What We Can’t Live Without: The Web.AppStorm Team’s Favorite Web Apps

Several weeks ago, I took a short 2-day working vacation, carrying my iPad along to keep up with Web.AppStorm and my other work while I was traveling with my family. Even from the back of a car in the middle of nowhere in Thailand, I could schedule articles in WordPress, communicate with our team with email and Basecamp, and keep up with everything going on in a Google Spreadsheet, all from a pokey EDGE connection.

That got me thinking of how our whole site is built around web apps. Without web apps, of course, Web.AppStorm wouldn’t even exist. Our site is powered by WordPress with a side of PollDaddy and Formstack, coordinated with Google Apps and Basecamp, read and shared on Google Reader and Twitter and Facebook. But beyond using web apps because we have to, most of our team relies on multiple web apps to manage our lives, communicate with those closest to us (and others we’ve never met), and stay entertained.

The Mac.AppStorm and iPhone.AppStorm teams have recently written interesting roundups of their favorite Mac and iPhone apps, respectively. I thought it’d be great if our team could do the same, so after the break, you’ll discover the apps we’ve used to build our careers and keep ourselves sane in the process.

David Appleyard: AppStorm Network Manager

Google Docs

I find myself using Google Docs every day. Although I don’t like the visual experience (the interface of a web app can’t quite match that of the desktop just yet), the sharing and collaboration features are absolutely fantastic. Being able to work on a document as part of a team is vital, and Google Docs is certainly the best way to do this.

Formstack

When running a website, we regularly need to collect information — whether this is in the form of customer feedback, contact forms, or competition entries. Receiving this via email is hardly the best solution, and it can be complicated to design a specific contact form for each situation. Formstack is a fantastic alternative, and makes designing forms a pleasure.

Instapaper

I love to read, but I tend to do so at the end of the day, sat on the couch with my iPad. Instapaper makes collecting a list of links throughout the day very straight-forward, and integrates with apps on my iPhone, iPad, or any other device you might own. Heartily recommended!

               

Matthew Guay: Web.AppStorm Editor

 

Pinboard

I used to take a haphazard approach to bookmarks: I’d fill up my browser’s bookmarks menu with links to dozens of random sites, then lose them when I switched browsers or computers. Not a great way to keep up with dozens of important sites. I’d tried bookmarking apps, but never could get one to stick with my workflow. That is, until I started using Pinboard. It’s simplistic, text-only approach works great for me, and I use the bookmarklet to add pages I might like to find later all the time. Plus, with Twitter, Instapaper, and Google Reader integration, it automatically pulls in everything I like across the web. Now that’s how apps should really work: making your life simpler and keeping you from spending tons of time in them.

Simplenote

In the same way, I’ve tried dozens of apps for taking notes, and always find them confusing and difficult to keep up with. All I really need is synced plain text, perhaps with Markdown or HTML formatting, and Simplenote is perfect for that. The web app is elegant and simple to use, while integration with native apps like nvALT make it easy to keep up with notes anywhere. I keep up with all of my post ideas in Simplenote, and a good portion of the stuff I write starts out in Simplenote.

Twitterand other social networks

Perhaps it seems odd to include a social network as a favorite web app, and I often find that social networks can be an easy way to waste time and get distracted. But to me, social networking has been life changing. I found my first tech writing job via Twitter, and it continues to be the biggest way I find out about tech news, new apps, and more. It’s amazing how many industry contacts I’ve been able to have conversations with via Twitter @replies and DMs, something that never would have happened for a guy living in a small town in Asia only years ago. Plus, Twitter’s web app has improved leaps and bounds in recent years, and it’s actually a quite nice example of the future of web apps.

On a similar note, Facebook may have not made my list, but it’s important to me all the same. I don’t like its interface, and find its settings confusing at best and misleading at worst. But, you know what, it works. It keeps me in contact with family and friends from Thailand and Tennessee and Texas and anywhere else they live. I always say I have a love/hate relationship with it, but on the whole, it’s sure made living overseas a lot easier.

Joe Casabona: Web.AppStorm Writer

Gmail

Hands down my #1 productivity tool. I treat it as a to-do list, organizer, and more. And with Google Tasks and Google Calendar as sidebars, plus my tips to beef up Gmail, it’s my one-stop shop for online productivity.

Dropbox

I’ve got 3 laptops, a smartphone, and a tablet. I travel a lot, whether it be on vacation, business trips, to school to teach during the semester, or to the local coffee shop. Dropbox helps keep all of my important files in sync. I don’t know what I’d do without it (well I do, but it would involve my keychain, a USB drive, a lot of annoyance).

Spotify

This new-comer in the USA has quickly become my favorite music app after trying Pandora, Rdio, Grooveshark, and the untimely death handed down by Apple to my previous favorite service, lala (RIP). Music is a huge part of my day and with Spotify I can make playlists using any music released in the USA. Plus, it’s free. Amazing.

