8 free online tools to organise your life

Free apps to help get your to-do list done

When you can barely make out the note you scribbled on the back of that coffee-stained receipt, and you haven't turned over the wall calendar's page since mid-2007, it's time to get organised with digital tools. Nowadays the best place to find personal organiser software isn't necessarily on the desktop, it's on the Web.

You already know that users are opting out of heavy desktop applications such as Microsoft Outlook for the likes of Gmail and Google Calendar.

But when it comes to managing your tasks, projects, and notes, the big names don't always have the best offerings. A new crop of rich web applications offer smart tools you can use to organise your life using any device that has a web browser or an email client, be it PC, Mac, or smartphone.

Here are our choices of some of the best-of-breed organisation options available online now.

1. Track tasks with Remember the Milk

The weekly status report is due every Thursday morning at 10am. You've got to pick up the dry cleaning next Wednesday after 3pm. Your business plan draft has festered unattended to for a week now. This afternoon it's your turn to pick up the kids from football practice. Before your brain blue-screens, take a moment to offload your to-do list into Remember the Milk, a full-featured task manager that categorises and prioritises to-do's into convenient lists.

RTM even makes 'honey do' lists easy to manage. Your Milk-using spouse, secretary, boss, or business partner can send task requests directly to your RTM inbox so you can incorporate them into your master plan instantly. If you upgrade to a Pro account for US$25 per year, you'll have access to Windows Mobile synching and an iPhone-friendly interface.

Remember the milk

2. Store notes and research at Backpack

Collaborate on and manage notes and research with the Web-based notebook Backpack.

Whether you're planning your next holiday, drafting your novel, or just want a private place to incubate ideas, you can create an editable page at Backpack and drop in notes, lists, news items and comments.

Each Backpack page has a unique email address, so when you're struck with a brilliant insight standing in line at the supermarket, just dash off an email on your phone to insert it into your page on the spot. A limited free version of Backpack is available; pricing for paid versions starts at US$12 a month and buys you file storage space, more pages, a group calendar, and message boards.

3. Get a (virtual) personal assistant named Sandy

Wake up to a cheery daily agenda from your new virtual personal assistant, Sandy, who communicates with you primarily via email and text messages. Here's how it works: Send Sandy an email that reads something like "Reminder: Lunch with Ted on Friday at 1pm." Sandy will add the appointment to Friday's agenda and fire off a reminder that afternoon with such good-natured aplomb you'll think she might be flesh and blood. Sandy can also store, tag and recall important bits of information via email commands, like a flight number or directions. iwantsandy

4. Make sense of your money with Wesabe

When the thought of firing up your accounting software makes you want to clean out the garage instead, head over to web-based money manager Wesabe . Register for a free Wesabe account, and upload your bank account information by hand, or use Wesabe's desktop uploader or its Firefox extension to automatically enter account transactions into Wesabe. (Relax, Wesabe doesn't store your online banking passwords, and it keeps your transaction data safe and secure.)

You can skip balancing your chequebook now, Wesabe organises all your account transactions in a single place, translates 'bankspeak' into human-friendly transaction descriptions, charts a birds-eye view of where your money's going, and puts its community of users to work to help you save money and reach your financial goals.

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Gina Trapani

PC Advisor (UK)
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