Free services to streamline your social networking experience

These seven social networking services -- including Digsby, NutshellMail, Ping.fm, and Spokeo -- make managing social sites a lot easier.

Social networking is great for keeping in touch, but how much time does it take? Our personal experience is that you can eat up an entire day managing your online social sites faster than you can accumulate pals on Facebook. (Don't tell the boss, though.)

Here are seven ways to make the experience less complex. These services, which include Google Latitude, Pipl, and TweetDeck, can do things like display all your Twitter tweets from your tweeps at once or bundle your entire online social whirl into one package.

Happy hobnobbing!

BEST BET Digsby is excellent for aggregating your entire online social life, wrapping e-mail, IM, and social networking into one tight little package. This multitasking download integrates Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, AIM, and tons more, all from the comfort of one unified system tray application.

If you want to know where your friends (or kids) are at any given minute of the day, Google Latitude acts like a LoJack for your loved ones. Accessible from your cell phone or browser, Latitude displays where all your friends are located on a Google Map.

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It's always exciting to see that someone has written on your Facebook wall, but if you're tasked with doing actual work at some point during the day, the flood of e-mail notifications from social networks can be a huge time sink. NutshellMail consolidates messages from the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and even secondary e-mail accounts into one scheduled digest, so you can get a quick snapshot of your popularity.

Rather than managing profile information, Ping.fm (registration required) is all about managing your status. Set this service up with your Facebook and Twitter accounts, for example, and a single update automatically posts a new status update on Facebook and a new tweet to Twitter. Multiply that by more than 30 supported social networking sites, and you could save some serious time.

Want to hunt down your college roommate or a long-lost love? People search engine Pipl scours the Web to find every last fingerprint that the person you're seeking has ever left online, down to every photo, address, and blog post it can find. Pipl even supports reverse people lookups by e-mail address, user name, and phone number.

Social networks have turned cyberstalking into a national pasttime, but who has time to check all the possible places your crush may be socializing online? Web service Spokeo (registration required) searches the farthest corners of 41 social networking sites to uncover the deepest, darkest secrets of your friends and loved ones. We hope you're proud of yourself.

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If you're nuts for the popular social networking and microblogging service Twitter, you've probably outgrown writing and tracking tweets using Twitter's Web interface. TweetDeck is a free download that puts Twitter on steroids, letting you easily track any search terms, group your friends, shrink unwieldy URLs, and more, all from one centralized window.

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Adam Pash

PC World (US online)
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