Feature of the Week Super Roundup: 52 Awesome Sites, Add-ons and Apps

Dan Scharff

Here at Maximum PC, we adhere to a few simple maxims: Make it faster! Be thorough. And keep things as simple as possible.

Adhering to that philosophy, we'd like to present to you a mega-ultra-laser-shark mix and mash of features we've published these past couple of months, including some of our favorite websites, Windows Phone 7 aps, and Chrome and browser add-ons that you've been seeing grace the pages of our site recently. Because, after all, we wouldn't want you guys to have to dig around for all these yourselves. Remember. We keep it simple, just for you.

Enjoy!

Awesome Sites

NASA

The last Star Trek TV series was kind of terrible, and they cancelled Firefly before the series had a chance to really come into its own. Sure, Battlestar Galactica was great but now that it’s long over, what’s left to scratch that geeky sci-fi itch of yours? No Ordinary Family? V? Please. No one needs that sort of pain in their lives. What to do? How about taking an in-depth look real adventures of America’s space-based endeavors. Sound good? We thought so too--and that’s why NASA’s impressive online presence has been selected as our Cool Site of the Week.

From news of robots exploring the insides of damaged nuclear power plants in Japan to the in-depth history of every American space mission, NASA’s official website offers a little something for everyone.

Broken down into easily navigable sections such as Universe, Solar System, Earth and Aeronautics, NASA makes it easy to find something fascinating. Within minutes of browsing the site, we managed to locate an HD video on the history of the Space Shuttle program narrated by William Shatner, an interactive 3D sandbox tour of the International Space Station and a gallery of images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. With hours of fascinating videos and reading to captivate site visitors of all ages and levels of education, NASA’s official website is sure to help any downtrodden science fiction fan into an enthusiastic space geek after just one visit.

Famous Objects From Classic Movies

There are thousands of websites out there that will happily assist you in standing on the neck of your day-to-day productivity, but few can do it as effectively and as addictively as Famous Objects From Classic Movies , our Cool Site of the Week.

Famous Objects From Classic Movies offers visitors to the site to a cinema-centric trivia game that’s so simple that anyone can partake in it, but still manages to delve deep enough down the movie geek rabbit hole that it can prove challenging to even the biggest film buffs. Players are presented with the silhouette of an object from a well known film. To win, all one needs to do is type in what movie the object comes from. The site forces visitors to enter the name of their movie they think the object hails from hangman-style. If the player enters three incorrect letters for any given object, they lose and are moved on to the next object to try their luck once again.

The objects featured on the site run from the obvious to the obscure. In under ten minutes of playing, we were confronted by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the biplane from North By North West, one of Julia Robert’s boots from Pretty Woman, and Neo’s sunglasses from the Matrix.

Best of all, users who fancy themselves to be film fanatics are encouraged to submit their own ideas to the site for new objects to include in the game, making sure that this brilliant Internet time-waster never runs out of steam.

GovDeals

You like stuff. We like stuff. The Government? They’ve got lots of stuff. One of the best ways to get your hands on their stuff is to visit GovDeals , our Cool Site of the Week.

GovDeals is an online auction site that specializes in selling off merchandise gently used merchandise that’s being liquidated or at some point was confiscated by the United States federal or state governments. You may ask yourself, “what makes an online auction site cool?” While the website itself might look like it was flash frozen back in 1997, just take a look at what the swag that’s up for grabs. From awesome conversation pieces to utterly outrageous deals on hardware you never thought you’d have the opportunity to buy, GovDeals has it all. At the time that this story was written, we noted listings for 24 pallets of used computer hardware, seven ambulances, playground equipment, a selection of barber chairs, a lot of tactical helmets and a police cruiser--and that barely scratches the surface of what GovDeals has to offer. Site visitors are invited to register for free and get in on the bidding, but before you place a bid on anything, be sure to read the fine print as many of the items up for auction are restricted to purchasers with specific credentials.

So what are you waiting for? The only thing standing between you and an X-ray scanner for your dorm room’s front door is a fist full of sweaty American greenbacks and the gumption to stay on top of the bidding dog pile!

Down for Everyone or Just Me

Since the dawn of the internet, a single question of black existentialist angst has haunted computer users: “Is this site down for everyone or is it just me?” To find an answer, You could reload the page, check that you’ve entered the URL correctly or try your luck with a different browser. Some might even go so far as to heckle their friends and co-workers into trying to open the URL on their computers. Wouldn’t you rather save yourself the time and energy of jumping through those hoops by simply visiting Down For Everyone Or Just Me ? If any of us can get it to load up, it’ll be our Cool Site of the Week.

Down For Everyone Or Just Me is such an brilliant idea for a website, it’s a wonder that no one thought of it eons ago. In order to see whether a site is up and running or off, simply type its URL into the field provided and click the “or just me” link. Boom.

Down For Everyone Or Just Me will test the URL for you. For Opera, Firefox and Chrome users, an extension by the same name is also ready to test seemingly dead websites for you, but if you're working on a computer where installing add-ons isn’t an option, you’ll be glad the original web--based version is still there waiting for you to rely on.

HelloDay

OK, quick show of hands: Who hasn’t hunted down a favorite music video on YouTube or some other streaming video service over the past few months? Right. Now, who of you out there hasn’t discovered new music by stumbling across a band’s video online for the first time? So, we can agree that music videos posted to the web are an inherent good then, right? Right. With that out of the way, let’s get down to business. No matter whether you’re looking to find an old favorite, or have a hankering to discover something new, music video streaming wunderkind HelloDay has something for you.

What makes HelloDay a slick enough viewing experience to warrant it’s being declared our Cool Site of the Week? One word: Choice. HelloDay is a music video depository with a free repertoire of tunes that spans hundreds of artists and a wide variety of genres. From classic pop to trip hop, Abba to Jay-Z, HelloDay’s got it all. Eschewing the use of any search functionality other than breaking the site’s music up into genres, HelloDay forces visitors to discover new music as they search for something familiar.

While this might sound like an exercise in frustration, in reality it makes for a refreshing viewing experience that’ll leave site visitors with a few more musical flavors lingering on their palate than they started off with. And if what you’re looking for isn’t already available on the site, HelloDay’s got you covered there as well, as users are encouraged to submit the URLs of new music videos for inclusion in the site’s collection.

Crave

As Robert DeNiro said in The Untouchables, a man should have enthusiasms. Where many of opt to fill our spare time by spending it with friends, playing music or traveling, others find their thrills collecting toys, comic books and other much-loved geek paraphernalia. If you belong to this latter group, you’re going to want to know about Crave , our Cool Site of the Week.

If you’re of a certain age and played with it as a kid, chances are, that you’ll be able to find it again on Crave. Unlike other portals like eBay where individuals are invited to buy and sell just about anything, Crave is a web destinations designed by collectors for collectors. While the site is still relatively new, Crave already offers over 10,000 Star Wars and Transformer products in varying condition. Need a first edition Storm Trooper action figure from Return of the Jedi that’s still in its original packaging? Crave’s got it. How about a well-loved Optimus Prime, complete with it’s original weapons and other accessories? Crave’s got you covered there too. Additionally, the site is getting ready to expand, and will soon offer collectors from around the world a forum to discuss, buy and sell comic books, trading cards, Barbie dolls--even LEGO.

