. Click the ‘Fonts by Appearance’ tab, answer a few questions about the mystery typeface, such as the shape of its lower-case ‘g’ and the site will identify the font and tell you where you can buy it online. You can also view a list of similar fonts.
The National Pets Register, which lets you store details of your cats, dogs and other animals online, now uses Facebook and Twitter to help reunite lost pets with their owners. Check the site’s Facebook page or Twitter feed for recent reports of found pets, then click the link to contact the finder.
Be more creative
Why bother with complicated web-design tools when you can build a site in a matter of seconds using Check this? Just enter title; add text, photos and videos; and click publish. You can enhance the layout with sounds, maps and polls, customize the background design and sell products via PayPal. Check this is free, fast and couldn’t be easier to use. However, it’s not compatible with Internet Explorer.
Read more lets you create your own digital magazine using its simple online tools, and earn money from advertising, which it arranges for you. Design the front cover and pages, add your own text and images, and share the magazine online or via Readmore’s new iPad app. The service is free to use and plans to introduce more customization options soon.
The brilliant home-decor site Mydeco.com recently added a new 3D-planning tool that lets you design rooms in your house from top to bottom. You can Start from a furnished or unfurnished room, and play around with wallpaper, carpets, furniture, accessories and other elements to achieve the look you want. Mydeco.com will then tell you where to buy the necessary items online.
Google inside search has a fun feature that lets you add your own captions to comic-strip panels. Flick through the available cartoons, which all depict situations of people searching for something on Google, and enter your suggestions for what the characters might be saying. You can share a link to your comic creation by email and online, and vote on other people’s captions.
Make shopping easier
Rather than waiting in all day for a package to arrive, you can use the new delivery service Shuti to get items you order online in less than 90 minutes or within the hour of a named time. Just choose the Shuti option when ordering from stores such as Argos and Maplin, and the item will be collected and delivered by a local courier company. The service, which costs 4.95, is available in selected cities across the UK. Enter your postcode on the homepage to find out which stores deliver to your area, and get notified by email when new companies are added.
If you often lose paper receipts or accidentally delete email ones, sign up with lemon to store records of all your purchases in one place. This free service lets you forward the receipts you receive from online stores directly from your inbox to your account, and scan and upload physical copies using its free app for android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Symbian. The default currency is Dollars, but you can change this to ‘United Kingdom Pound’.
If you’re desperate to get your hands on a Kindle Fire, or another product that’s only available in the US, you can use Bundle box to bypass delivery restrictions. This simple service lets you order items to a US parcel-forwarding address, from which they can be posted to your UK home. It costs $15 (about 9.50) to join, which is refunded from your first purchase, so it’s effectively free. Use the total cost calculator to work out how much you’ll need to play.
Try on clothes using your webcam:
Online fashion store Love Rococo has launched a virtual changing room that lets you ‘try on’ clothes before you buy. The webcam social shopper augmented-reality tool turns your webcam into a mirror so you can hold up different items in front of your body, play around with colors and capture photos of the results. It’s a shame the store only caters for women because we really don’t look right in a puffball prom dress, but the technology should be added to more sites soon.
Enhance web tools
Microsoft’s Zoom. It tool lets you convert any web image into a high-resolution photo that you can explore in close-up detail. Paste the URL of the picture into the box on the homepage, click create and the site will convert it to deep zoom format, which lets you zoom right into the image regardless of its size and without losing quality. You can then share the hi-res result on Facebook and Twitter, or embed it on your website or blog.
Tools such as MCAfee site advisor (www.siteadvisor.com) and web of trust (www.mywot.com) are a great means of checking whether a website poses any security risks, but they don’t provide ratings for every site. For a really through test, run the link through URL void, which uses 23 scanners to determine whether pages are clean and free from malicious scripts and downloads.
Many Smartphone apps and browser add-one have bizarre names that make it difficult to work out what tasks they perform. Quixey solves this problem by finding extras for Android, iPhone, Chrome and more, based on what they do, such as stream radio or scan barcodes, rather than what they’re called. You can filter the search results by platform and choose to display only free options.
Amazing things you must buy online
Specializing in Venus Fly traps, trumpet pitchers and other insect-chomping species, little shop of horrors is a great place to buy a house gift with some bite. Carnivorous plants require remarkably little care, aside from regular rainwater and sunlight, and are a useful means of ridding your home of bluebottles, spiders and other creepy crawlies. Prices start at around 5.