Ryan Stubbs: Web.AppStorm Writer

Gmail

I use it all of the time for my email and compared with other web-based email clients, it just does everything so much better. Combined with the other Google apps that seem to effortlessly manage everything else I need, from the calendar to the RSS reader, everything’s in one place – ensuring everything’s managed easily and quickly without requiring other apps to do the work.

Ronin

I spent a while trying to find a good invoicing application that fit my needs and Ronin seemed to tick all of the right boxes for me. It’s priced incredibly well and even their free plan is enough for any freelancer. The app looks great, feels great and creates impressing invoices and I’m beginning to wonder what I’d do without it.

CloudFlare

An app that any web developer or blogger would benefit from. It gives plenty of options for managing DNS, decreases website load time and protects sites against unwanted visitors and threats. Ever since I started using it, it’s been one of the apps I rely on without even realising it.

Connor Turnbull: Web.AppStorm Writer

Dropbox

Dropbox is a vital part of my workflow, since it means everything is in sync across my devices. Working on my Mac Mini and then being able to take my MacBook downstairs and continue right where I left off is awesome. Plus, I love its integration into native apps, such as iOS’s Textastic, which allow the iPad to become a feasible work platform.

WordPress

I use WordPress both in writing for my site and for others. There’s little time I don’t write for a site that’s powered by WordPress. For me, it’s the best CMS out there an I love the flexibility it allows for. The backend web app for managing content is so simple and fluid, nothing can compare.

Google Docs

Like with Dropbox, Google Docs is an awesome way of syncing content between devices. The web interface is surprisingly feature-filled and it allows for content collaboration which is extremely useful to me. Office 365 looks pretty awesome (more so than Google Docs I think), but I don’t personally use it because it doesn’t integrate with other Google services, naturally.

Zach LeBar: Web.AppStorm Writer

Dropbox

Everyone loves Dropbox. It’s the type of service that seems too simple at the start — a folder that syncs itself everywhere you want it to — but it’s a premise that other creative developers have built off of and taken to the next level. Dropbox is one of those interesting web apps, in many ways much like Gmail is for me, where I only use the actual “web app” in emergency situations. For the most part, I use Dropbox as a backbone to my digital note taking workflow, thanks to killer iOS note apps which integrate with Dropbox beautifully.

Google Reader

My first introduction to RSS was actually via PSDTuts+, back when it was the only Tuts+ site, and the RSS reader that came the most highly recommended at the time was Google Reader. I’m quite happy with my choice. Over the years though, I’ve added custom user scripts like Jon Hicks beautiful Helvitreader (http://helvetireader.com/) to help the Google Reader UI along, and now I use Reeder on OS X and iOS as my interface, it’s still Google Reader on the backend that keeps it all in sync. I couldn’t do it without it.

WordPress

Ok, since my first two picks are really web apps which I use as pipelines rather than interfaces, I thought I’d choose the web app I probably use the most in its true form: WordPress. A true testament to open source software, I just can’t help loving the culture of the people behind it. Automattic does a stellar job guiding and directing WordPress’ development, and it just keeps becoming a better and more polished app as time goes by. I’m so happy that AppStorm uses it as its backend system, because it’s really a joy to use.

Justin Stravarius: Web.AppStorm Writer

Google Reader

This is the first web app I access everyday and is my most used app, too. Reader is one big reason I’ve stuck with Google’s app ecosystem for years. I use it to stay on top of all the news and commentary from around the world. It’s like a digital content vault from where no article read or unread goes away citing API limitations. It’s time for a UI overhaul, though!

Google Docs

When I started moonlighting as a freelancer, I needed a foolproof way to write articles from both office and home. I thought of carrying around a pen drive, but that was very conspicuous as employees hardly had any use for it in the office. Then I discovered Google Docs and never looked back. It was my beloved partner in crime!

LastPass

My PayPal account was compromised once and I knew it was time for some radical change in my password management system. When I started using LastPass about two and half years ago, people called me crazy for storing passwords in a third party server. Things are so different now. Thanks to them, most of my passwords can now only be hacked by the NSA or CIA!

Abhimanyu Ghoshal: Web.AppStorm Writer

Google Reader

Easily the app I miss most when I’m offline. I’ve read over 300,000 articles using GReader over the past three years and I’m not even close to stopping. It’s really easy to navigate, share and find articles later on this app – nothing else, in my mind, even comes close. There are plenty of extensions, skins and userscripts available to further customise your reading experience, too. I recommend this to anyone who’s looking to take control of their information stream on the web.