Best of all, Crave also doubles up as a make shift social network, providing collectors a forum to discuss their stuff-based passion with other like minded individuals. We’re certain that in the years to come, frequent visits to Crave will become a no-brainer for anyone that collects anything.

Klout

If you’re anything like us, you use Twitter and Facebook multiple times day to check in with friends, share your life and discover what’s happening in the world outside your cubicle. A few of you might even be using them as a result of being in that cubicle--leveraging the power of social media to inform the unwashed masses of what products or services your business provides. No matter what you shout from the social media mountain tops, Klout --our Cool Site of the Week--will tell you whether anyone is actually listening.

Even though it’s still undergoing beta testing, Klout is a social media force to be reckoned with. Users are invited to link up their Twitter and Facebook accounts (with LinkedIn functionality on the way as well), to the site. Once entered, Klout scours your accounts, looking at what you post about, who you talk to, repost, and who is following your every online move. The service then uses this information to provide you with a number of metrics--Score Analysis, Network Influence, Amplification probability and True Reach--to provide you with an over all view of how effectively you’re leveraging your social network contacts.

Are you a Specialist? A Networker? Maybe a Broadcaster? Klout will give you the lowdown.
Best of all, Klout rewards your social media excellence with some pretty impressive swag from a wide variety of sponsors, finally giving you a truly valid excuse to push for more online followers.

Turntable.fm

When it comes to great ways to discover and share new music or the tunes you’ve loved for years, the internet has already set the bar pretty high. From sketchy p2p services like the original Napster, to great services like Rdio, Last.fm and Spotify, modern music listeners are spoiled for choice. Turntable.fm --our Cool Site of the Week--takes everything that makes finding and sharing music online great and turns it up to 11, making for the best musical social experience we’ve ever seen.

While still in a semi-closed beta, turntable.fm is already showing incredible promise. The premise is a simple one: Up to five users at a time are invited to spin tunes in any number of rooms, with other users free to drop in and listen to what your room has at any time. DJs can draw upon Turntable.fm’s vast music repertoire or upload their own songs to add to the mix. As your song is played, the other DJs and users in the room can up-vote your song selection to legendary status, or ramp it’s popularity down far enough to vote it right out of the mix.

Building on it’s already impressive set of social features, each turntable.fm room also offers a chat interface for users to wax about their favorite tunes over, as well as links to Facebook, Twitter and email to send out invites to your friends with.

After using turntable.fm for a mere two days, we’re already hooked, and we’re sure you’ll be too!

MIT OpenCourseWare Program

Let’s face it, summer is no friend to your brain. When you’re not busy killing it with beer, late night campfire parties or Michael Bay movies (seriously, he needs to be stopped), your poor grey matter gets boiled inside your noggin from taking on too much direct sunlight during weekend trips to the beach. To make up for the annual beating visited upon your poor noodle, we recommend treating it to some of the best free education on offer anywhere in the world. Do your brain a solid and direct your browsers to Massachusetts Institute of Technology's OpenCourseWare Program , our Cool Site of the Week.

In operation since 2001, the MIT OpenCourseWare Program website currently plays host to over 2000 individual lectures covering 33 academic disciplines as taught by some of the greatest minds in the world. MIT provides visitors to the site with full course notes, problem sets and solutions, reading lists and in some cases, even videos. The materials are free to use, copy, and redistribute by anyone, anywhere in the world.

To date, over 71 million individual users from 215 countries have taken advantage of what the MIT OpenCourseWare website has to offer; providing self-learners and educators with access to some of the best educational materials available anywhere in the world.

NoPhoneTrees

When you buy a product or invest in a service, it's reasonable to assume that you're going to get what you paid for. Sadly, this doesn't always happen. Computers break down. Credit cards get stolen and baggage gets lost. Often. At stressful times like these, the last thing any of us wants to do is navigate the byzantine phone system of a multi-billion dollar corporation to get the assistance that we, as their devoted customers, deserve. So of course, the first thing you'll have to do in order to get the assistance you deserve is navigate the byzantine phone system of a multi-billion dollar corporation in order to get the help you deserve. Unless of course you pay a visit to NoPhoneTrees , our Cool Site of the Week.

Offering consumers cut-to-the-chase access to thousands of corporate help desk and customer service phone numbers with an actual human being on the other end of the line, NoPhoneTrees is about as mission-specific as a website can get. Have a bone to pick with your car rental company's head office? Sick of paying for cellular features that you didn't sign up for? NoPhoneTrees will have you venting your rage via the appropriate direct dial telephone number in no time.

The site allows users to search for phone numbers by entering the company's name, scrolling through an alphabetical list or by industry. After just one use, we're sure you'll agree that the value of this site cannot be overstated.

Gojee

Deciding on what to make for dinner can be as daunting a task as actually cooking it. Every day, we stand in front of our refrigerators, freezers and cupboards, waiting for inspiration, and in the end, typically end up making the same meals over and over again--provided the right ingredients for our favorite dishes are all in the house at the same time. When they’re not, many of us would just as soon head out to a restaurant for an expensive meal than sit down to noodle out a new home cooked recipe with the ingredients we have on hand. Fortunately, our Cool site of Site of the week has your gastronomical back. It’s called Gojee and it’s here to make sure we never go hungry again.

While there are thousands of recipe sites floating around the internet, Gojee stands apart in that it suggests recipes to you based on the ingredients you have on hand. Just enter what food you’ve got left in the house and Gojee will tell you what sorts of dishes you can whip up with it and what you might need to complete the recipe. If you’ve got a food allergy or despise a particular ingredient, you can add it to a list of disliked foods and Gojee will adjust its list of ingredients and subsequent list of recipes accordingly.

Gojee even allows you to mark your favorite recipes so that you can return to them time after time. What could be better?

Stolen Camera Finder

While cellphones might be the go-to photographic device for many people these days, Many of us choose to stick with a mission-specific device to capture the moments of our lives. Whether it’s a fancy DSLR that cost us more than our first car or

a trusty point-and-shoot that simply gets the job done, the investment of time and money that a photographer outs into their camera is substantial enough that seeing it lost or stolen is unthinkable. Should such a crisis ever arise, you can curse the gods of photography for not equipping your shooter with GPS transmitter, or you can attempt to track it down using Stolen Camera Finder , our Cool Site of the Week.

Stolen Camera Finder is a site dedicated to--you guessed it--locating stolen cameras. Users are invited to drag and drop a photo taken with their missing camera to the website’s interface. Once the image has been uploaded, Stolen Camera Finder will attempt to read the camera serial number information stored in the photograph, matching it against the serial numbers of images found elsewhere online. If you’re lucky, a serial number match may lead back to user name or image service account, giving you some vital information to feed to the authorities for investigation.

If you’ve no photos to submit to the service, Stolen Camera Finder also allows for manual input of your camera’s serial number--provided you’re lucky enough to have it on file.

Straight forward and easy to use, Stolen Camera Finder is a must bookmark site for all shutterbugs.

