The Macworld Web Awards
We Macworld editors spend a lot of time on the Web. We go online not only for pleasure, like millions of others, but also as an important part of our jobs. Whether it's through keeping up with rumors about future Apple products or, once in a while, playing a Flash-animated game or checking our stock portfolios, we have experience with many sites.
We've assembled a list of some of our favorite sites from around the Web for home, work, play, and technical use. This list is by no means comprehensive, and it isn't meant to represent the be-all, end-all best of the Web. Rather, it's a list of sites we've come to know and love. We're betting that you'll find many of these sites surprisingly useful, entertaining, or both - just as we Macworld editors did when we came together to pool our lists of Web favorites.
Sure, those hot-pink pants look fantastic on the Web, but will they actually fit you? This is one of the most agonizing questions we face when buying clothes online. With My Virtual Model ( www.myvirtualmodel.com ), you can try out clothes on an eerily accurate simulated image of yourself - just answer a simple questionnaire about your body type or enter your exact measurements.
If you're looking for that hard-to-find bright-red corduroy jacket, head over to the Interactive Custom Clothes Company ( www.ic3d.com ), where you can buy duds from supercool to traditional, all made-to-order. Or send in your favorite jeans and IC3D will make their mirror image, minus the holes and rips.
Even glasses get online treatment at Eyeglasses.com ( www.eyeglasses.com ). Upload a photo of your face and virtually try on the huge selection of frames. You may even decide not to switch to contacts.
Forging your own community has never been easier than it is at eGroups ( www.egroups.com ), the site that makes mailing lists simple to join and manage. Choose from thousands of groups based on interest or location, or start a new list.
Since 1995, PlanetOut ( www.planetout.com ) has been the online resource for the gay and lesbian community. With news, advice, personals, message boards, shopping directories, and even a pets section, PlanetOut provides an online meeting place.
Likewise, ThirdAge ( www.thirdage.com ) is a community site targeting a specific demographic: baby boomers. ThirdAge gives visitors health, financial, news, romance, and travel resources tailored for the aging boomer. The site's community forums let participants share personal advice or meet others with similar interests.
Ever wondered how a car's engine works? Or pondered the inner mechanics of your refrigerator? Students of all ages can learn about such fascinating topics at Marshall Brain's HowStuffWorks.com ( www.howstuffworks.com ). Get the lowdown on everything from artificial-snow machines to nuclear power plants.
Familyeducation.com ( www.familyeducation.com ) is a resource center for parents, teachers, and students in grades K-12. Teachers can put their grade books online and give students and parents password-protected access to their grades. The site also offers homework help, educational games, and project ideas.
When it comes time to leave the nest for the hallowed halls of higher education, you'll want to check out Embark ( www.embark.com ). Embark leads you through the entire process of applying for college, from finding a school that fits your personality to footing the bill. You can even apply directly to many schools online.
Digging up your roots is easier than you'd think with FamilyTreeMaker .com ( www.familytreemaker.com ). The site includes research advice, database searches, and an online community of others seeking their ancestors.
Whether you're considering starting a family, parenting a ten-year-old, or watching your youngest leave for college, you'll find good advice and helpful resources at iParenting.com ( http://iparenting.com ). You can join the online parenting community and get lots of invaluable information about mom- or dadhood.
A bit more daring is the offbeat and brutally honest site Hip Mama ( www.hipmama.com ), where birth stories, music reviews, forums, and articles round out the superhip coverage.
Food and Wine
Need an obscure recipe fast? SOAR ( http://soar.berkeley.edu/recipes ), the Searchable Online Archive of Recipes, probably has it. With nearly 70,000 user-submitted recipes, SOAR is the place to go for everything from Mississippi Mud Pie to Moroccan Chick Pea Soup.
To find out the perfect wine to serve with Peking Duck at your next dinner party, head to WineToday ( www.winetoday.com ). The online wine magazine, from New York Times Digital, provides reviews and information on specific wines, wine storage, and wineries. It also has useful features for wine newbies, such as a glossary that tells you what the heck tannin is.
Epicurious ( www.epicurious.com ) is a more general food and wine resource. Shop for specialty food items, prepare a meal from one of the many gourmet recipes, or read a review of the best American bourbons, all in one convenient place.
For consumers and health professionals alike, Medlineplus Health Information ( www.medlineplus.gov ) is a comprehensive reference tool for all your medical questions. You can look up arcane medical terms and more than 9,000 prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The information is up-to-date and authoritative, drawn from the National Library of Medicine - the world's largest medical library.
Had a bad experience with a physician and want to warn others away? At Health Grades ( www.healthgrades.com ) you can share ratings of your experiences with physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, and more. Or, look up individual health-care providers in your area to find information such as board certification and any record of sanctions.
Specializing in alternative medicines, WholeHealthMD.com ( www.wholehealthmd.com ) provides a more holistic approach to your health. You can search for remedies according to health condition, find healing recipes, ask for advice from experts, and search for a local practitioner.
Home Repair and Decor
Your home may be your castle, but even castles need occasional remodeling. DoItYourself.com ( www.doityourself.com ) is the first place to go if you're feeling handy. The site has planning and how-to information on all aspects of home repair and improvement. Some of the projects even have short, illustrative video clips. For jobs you can't handle by yourself, the site helps you find a contractor and get an estimate.