The ingenious online store Vinyl Clocks lets you tell the time using a classic Beatles single or Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The site sells a wide variety of wall clocks that have been recycled from old records. You can browse the stock by format (single, album, picture disc)and decade, and request a vinly version of a specific number one. Prices start at Euro 13.95 for a 7-inch.
Test people’s eyesight using the letters of your choice by ordering a personalised eye chart from Firebox.com. Enter a message of between 27 and 150characters, choose a font and the site will print the words in optician-friendly format on a 61*30cm poster. Whether you choose to spell out something rude in your chart is entirely up to you. Prices start at Euro 14.99.
Get your hands on a falcon, a buzzard or an owl by purchasing a Birds of Prey Experience day through Wish.co.uk. These include tours of falconry centers, staff demonstrations and the chance to handle and ‘fly’ one of the birds yourself. There are experiences across the country, including in Cheshire, Hampshire and North Yorkshire. Prices start at 57 for three hours of avian fun.
Like & dislike stamps:
Bring all the fun of Facebook to real life using these like and dislike ink stamps from the wacky online gift store I want one of those. For just Euro 9.99, you can clearly mark your approval or disapproval on any document, object or person. The stamps are said to be ‘self-inking’ and should last for “up to 5,000 assertions each”.
Stop your banana becoming squashed and inedible by protecting it with a plastic banana guard. Available in seven different colors, the Euro 4.99 device is claimed to fit “90 per cent of commercially available bananas”. The site also sells Froot Guards, which prevent apples and peaches getting damaged, and froot Cases for protecting plums, kiwis and apricots.
If you’ve ever wasted valuable holiday time trying to refold a map along its original creases, you’ll appreciate the concept behind Palomar’s Crumpled city maps. These soft, waterproof maps can be opened and closed (or stuffed in your pocket) in two seconds. They’re available for 31 cities, including London, Barcelona and Sydney, and cost Euro 12 (about 10) each.
One of the oddest products on Amazon.com is a sample of radioactive uranium ore, priced at $39.99 . Described as being useful for testing Geiger counters, rather than developing nuclear weapons, it’s worth visiting the page just to read the customer reviews: “I purchased this product 4.47 billion years ago and when I opened it today, it was half empty.”
From Black Jacks Jelly Babies to Liquorices allsorts and chocolate mice, Chewbz is packed with delicious retro treats. There are plenty of other sites that sell nostalgic childhood favorites, but the sheer variety or sugary (and sugar-free) delights on offer at this store is impressive and we love that you can order your sweets in a jar, gift box or hamper. Delivery costs from Euro 2.99 for 1kg of sweets.
Cows ‘n’ things is an ethical gift scheme run by age UK that lets you help disadvantaged people overseas. For example, for Euro 92 you can ‘buy’ (contribute towards the cost of) a cow that will provide someone with milk they can sell and use as a valuable source of nutrition. A goat costs just 18, while for Euro 7 you can buy 20 chicks that will produce eggs and more chicks.
Make travel easier
Cabubble lets you book taxis to and from airports, railway stations and other UK addresses online, and view their fares upfront. Specify your departure and destination points: the number of passengers and bags; and the pick-up time, and the site will get you quotes from local, fully licensed cab firms. ther’s no booking fee, and most drivers will call or text you when they arrive.
The similar service My Taxi Rank (web.mytaxirank.com), which has a free iPhone app, is also worth a look.
Want to get away somewhere, but not too far? Then enter your current location and a maximum travel time at cartoo. The site will highlight the area you can potentially cover on a Google map, so you can choose a suitable destination. It also lets you switch between driving, walking and cycling distance estimates. We got from the Web User office to Calais in three hours.
There are plenty of restaurant review sites, but recommending specific dishes at eateries around the world. Search for the name of a meal to find the best place in your area to enjoy it, or discover the best dish at a particular venue. You can browse photos of the evidence, and share details of your own culinary experiences. Foodspotting is now available for android, iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Phone, as well as through its website.
If you’re going on holiday, or will be away from home for any other reason, you can find someone to watch your property through trustedhousesitters.com. Either post a listing and wait for response or browse the registered sitters’ profiles, which contain references, reviews and police checks. Membership costs 9.53 for one month or 38.13 for a year, with a free trial available.