Newspaper Map

Traditional print publishing may have been in some choppy waters these past few years, but the ship’s no where close to going down just yet. Ironically, the best proof of this out there comes to us from the interwebz. Thanks to a site called Newspaper Map , those of us who still love the smell and feel of newsprint with our morning coffee will always know where to find a newspaper, no matter where in the world we might be.

The website offers its visitors a map of the world, with markers indicating Cities and towns print newspapers where--as well as their online presence--are still published. Each of the markers is color-coded to coincide with the newspaper’s printed language. This as it is, would be a thoroughly useful tool, but newspaper map does its users one better: Just click on any of the markers, and you’ll be presented with the option to read that newspaper’s online edition in a wide variety of languages, with the translation provided by Google.

Going to the extreme, we translated Moskovskiy Komsomolets, a newspaper published out of Surgut, Russia into Gaeilge and English, and found to our surprise that what we ended up with in both instances was surprisingly readable. For dedicated news hounds, expatriates or those that looking for a new window on world events, Newspaper Map is a must-visit site.

Zooniverse

Playing host to an infinite number of cat videos, game demo downloads, poker portals and celebrity gossip sites as it does, it’s easy to forget that the internet can also be a bastion of knowledge, education and innovation. Fortunately for web surfers interested in leveraging the online universe for more than rocking a fews choice memes, Zooniverse has got you covered.

A bastion of citizen science, discovery and education, Zooniverse invites individuals from all walks of life to take part in scientific endeavors that stand to benefit us all. After signing up for an account, users have the opportunity to assist scientists from a wide variety of disciplines to wrangle the massive amounts of data they deal with as part of their work. Currently, research topics include searching for planets outside of our solar system, mapping our galaxy, recovering weather data from the turn of the 20th century, attempting to capture a supernova on film and transcribing 1000 year old writings of the citizens of Oxyrhynchu. If those sorts of things won’t make for some interesting dinner conversation, nothing will.

All that’s required to take part in most of the citizen science projects hosted by the site is a willingness to offer up some of your free time and the desire to take part in a search for knowledge that in the days to come could help to shape how we understand our world, or even our universe.

Browser Extensions

Silence of the Celebs

Large portions of Japan are in still ruins, the Middle East is spiraling deeper into chaos and the CEO of GoDaddy.com murders elephants in his downtime--but you can’t find anything about it online because major portals like CNN and Gawker are too busy providing a blow-for-blow account of Charlie Sheen winning. Yeah, we’re a little tired it too. That’s why Silence of Celebs has been picked as our Extension of the Week.

Once installed, Silence of the Celebs excels at blocking the inane prattle of over-exposed celebrities. Just open the extension's user interface, click on the stars that you’re sick of hearing about and watch them disappear from the interwebz before your very eyes. While this makes reading news sites like the NYTimes and HuffingtonPost bearable (depending on your political sensibilities), it can also turn a Twitter trawling session an absolute pleasure.

The extension also lets users enter their own requests for content they feel would be better left unseen. That said, Silence of the Celebs does have a few unfortunate limitations. First, it’s only available for Google’s Chrome browser. Second, for the time being, the extension only works on a handful of sites. Fortunately, Silence of the Celebs’ developers have been adding support for a few more sites every week, and likely already covers a number of the pages you visit on a regular basis. Give it a try--you’ll be glad that you did.

StayFocusd

The internet is so packed full of distractions that unless you’re rocking some Green Lantern-level willpower, you’re almost certain to lose focus of your online priorities as soon as you open a browser window. Unfortunately, most of us are weak-minded procrastinators that never met a Facebook game we didn’t like. Fortunately, StayFocusd is here to save us from our easily distracted selves. In case you hadn’t guessed yet, it’s our Browser Extension of the Week.

StayFocusd is a browser extension for Chrome that will block any website you decide upon for a scheduled period of time. Spend too much time gawking at Gawker? You can set StayFocusd to disallow you access to their ring of websites with nothing more than a few clicks. If there's a particular time of the day that you need to stay off Twitter for the sake of productivity, StayFocusd has you covered; offering the ability to build a schedule of internet seclusion that covers everything in your online world, or just that one site that lets you bang out the tweets.

Should you happen to get your work done early, your browser embargo can be revoked at any time… unless of course you go with what the extension’s developers have dubbed the “The Nuclear Option”. Sound a little bit extreme? Well, it is. With StayFocusd, going nuclear means implementing an irrevocable period of internet abstinence. For those who can resist anything but the temptation of wasting time online, this is a powerful tool that you’ll soon find you can’t live without.

Trash Can

We’ve all done it: Amidst a flurry of stressed out productivity, we’ve accidentally closed out browser instead of minimizing it, losing the page we were working with. In most cases, this isn’t an unrecoverable error, but it sure is an annoying one. If you’re using Google’s Chrome browser, you can elect to open a new window and try to locate the page in your browsing history, or you can download our Trash Can , our Browser Extension of the Week, and let it do the heavy lifting for you.

Despite its name, Trash Can doesn’t actually delete anything. In actuality, this invaluable extension is designed to preserve your recent browsing history, and can be used to instantly restore any of the tabs in Chrome that you’ve accidentally or intentionally closed. Trash Can is easy to use. Once installed, an icon for the extension is placed in the top right corner of your browser window. If you want to recover a recently opened tab, simply click the icon, select the tab you’re after from the extension’s drop down menu and you’re in business.

If being able to recover your tabs isn’t enough incentive to download Trash Can, don’t fret, as the extension’s developer has a number of other ambitions features planned for it as well, including Incognito support, the ability to save tabs between sessions, and the option to limit the number of tabs saved at any one time. We’re sure you’ll agree that it’s time and sanity saving extensions like this that make the Chrome Web Store the worthwhile venue that it is.

Download YouTube Video +

In an age of rabid copyright lawyers, takedown orders and account seizures, it’s getting harder and harder to hold on to the web videos we love. While popular content can usually be found through other websites and users, tracking a new source down can be a pain. Fortunately, the aptly named Download YouTube Videos + is here to help you preserve your internet media treasures.

Download YouTube Videos + is a Firefox extension that works with both versions 3.0 and 4.0 of the popular browser. Once installed, the extension can be accessed through a menu bar added to your browser window. Not too keen on having extra clutter added to your browser? Not a problem: Download YouTube Videos + can be customized to include or exclude as many on screen features as you want. While you’re at it, you’ll find that the extension’s preference pane offers a number of other thoughtful options as well. Users are able to control what format their selected video is saved as, where download files are saved to and even some limited screenshot functionality.

Best of all, despite its name, Download YouTube Videos + is site agnostic, and allows users to save flash video from a number of popular services aside from YouTube including Break.com and Metacafe. That’s a whole lot of features for a free extension.

Drop Box

If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you’ll know that recent security concerns aside, we love us some Dropbox. Accessible via a dedicated desktop application or through the service’s web portal, Dropbox makes keeping your digital life in sync across multiple systems a breeze. For those of us who only access their Dropbox occasionally, the service’s desktop client might be a little much for us, especially since it’s set to startup with Windows by default. For the power users out there, we’re sure you’ll agree that rocking your files through the service’s web site kinda sucks. If you’re a Chrome user, there’s middle ground to be had thanks to a dedicated Dropbox extension called Drop Box that’s so easy to use we had to make it our Browser Extension of the Week.