InvoiceBubble

Apart from helping me create estimates and invoices for my company and my freelance projects, it also keeps track of every quote that’s gone out and how much money has come in. Incredibly handy, quick and simple. The free version has everything you need, since the paid version simply removes a link on the published invoice – something you can live with until you can afford the nominal fee.

Evernote

If this didn’t exist, I’d spend a whole lot of time looking for something similar online. Evernote is the one thing that keeps my life on track. Using this, I keep track of web accounts, store warranty cards, pen down ideas for articles and projects, save and sort important web pages and generally have my thoughts with me wherever I go. The desktop app is great, but the fact that it’s available online via any browser is what makes it really great.

Dean Sherwin: Web.AppStorm Writer

Google Docs

Hands down my favourite web app and my most used at that! As a student I find myself working from several computers. I have a laptop, netbook and the campus computers so it’s great to always have everything I need in one place. Also, my files are secure; we all know the pain of loosing an assignment or article due to poor backup habits.

Evernote

A real favourite of mine. I love how it syncs with the desktop application as well as my Android phone. Multiple note taking methods and fact that it’s free make it even better.

Dropbox

I tend not to use Dropbox for things like work related documents as they’re normally confined to my computer and GDocs. However, I’ve backed up all my films, videos and other large files. Dropbox has been my hero on quite a few occasions when SD cards got corrupted, lost etc… While there’s dozens of services like Dropbox, I’m yet to come across one as easy to use and accessible as Dropbox.

Kyle Callahan: Web.AppStorm Writer

InstantWatcher

While this may not be the most productive app in the roundup, I find it to be incredibly useful. Basically InstantWatcher is the easiest way to browse Netflix’s library of Instant Watch movies. It makes Netflix’s site pale in comparison. It’s not fancily designed, but it is an efficient way for finding the roses among so many thorns. You can filter the movies based on the year of their release, the average Netflix rating, the Rotten Tomatoes rating, NY Times critics picks, and so much more. In addition, you can hit the play button on any movie to have it start playing immediately or add it to your Netflix Instant queue without having to go to Netflix to do it. It’s just a great app, and if you’re not using it, you’re definitely missing out.

OneLook Reverse Dictionary

This app is great for when you know the general definition of what you’re trying to say, but not the word itself. Do some digging and learn to use the wildcard search characters, because once you know how to be a power user of the Reverse Dictionary, you’ll never have a word die on the tip of your tongue again.

Wolfgang’s Vault

Get access to a ton of free concerts from the past 60 years. If you’re a classic rock fan, Wolfgang’s Vault has streaming audio of live concerts from bands such as The Allman Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Band of Gypsies, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, The Who, The Grateful Dead, Muddy Waters, and so much more.

Scott Danielson: AppStorm Writer (soon-to-be Web.AppStorm Writer)

Basecamp

I contribute to several projects that are managed via Basecamp, and aside from the fact that I think the web app could have a slightly better design, I couldn’t be happier with 37signals. In addition, I use the iOS client Headquarters so I can check in on my projects from wherever I am.

CloudApp

If anything I’m working on off-line is to go on-line, it’s bound to go through CloudApp. The service has a tiny menubar that sits out of the way until I need it, and makes sharing screenshots, links, or virtually anything else a breeze. CloudApp is highly customizable to fit your workflow no matter what you might want to use it for.

Google+

This is not so much a tried-and-true service I couldn’t live with out as much as it is something in which I see a lot of potential. As a huge advocate for social media, I see Google+ as potentially socializing all of the Google services I already use all the time. If G+ effectively integrates services like Google Calendar and Google Reader, it could be a huge game changer, not only for social media, but also for productivity.

That’s all for now, folks!

If you’ve stayed with us this long, you’re a hero! You’ve surely got your own favorite web apps that make your day go smoother and keep you from losing your mind, so we’d love to hear about them in the comments below. We’ve all got hundreds of accounts where we’ve tried out new apps, but there are some so important we couldn’t imagine losing them. These apps and more are those for us; what’s the most important web apps to your life?


Responses

Add Yours
  • My apps that I can’t live without are:

    Gmail
    Twitter
    ManageWP
    Google Reader

  • No Uploadingit.com? How can you not live with out that…

    • Dropbox.

      • Cosign.

      • And Cloud.App for smaller files :)

  • I can’t live with out

    GMail,
    Google Reader
    Facebook
    download.com

  • I can get behind those choices. All those Google apps are wonderful, and it helps keep my desktop decentralized.

    One thing I would add is Google Sync, since it keeps my Google Calendar and Google Contacts synced with my iPhone as well as my girlfriend’s smartphone. It makes organization a breeze, since we both share our calendars together.

    As soon as there’s a good offline Google Tasks app for iOS, I’ll be in heaven!

  • Gmail and wordpress definitely!!

  • Gmail, dropbox and cloudapp