After installing the extension, your Dropbox account will be accessible through a unobtrusive button located in the top right of your browser window. Clicking the button opens an collapsible window which provides full access to your DropBox account as well as a detailed list of recent transactions made on the account.

If you can’t bear using the extension’s optimized interface, there’s even an option to switch over to Dropbox’s standard view as well. No matter how you decide to use the extension, it provides an excellent alternative to repeatedly accessing your account through a dedicated browser tab, or via the service’s computer side application. Give it a try!

exfm

There’s nothing better than discovering music that moves you. Too bad we have to wade through so much crud to find that one aural gem that’ll keep us bopping all week long. For those of us sick of what mainstream joints Amazon or the iTunes Store have to offer, you’re going to want to know about the awesomeness that is exfm , our Browser Extension of the Week.

exfm is a browser extension for Chrome that indexes every MP3 file you stumble across during your online adventures. Running in the background as you browse the web, the extension quietly builds a library of music for you to listen to.

Sounds cool, no? Well, it gets cooler.

To keep that library of yours growing, exfm automatically checks back with pages you’ve visited previously, adding any new music it finds. If that’s not enough for you, the extension also boasts integration with Tumblr, Facebook, Last.fm and Twitter so that you can source music from your friends and the other folks you follow, making for an awesome playlist full of some of the finest free music in the world today.

Throw some slick pre-loaded keyboard shortcuts into the mix, as well as an optional desktop notification every time a new song starts and you’ve got yourself a musical tour de force that set to go toe-to-toe with just about any other music streaming application on the market today.

ReminderFox

Between looking up new remixes of the Nyan Cat song, reading your favorite blogs and occasionally doing a bit of work, your life has become a pretty complex affair. To keep track of the demands your job, friends and family make of you, you could--God forbid--write down a to-do list, or rely upon an application like Outlook or Google Calendar. If you’re a Firefox user you might also want to consider checking out ReminderFox , our Browser Extension of the Week.

Once installed, ReminderFox lives in the bottom right hand corner of your browser window, providing one-click access to all of the task management power you’ll ever need. Boasting a full blown calendar, to do list, reminders and a very respectable task filtering system, ReminderFox is powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with many of the better known, paid task management software solutions available today. Users of the extension will find that ReminderFox is highly customizable, with the developer having made allowances for changes to display preferences, tooltips, notifications, categories and even custom lists, which will show up in a separate tab of the ReminderFox interface, making for an orderly way to organize your day.

fire.fm

Last week we showed Chrome users how to rock a no nonsense interface for their Amazon Cloud Player account. But why should folks rocking a Google-flavored browser have all the fun? If you have a Last.FM account and your weapon of choice for getting online is Firefox, we suggest rocking some tunes with Fire.fm , our Browser Extension of the Week.

Fire.fm is a third-party add-on that allows Firefox users to access their Last.FM accounts. After installing the extension, users are invited to log into their Last.FM account or to create a new one. Once your credentials are squared away, Fire.fm provides users with access to many of the functions that make Last.FM the great service that it is: artist selection, custom playlists and track tagging are all baked into the extension and accessible through a well designed interface which blends seamlessly into Firefox’s top bar.

If you’re feeling a little bored of your own tunes, the extension has you covered, offering up access to the music preferred by your friends and neighbors with Last.FM accounts, keeping everyone’s favorite social music service as sociable as possible. Should you end up finding a track or album that you can’t bear the thought of living without, Fire.fm can even link you over to Amazon.com to purchase it.

ToutApp

No one digs having to send out a gazillion copies of the same email. It’s a pain. It’s a drag. Sadly, for many of us, it’s also a part of our everyday lives. Whether you’re tugging at the coattails of a number of media outlets about your company’s new product, or firing off multiple copies of your resume in the hopes of paying next month’s rent, sometimes sending out multiple copies of the same correspondence is a necessary evil. Fortunately, ToutApp , our Browser Extension of the Week, is here to help to manage your mass mailing headaches.

Designed to work in concert with the online service of the same name, ToutApp is available in both Firefox and Chrome flavors. Once installed to your browser, the extension does what it can to fulfill all of your mass mailing needs in as pain-free a manner possible. By logging into the extension with your Tout account credentials, you’ll be directed to the service’s site and provided with the option to templatize your most frequently sent emails, schedule delivery times and send out messages to your target audience, with the number of emails you can send per day depending on what tier of Tout service you opt for.

Once that’s done, get on with the rest of your day--the Tout extension will notify you of responses to your emails, as well as the number of views or clickthroughs each of your messages receives.

Evernote Web Clipper

If you follow Maximum PC in print or online, it’s no secret that we loves us some Evernote. Why, in the past few days we featured the data collecting wunderkind as our Windows Phone 7 App of the Week . It shouldn’t come as any surprise then that given how smitten we are for what Evernote has to offer, we’ve also decided that Evernote Web Clipper should also be hoisted up on our geeky shoulders and declared our Browser Extension of the Week.

In order to rock Evernote’s Web Clipper extension in Chrome or Firefox, you’ll need to have either a free or premium Evernote account. It’s only fair: It is their extension after all. After installing Web Clipper and signing in, users are given the ability to save content any website they’re visiting with the click of a mouse. How much content you save on a given page is up to you--Just want to clip a single article? Web Clipper can do it up. Need to tuck away the whole page and read it later? Evernote’s got you covered there too. If you’re feeling indecisive, you can also opt to simply clip the page’s URL and stash it away in your Evernote account for future perusal on your PC, Mac or the smartphone platform of your choice.

Thanks to Web Clipper’s well thought out interface, once you’ve decided on what information you want to capture, your new data can easily be categorized, tagged and annotated for later review. Evernote Web Clipper is a must-have extension for current Evernote users or for anyone that wants to collect a staggering amount of web-based information at break-neck speeds.

Stylebot

While communal in nature, surfing the web is a deeply personal experience. No one understands The Bobcats on Monday on the deeply satisfying emotional level that you do. While The Onion might be America's finest news source, they're really only in it for one very special American: You. Oh, and those NewEgg Shell Shockers that everyone loves? All the stuff they put on offer totally caters to your particular tastes. Still, even with the internet catering to your every online whim, your browsing experience can reach an even deeper level of personalization. "Through what manner of sorcery can this be achieved", you ask? Magic? Nay. Merely Stylebot , our Browser Extension of the Week.

Stylebot is a Chrome extension that allows users to tweak, customize and nudge the CSS of most webpages, making for a personalized viewing experience you can truly call your own. Once installed, Stylebot makes its home in your browser's search/URL field. Just click on the extension's icon and Stylebot's easy to navigate user interface will let you bend the site your visiting to your will. Changing a site's font size or font, background color, layout and boarders are only a few mouse clicks away, making it easy to modify your favourite internet content to meet up with your particular aesthetic needs.

Have experience working with Cascading Style Sheets? Stylebot also allows for direct coding, letting all of you code-monkeys out there do away with it's easy-to-use interface and get down to the nitty-gritty of hand coding a site's looks into something you can stare at all day.

Click&Clean

It’s rare to see a browser extension aspire to be more than just a one trick pony. It’s an even greater rarity to find one that can handle so many essential tasks, you find yourself unsure of how you could have ever lived without it. Nonetheless, that’s what we have on our hands when it comes to Click&Clean, our Browser Extension of the Week.

Designed for Chrome or Firefox for Windows (sorry Mac users), Click&Clean is a full-on browser maintenance suite disguised as an unassuming browser extension that allows users to easily manage and navigate their browser’s history, cache and cookies. In addition to these must-have features, Click&Clean also offers an anti-malware database courtesy of BitDefender Labs, the ability to jumpstart external applications (such as CCleaner in order clean up your hard drive), send files to your mobile phone via Bluetooth, and even review flash videos offline (even with no internet connection). All of Click&Clean’s features are made available via an easy-to use dropdown interface menu made accessible by clicking on the extension icon, located in the top left corner of your browser window.

With an attentive development team adding new functionality with each and every update to the extension they serve up, this is a must-have browser extension for any PC user looking to simplify their computing life and maintain their rig all in one fell swoop.

Murdoch Block

There’s a lot to hate about Rupert Murdoch’s media empire these days. The allegations leveled against what was once one of the mogul’s flagship publications run the gauntlet from unethical to disgusting, dragging journalism through the mud all along the way. Illegally tapping telephones in the name of an outrageous headline? Bribing law enforcement officials? Dead whistleblowers? It’s all so seedy and sordid. If you’re of a mind to protest all of this dire hullaballoo, boycotting Murdoch-owned publications and television stations is a good start, but to do it right, you’ll want to take the fight online as well. To make your online NewsCorp as easy a go as possible, the smart money’s on Murdoch Block , our Browser Extension of the Week.

While it’s sadly only available at this time to Chrome users, Murdoch Block is just what the doctor ordered. Once installed, the extension effectively blocks access to NewsCorp’s most popular news-centric websites. Additional Murdoch sites, such as Hulu and AllThingsD can easily be added to your block list as well, thanks to Murdoch Blocker’s user-friendly options page available via Chrome’s Extensions menu.

For anyone that takes their online boycotting or protesting seriously, this is one extension that you’ll want to at your disposal.

Readability

There’s a whole lot of information available on the internet, just waiting to be devoured. Unfortunately, a lot of it’s damn hard to read. Often set in a terrible font or against the backdrop of eye-scarring page design an online article, no matter how awesome the content, can be difficult, if not impossible to read. Fortunately for Firefox and Chrome users, Readability is here to save the day... as well as your eyes and sanity. It’s our Browser Extension of the Week.

As its name suggests, Readability is an extension designed to make the web more readable. The extension provides users with the ability to strip any web-based article they’re perusing of all page design, advertisements and other distractions, leaving nothing but story-pertinent text and photos to make for a superior screen-borne reading experience. If that’s not enough for you, Readability also offers the option to save an article to read later, as well as the ability to send your content to a Kindle device.

Each of these features can be accessed via user-mappable keyboard shortcuts, which in our humble opinion makes this extension one of the best friends any hardcore computer rocking reader could ever hope for.

Cooliris

Microsoft is everywhere. One form or another of Windows can be found on most computers in the world today. Redmond is rocking most people’s work rigs and if you’re a serious gamer, the odds very good that your last computer wasn’t designed in Cupertino. For most folks, software conformity is a given. They accept that with the exception of their wallpaper, their graphical user interface most likely is identical to that of their neighbors. A few of us however, refuse to fall into line, preferring instead to tweak, preen and modify the looks of our Windows GUI until it can hardly be recognized as such. If you’re interested in taking a first bold step into something a little snazzier than your computer’s stock aesthetics have to offer, you could do a lot worse than downloading Cooliris.

Available to both Explorer, Chrome and Firefox users, Cooliris not only pretties up your browser with some sweet, modern 3D visuals, it also makes your browsing a more visual visceral experience. Instead of trawling yards of search returns comprised of text, CoolIris gives users something pretty to look at, and provides search results in a scrolling wall of images, video and headers, designed to make hunting down a topic a pleasure.

The extension even offers a number of channels, such as news, entrainment and games, ensuring that it’s not just another pretty face, but also a respectable information aggregator to boot.

Chrome Web Apps

Lord of Ultima

For some of us, being forced to sit in front of a computer at work is the ultimate drag. It’s not the hardware that bums us out. It’s the outright refusal of our boss and IT department to let us install the games we love on our office rig for a little bit of pew-pew at break time. Sure, you could bring along a netbook or laptop with you everyday to solve the problem, but that extra weight’s not the sort of thing that’s welcome on anyone’s daily commute. Instead, we recommend that you scratch your gaming itch by indulging in Lord of Ultima , our Chrome Web App of the Week.

Lord of Ultima is a browser-based Massive Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy game from Electronic Arts. While the game has precious little to do with the venerable Ultima franchise of role-playing games, it’s still worth your attention.

Lord of Ultima sees players start off with a single city that they must carefully nurture into a well-protected center of civilian and military productivity. Over time, your city will become the jumping off point for the invasion of other player created kingdoms, trade and dungeon raiding. Offering surprisingly deep strategic options, 30 buildings, close to 20 combat unit types and a number of magical, civilian and military perks to keep things interesting, this is one freemium game that we’ve no doubt you’ll enjoy to sinking your teeth into no matter where you are.

JoliCloud

Yo, dawg! We heard that you liked operating systems and internet browsers, so Jolicloud’s letting you have an operating system and a browser with another operating system inside of that browser! It’s a cloud computing solution so slick that we’ve made it our Chrome Web App of the Week.

Unlike other Chrome web applications that only let you perform a given set of mission-specific functions inside of your browser window, Jolicloud offers an entire cloud-based operating system for users to interact with. Boasting impressive customization features, a wide variety of applications to choose from and integration with well known services such as Spotify, Google Docs and Dropbox, Jolicloud is a great solution for individuals who find themselves working on multiple computers during the course of their day. Instead of installing or configuring multiple applications or workspaces, simply navigate to your Jolicloud account and get down to business. Users are invited to customize their Jolicloud desktop by changing its theme and layout, choosing from over 1000 preloaded applications and can even create their own cloud-based apps to utilize.

When you’re finished with Jolicloud, simply log out or close the web app’s tab. When it’s time to get down to business again,  log back into Jolicloud from any computer rocking Chrome and you’ll find your cloud-based desktop as you left it. That’s a lot of mobile-computing power for the low, low cost of absolutely free.

SteamBirds Survival

Angry Birds is out for Chrome , and it is indeed glorious, but doesn’t playing it with a mouse feel just a little unnatural? We think so. Fortunately, there are a lot of great ways to whittle your productivity down to a splinter. Might we recommend SteamBirds Survival ? It’s free, fun and just happens to be our Chrome Web App of the Week.

SteamBirds Survival is a turn-based dogfighting game that puts you in the pilot’s seat of a World War II fighter plane fighting against all odds to protect England during the Battle of Britain. Outnumbered one thousand to one, you’re not expected to live through the war. Rather, it’s your responsibility to stall the Luftwaffe long enough for England’s citizens to get to safety before the inevitable bombings begin.

Gloomy? You betcha.

Fun? Absolutely!

The more planes you down, the more copper you’ll receive--money that can be used towards the purchase of new, more powerful aircraft with unique abilities. You’ll also find that many of the fighters you eighty-six will provide you with power-ups such as additional health, bombs and homing missiles. With varying levels of difficulty, unique play mechanics and enough ways to kill your foes to keep you entertained for hours, SteamBirds Survival is one game that’ll keep you coming back time and time again.

Wave Accounting

With so many ways of spending our hard earned dough, it can be difficult to keep tabs on where our cash goes. For small business owners whose work expenses often overlap the cost of day-to day living, things can get even more complicated. If you’re serious about getting your financial life straight and keeping it there, Wave Accounting is the right tool for the job. Free, easy to use and insanely powerful, Wave is our Chrome Web App of the Week.

Wave draws power and simplicity of use from the fact that the application is designed to interface with your existing online banking and credit card accounts, making manual entry of expenses and income a thing of the past. Users can choose from a wide variety of banks and credit card vendors, enter their online banking password information and import all of their income and expenses in under five minutes. Once the import is completed, you’ll be asked to categorize your expenses using an extensive, but easy to navigate checklist.

As with other accounting software, the more information you provide to Wave, the deeper and more accurate a picture it can paint for you of your financial situation. Data is presented as a bar graph or pie chart, detailing income and expenditures on a month-by-month basis. Additionally, Wave allows users to keep track of invoices, vendors and customers, so you always know who you owe, who owes you, and what the cash coming into or leaving your wallet is for. After using Wave for a month, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.

Clicker.tv

There’s never been a better time in the history of geekdom to give your cable or satellite television the slip. Over the past few years, consumers been spoiled for choice, with just about everything we once turned to our televisions for now available online. Add to this the countless steaming video sites that pumping out fresh content to the interwebz on a daily basis, and you’ve got the makings of a viewing solution that has cable companies and satellite providers running scared. To keep track of it all, many resort to software solutions like XBMC, MediaPortal or Windows Media Center. If you’re a Chrome user, you’ve also got the option of rocking Clicker.TV , our Chrome web App of the Week.

Clicker.TV is a media center solution that resides in your browser window. Users of the web app are able to view content from a wide variety of streaming services such as Hulu, as well as videos from Amazon VOD and iTunes to enjoy high quality, on demand content from the comfort of their computer desk or camped out in front of their PC or Mac connected television. According to the folks at Clicker, 40 thousand movies, 90,000 music videos and over one million episodes from 12 thousands different television shows are available for streaming, via Clicker.TV’s user-friendly interface.

Add to this the ability to stream content from other awesome portals like Funny or Die, The Onion or even your Netflix On Demand account, and you’ll see why we’re excited about what Clicker.TV has to offer.

Amazon Cloud Player

If you listen to the pundits, there’s little doubt that iTunes users will be getting word that their Apple powered ditties will be making their way to the clouds by the end of the day. That might be great news for anyone rocking Cupertino’s resource hogging, behemoth of a music player or an iOS device, but what about the rest of us? If you signed up for a free or paid Amazon Cloud Player account, chances are that over the course of the past few months, you’ve had a chance to upload all of the audio files in your music library that your Cloud Drive can handle. Too bad Amazon’s browser-based music player is, shall we say… clunky? Fortunately, Amazon Cloud Player , our Chrome Web App of the Week, brings a modicum of style to Amazon’s streaming music service.

Dropped into the Chrome Web Store by Will McSweeney (who MMO fans will know for his excellent Wowhead Utility ), Amazon Cloud Player for Chrome is a fan-built labor of love. Once installed, the app, allows Amazon Cloud users to enjoy their streaming tunes from a dedicated window that foregoes everything but what you need to get your groove on.

No search field, no tabbed browsing, no bookmarks--just you and your music. After one use, we’re sure you’ll agree that McSweeney’s app elegantly simple app fills a void that Amazon has left empty for too long.

LucidChart

Even the most spontaneous of souls, needs to have the facts of a situation laid out for them now and again. No matter whether you’re noodling out your annual road trip with the family or preparing a massive presentation of proposed personnel shuffle at the office, you’ll want to have the right tools on hand to get the job done as quickly and easily as possible. Thanks to LucidChart , Chrome users can have access to a powerful set of free diagramming tools anywhere with an internet connection.

LucidChart offers users an easy to use drag-and-drop diagramming interface, well suited to designing even the most byzantine of organizational charts, mind maps or chapter breakouts. Design elements are easily created moved, resized and connected, mimicking many of the UI touches offered by high priced desktop applications such as Microsoft Visio or The Omni Group’s Omnigraffle. Speaking of Visio, LucidChart allows for the import of your desktop-side created diagrams, allowing you to take your organizational show on the road.

Don’t like an of the elements offered by the app? No problem--LucidChart provides the ability to work with user uploaded images, making it possible to create the custom look you’re going for. For those that can’t bear the thought of being along, the program also offers the ability to collaborate on a diagramming project with other users. With such a wealth of on screen functionality, off site saves, printing, download and upload capabilities and even HTML 5 support (with a number of features for the iPad and other tablets coming soon) LucidChart is a must-use web app for anyone that takes their diagramming duties seriously.

Dead Frontier

With brands like Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies available in multiple formats on just about every piece of hardware imaginable, it’s never been easier for casual gamers to get their goof on anywhere they go. Sadly, those who prefer a bit of blood with their gaming have far fewer outlets available to them, especially when not in front of their home rig, console or handheld. What’s an office drone feeling a bit of bloodlust while trapped in his cubicle on a Monday afternoon to do? Might we recommend embarking on a zombie killing rampage with Dead Frontier? As you may have guessed, it’s our Chrome Web App of the Week.

Dead Frontier is a free-to-play massive multiplayer third-person isometric survivalist shooter designed to run in your Chrome browser. After a brief sign up and tutorial process, gamers are dropped in the middle of the sort of zombie apocalypse that we’ve all come to know and love.

Equipped with a meager set of weapons and limited ammunition, you are sent out into the dark to explore, loot and kill the undead in the name all in the name of survival. Should you survive long enough, your character will gain the experience and cash needed to become the zombie slaying machine you always knew he could be. Offering an addictive mix of tension, action and familiar game mechanics, for a browser-based game, Dead Frontier offers Chrome users a surprisingly deep experience that’ll keep you coming back for more.

Art Project

The internet has spoiled us rotten. Connected as we are through pictures, words and images, those of us lucky enough to be alive today have unprecedented access to everything that the world has to offer with easy and ability that would leave past generations gobsmacked. And what, for the most part, do we usually end up doing with that access? Chase down memes, and tweet and flash videos of trashy pop tunes, of course. Isn’t about time we classed our PCs up a bit with a little culture. If you’re nodding your head as you read this, then you’d do well to download Google’s Art Project , our Chrome Web App of the Week.

Thanks to a cadre of art-loving Mountain View engineers, Art Project provides an all access viewing to a stunning collection of some of the world’s greatest museums and art treasures. By leveraging technology similar to that used with Google Street View, users are able to stroll through museums such as the National Gallery, The State Hermitage Museum and MoMA, drinking in the massive collection of artwork they have to offer. Turning to individual works, Art Project users can view a single painting in its entirety, or zoom in painfully close and take advantage of a high resolution view of the work that’s sharp enough to reveal individual brush strokes.

Not sure where to start? No problem. Art Project offers an informative video to give you the low down on the best ways to rock the application, as well as another that provides some insight into the passion that drove its developers to bring it to life in the first place. There are hours of exploring and wonder to be had with this one folks and with Art Project gaining more access to additional collections, galleries and museums on a regular basis, you’ll never be left wanting for a little beauty in your life.

20 Things I Learned About Browsers & the Web

There's no shame in not understanding how a computer does what it does. Then again, folks shouldn't feel too good about it either. As desktops, tablets, and laptops become more and more complex, it's not always easy to understand exactly what does what under the hood. The same goes for the internet: Cookies? Malware? Phishing? While the comprehension of topics like these might be second nature to many Maximum PC readers, the same can't always be said for our partners, acquaintances, or family. The next time one of your technologically-impaired inner circle asks you a question about the internet or online security, consider directing them 20 Things I Learned About Browsers & The Web , our Chrome Web App of the Week.

Developed by Google and designed to read like a story book, 20 Things I Learned About Browsers & The Web explains a wide variety of internet and browser-related topics in plain English, making concepts such as HTML, online identities and cloud computing less intimidating. The text is broken down into 20 chapters, each covering a unique topic. The book can be read from end to end, or consumed in smaller sips of specific information as needed.

To make sure that 20 Things I Learned About Browsers & The Web reaches its intended audience, Google was thoughtful enough to include a number of sharing options including links for Facebook, Twitter as well as--and this is kicking it old school--print it out. If your parents still haven't figured out how to program their DVD player's clock or even worse, still call you for advice on how to work their VCR, this app is gonna be your BFF from the get-go.

KIDO'Z TV

Summer, with its seemingly endless hours of daylight and fun to be had, can be a great time for young children. No matter how someone might love their child, however, sooner or later, summer becomes a lousy time to be a parent. When your kid has no one to play with, you’ve taken the last day trip to the petting zoo that your budget can afford, and nothing you suggest turns their crank, the insanity begins. When thrown a little bit of boredom, those you once thought of as your little darlings can quickly become a rambunctious pack of hell spawn, gleefully dancing on your last nerve in an effort to entertain themselves. Fortunately, back-up has arrived in the form of our Chrome App of the Week.

KIDO’Z TV is a free Chrome app that offers up child-friendly video content via an easy to navigate pictorial interface which requires no reading skills to use. For kids that are still too young to read, but old enough to feel empowered by being able to choose what they want to watch, it’s a perfect storm of awesome.

To use KIDO’Z TV, parents are required to sign up, providing an email address, password and a bit of information on their child. KIDO’Z TV uses this information to provide your child with age and gender appropriate content. The web app makes it easy for parents to monitor and control their children’s viewing habits, thanks to a simple to use suite of parental controls.

Autodesk Homestyler

Updating the look of a single room or your entire home can be an exciting and stressful affair. Exciting because taking the time and spending the coin to pick out new furniture, paint or otherwise tinker with your home can breathe new life into a stale living space. Stressful because, let’s face it, sometimes the vision of how a room should look that we see in our head just doesn’t work out the way we planned when we get down to putting it all together in the real world. Fortunately, Autodesk Homestyler is here to help you iron the kinks out of your home styling faux pas.

Autodesk Homestyler allows users to create, decorate and redefine their apartment, house, or any other space with drag and drop simplicity. Room sizes, wall lengths and angles can all be tweaked with nothing more than a few clicks of a mouse. Once the size and shape of your space is up to snuff, Homestyler makes it easy to try out decorating options, furniture arrangements, and various floor and wall palettes. Once you have your space’s colors and layout down pat, the web app allows you to kick your design into 3D to give you a bit of perspective of how your creation will look should you ever decide to bring it into meatspace.

If you happen to create a design that you’d like to follow through on, it can be saved for later (saving requires you sign up for a free user account), printed, exported as an image file or sent to a number of social networks.

PadMapper

Moving, we’re certain you’ll agree, sucks. Packing, organizing the logistics, paying a security deposit on your new digs, cleaning your old pad from top to bottom after you move out and--worst of all--unpacking, has been rated as one of the most stressful gauntlets of experience that life has to offer. For those of us who have moving to a new apartment in their cards, PadMapper , Our Chrome Web App of the Week, does what it can to make the whole process just a little less painful.

Using Google Maps to illustrate the locations of rental listings from popular services such as Apartments.com, Rent.com and Craigslist, PadMapper makes finding a new place to live almost bearable. In order to get started with the web app, users are invited to click on one of the hundreds of North American cities currently supported by PadMapper. Doing so zooms into a map of your selected location, detailing the rental properties currently available. Through the use of easy-to-apply filters such as minimum/maximum rent cost, number of bedrooms and whether or not the property is pet-friendly, the application makes it possible to quickly whittle your rental options down to a manageable level.

With select cities, PadMapper also provides users with the ability to overlay crime statistics, locate nearby mass transit routes and even factor in their potential work commute time as variables for selecting a new home.

Radio

Do you remember rock n’ roll radio? If not, we won’t take it personally. After all, with services like Spotify, Rdio, Slacker and Turntable.fm to choose our tunes from, computer and smartphone users have never been more spoiled for choice when it comes to music. Commercial-free music is available to anyone that wants it, provided they’re willing to do the work of setting up an account and picking the tunes they want to listen to. For those of us that prefer to sit back and let someone else do the aural heavy lifting for us, and consider radio to still be an important part of our daily lives, there’s Radio , our Chrome Web App of the Week.

Users of DoubleTime’s Radio Chrome web app, may not be able to pick each and every song they listen to, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any musical options available to them. The application offers up some of the most popular radio stations in the world, with new channels being added on a regular basis. For individuals traveling or working abroad, Radio is a dream come true: expatriates can listen to streaming news, music, and sports coverage from a wide variety of countries around the world in multiple languages, making it a great way to stay up to date with happens at home.

Best of all, if your favorite radio station isn’t currently featured in the application, Radio’s developers are open to request--just like a DJ.

Windows Phone 7 Apps

Tonido

Having your music and pictures on your phone has always been something of a catch-22. Toting your media library with you all the time is one of the best reasons to have a smart phone, but loading up all of your music, pictures, and video is the fastest and easiest method of filling up the limited storage capacity of your phone. Now there is an easy (and free) way to have the best of both worlds.

Tonido has been around for a while on iOS and Android, but has now made its way to Windows Phone 7 devices. The Tonido desktop application installs on your PC and indexes your media files, allowing its counterpart for Windows Phone to connect to the service and browse your media from anywhere you have a data connection. No firewall reconfiguration is needed, though an account with Tonido’s free service is required.

Apps like Tonido won’t reach their full potential until multitasking comes in the Mango update scheduled for later this year; but we’re talking about a free app here, so why wait? Do be aware of any data caps you may have, your 250mb data plan could go pretty quick due to heavy downloads.

TouchStudio

Many of the tools, features, and fundamental building blocks in Microsoft applications were originally developed by the dark wizards at Microsoft Research. From little things we take for granted like Windows Desktop Gadgets to the high end Microsoft Surface platform, Microsoft Research has their work spread through the entire Microsoft catalog of products. Windows Phone 7 has the fingerprints of Microsoft Research strewn throughout the OS, most notably showcased by the text prediction within the superb software keyboard.

TouchStudio is a scripting tool from Microsoft Research that provides a scripting environment on your Windows Phone. Now in version 1.2, TouchStudio comes pre-packaged with a number of scripts offering a variety of functions. All of these scripts can be broken apart and tweaked to your heart’s content, allowing you to fully customize their functionality. Access to all manner of sensors and data types are available allowing you to accomplish anything from searching the music on your phone to measuring the inclination of your device.

The only downside to TouchStudio I can see is the requirement to launch each script from within the tool. Hopefully once Mango (the next major update to Windows Phone) is released this fall we will get support for adding tiles to the home screen.

As TouchStudio is a free download from the Zune Marketplace, there is no reason to hesitate. Give it a go today.

Glympse

With the proliferation of modern smart phones, location based services use bleeding-edge technology to accomplish old-school problems. Mapping tools from the likes of Microsoft and Google will allow you to search for specific restaurants or businesses based on your current location while Foursquare and Facebook Places both make use of location data from your mobile phone to share places you’ve visited with your social networks. The downside to these services is the many people who have legitimate concerns about sharing their location and habits with the faceless hordes on the Internet.

Glympse is a location sharing service which protects your privacy by limiting access to only people you invite. Glympse shares your real-time location only with those you’ve invited. Invitations for Glympse also expire after a set amount of time, protecting the privacy of even the most paranoid. Tracking is done with either a web-based application or a corresponding smart phone application. If both users have Glympse on their smart phone it can even allow you to see your location in relation to your friend, making it easy to find each other in a crowd.

Glympse is a free service, and the application is available from the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Evernote

If by some chance you are unfamiliar with Evernote, you should sell that rock you’ve been living under and visit our Evernote Cheat Sheet . Evernote is a must-have app for every smart phone platform on the market, but if you are a Windows Phone user you’ve probably been making do with OneNote and Windows Live Skydrive up to this point as Evernote has only released their Windows Phone app in the last week or so.

Smart phones are intended to make our lives more organized, ease communication, and remind us of important things we might otherwise forget. Evernote uses cloud-based technology to synchronize your text, voice, and image based notes between all your devices and makes them accessible via the web. Images containing text go through an OCR process, rendering the recognized text searchable. The Windows Phone app also makes use of the phone’s GPS and location services to allow you to save a note based on your current whereabouts.

Evernote applications are free, as is the basic cloud service. Premium accounts are available for $5 per month or $45 per year, and bump the monthly usage limit from 60MB to 1000MB.

Evernote is also available in the Android Market and the iTunes App Store .

Congress

Smart phones perform many roles in modern life, but political tool doesn't generally appear at the top of our lists. Fourth of July week is a great time to feature a politically driven app such as Congress by Sunlight Labs.

Congress for Windows Phone provides you quick access to news and contact information for members of Congress. The app uses your location to determine who your representatives are, but can also be used to find legislators from other districts. Sunlight uses the Yahoo! News API to grab relevant news and video for the representative you are viewing. Congress also integrates with the legislator’s Twitter accounts when available, giving you news and opinions straight from the horse’s mouth.

The best part about Congress is that it enables you to not only stay informed about what your legislators have been doing, but to get involved yourself. Many people forget that calling your congressman/woman can be an effective way for you to make a difference in your local community.

Sunlight Labs is part of the Sunlight Foundation, an organization dedicated to making government more open and transparent through the use of technology. Many of their endeavors, including Congress, are open source projects driven by a community of developers.

Congress is also available in Android and iOS flavors.

4th and Mayor

Social networking has simply exploded in the last few years. Facebook and Twitter are the obvious examples of hugely popular social networking sites, but there are several other up and coming services as well. Foursquare is a location-based social networking service, and their focused approach has given them a boost in popularity they may not have gained had they gone head-to-head with the industry powerhouses. Foursquare also provides a competitive side to things, and lets you see specials that different locations may offer. There is an official Foursquare app for Windows Phone 7, but it’s got nothing on 4th and Mayor.

Jeff Wilcox is a Microsoft employee working on the Silverlight Phone & Devices Team, but 4th and Mayor is an independent venture. The app is free, and offers access to all the features and benefits you get with Foursquare. The interface allows for quick and easy check-ins, lets you see your friend’s recent activity, and gives you visibility on locations nearby that may interest you.

Mr. Wilcox accepts donations via Paypal on the 4th and Mayor website, so if you’re a fan show him some love!

Battle.net Authenticator

Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft, Starcraft II…are you interested yet? With their consistent string of blockbuster titles and enduring hits, Blizzard is one of the biggest names in computer gaming. As one of the first social gaming platforms, Battle.net was ahead of its time, and helped turn Blizzard into the monster it is now. But with all of the time and money you put into your Battle.net account there’s nothing worse than finding out your account got hacked or your roommate sold that item you spent the last three weeks acquiring.

Enter the Battle.net Authenticator for Windows Phone 7. This app for Windows Phones will provide you with two-step authentication to your Battle.net account, protecting it from unauthorized access. After registering the authenticator app with your Battle.net account, the app will create an eight character code that will be entered alongside your password. The idea here is that an unauthorized third party may have guessed your password, but they would be much less likely to have both your password and your phone.

One word of caution, if you intend to stop using the mobile authenticator for any reason (changing phones, too much hassle, etc.) make sure you disable the mobile authenticator in your Battle.net profile before doing something you may regret later.

My Home Server

There is a lot to be said for companies that innovate by integrating with their own products. Windows Home Server is one of the more functional tools that Microsoft has built for people with a home network. The additional power and flexibility you get with a Windows Home Server is enough to make it something worth considering for power users at home.

Now Microsoft is offering a free application that integrates your Windows Home Server (2011) with Windows Phone 7. My Home Server is available from the Windows Phone Marketplace and allows you to view the music, pictures, and videos you have stored on your server. In addition to remotely accessing your media library, My Home Server allows you to manage and configure your Windows Home Server. User configuration, device management, backups, and even alerts are accessible from your Windows Phone.

In addition to the Windows Phone application, the server-side Windows Server Solutions Phone Connector Add-in must be installed to allow access to the server. The Phone Connector Add-in is a standard .wssx add-in package and also works with Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials.

ORB

Every once in a while you will come across a game that is simple, yet has all the ingredients to be a completely addicting diversion. Such games are perfect for mobile platforms because they don’t require an unreasonable amount of horsepower, nor are the controls typically over the top or difficult to master.

ORB by PalladiumPower is a vertically scrolling game that has you dodging obstacles by maneuvering your orb through the map. The game is controlled by tilting your device forward to increase speed, backward to slow down, and sideways to steer. Various obstacles throughout the course will require you to speed up and slow down, and keeping yourself on the right track becomes increasingly difficult as you progress.

Easily one of the best indie games on the Windows Phone 7 platform, Orb complements the intuitive gameplay with killer graphics and a soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place on a title created by a much larger gaming studio. Your personal bests can be compared against the world using the high scores functionality, and your personal statistics can be tracked as well.

Orb is available in both the $1.29 version and a fully-functional free (ad supported) version.

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