If you're looking for some good advice about a home project, go to Ask the Builder ( www.askbuild.com ). Based on Tim Carter's nationally syndicated column, the site offers detailed instructions on home-improvement projects, all delivered with Tim's homespun charm.
Better Homes and Gardens ( www.bhg.com ), the Web site for the popular monthly magazine, has a bit of everything. There's an excellent gardening section, with a complete garden planner and a guide to trees and shrubs. Other great resources include a how-to encyclopediaof projects.
If you're itching to customize the look of your desktop, make sure to check out ResExcellence ( www.resexcellence.com ). This site includes themes, icons, start-up screens, and lots of other goodies that will give your Finder a whole new look. You can even submit a snapshot of your own desktop to show off to the world.
For a total makeover of your Mac, stop by Applefritter ( www.applefritter.com ). Covering inventions from a 21-inch iMac to the Macquarium, this site has tons of information on how to decorate your old Mac.
Want to add another hard drive or change your existing CD-ROM drive? Explore AccelerateYourMac ( www.xlr8yourmac.com ), with its huge compatibility databases of hardware that works on a Mac. The site also includes news and forums about readers' experiences with both hardware and software.
It calls itself an "IT (Information Technology) resource," but don't let that frighten you - WhatIs?com ( www.whatis.com ) is an in-depth dictionary of technology terms. With a quick search, you'll soon know the difference between "Gigabit Ethernet" and "Fast Ethernet."
An impressive resource of Internet-related terms is Webopedia ( www.webopedia.com ), where you can finally learn what "DNS" stands for and what the heck it means.
The ComputerUser.com High-Tech Dictionary ( www.computeruser.com/resources/dictionary/ ), formerly the Computer Currents Dictionary, is an old standby. It's got definitions for a vast assortment of confusing computer terms from both sides of the Mac-PC fence.
Mac news junkies start the day right, fortified by links from Mac Surfer's Headline News ( www.macsurfer.com ). This one-stop shop corrals the best of Macintosh news, providing an at-a-glance digest of the day's top stories from all the Mac news sites that matter - as well as from a few that don't. Links to computer and technology articles of potential interest to a broader audience round out this site's Mac-centric mission.
A comprehensive and easy-to-use site from the United Kingdom, Computer Arts ( www.computerarts.co.uk ), is rife with rated reviews, forums, and tutorials. It also offers very practical information for graphic artists. Print, Web, and 3-D media are represented, along with handy, downloadable tutorial files useful to beginners and more-advanced users alike.
Helping to nurture real-world skills among the Macintosh creative crowd is Creative Mac ( www.creativemac.com ), a source for breaking news, tips, and weekly reviews. How-tos for print and motion graphics, along with a smattering of professional-grade video tutorials, help balance this relatively new site.
With Google ( www.google.com ), you're certain to find what you're looking for. It searches more than 1 billion URLs; has a simple, un-cluttered interface; and offers an advanced search feature for even more-specific results. If you're "feeling lucky," try an option that will take you directly to the Web page that's Google's top match to your query.
Go2Net ( www.go2net.com ) scans more than ten search engines, including AltaVista, Excite, and Infoseek, to find your results. It offers helpful tools, such as a Yellow Pages guide and classified ads. You can even customize the content to keep track of your stock portfolio and the local weather.
The intuitive LookSmart ( www.looksmart.com ) lets you explore the Web either by keyword or by topic ( entertainment , work , or money , for example). For a more personal approach, pose your question to other users, or take a stab at answering their questions.
Creative professionals know that the key to finding work is getting your portfolio into the right hands at the right time. At portfolios.com ( www.portfolios.com ) you can share your portfolio online, and the site attracts people looking for specific talent.
If you're desperately seeking an elusive stock photograph, stop by the Random Eye Image Grabber ( http://imagegrabber.randomeye.com ), which searches through more than ten major photography shops with one click and delivers your results in tabbed pages, with thumbnails.
For fonts, look no further than MyFonts.com ( www.myfonts.com ). It offers links to all of the major foundries, and it also identifies fonts you've scanned and uploaded - no more guessing whether that ad you saw used Desdemona or Funky Fresh.
Sites that offer stock-market tips are a dime a dozen, but few make investing as accessible and fun as the online home of The Motley Fool ( www.fool.com ). Featuring lively user forums, Fool.com gives you news, opinion, and investment strategies - all written clearly enough to benefit both novice investors and experienced traders.
Finding a home or apartment can be an ordeal. But finding your way through Realtor.com ( www.realtor.com ) is a much easier pursuit, thanks to links for everything from mortgage and finance information to moving-expense calculators. The site's Real Estate 101 links are especially helpful to first-time buyers and sellers.
Although some of Quicken.com's ( www.quicken.com ) online tools won't work in Mac OS, it's still an extremely useful site for Mac users tracking their finances. Tight integration with Quicken 2001 Deluxe and TurboTax add value to this personal-finance resource.
If you're a freelancer who works at home, some might say you have it easy - you get to roll out of bed when you want, work in your sweats, and spend quality time with your cats. But occasionally you must confront such issues as marketing your services, itemizing deductions, and insuring your PowerBook. For wisdom on these and other matters, stop by Entrepreneur.com ( www.entrepreneur.com ), a voluminous resource with access to assorted experts and other freelancers.
Another well-equipped freelancing resource is guru.com ( www.guru.com ) Not only will it help you find projects, but it also will help project managers find you.
And if you're new to working on your own, or thinking of taking the plunge, check out Free Agent Nation ( www.freeagentnation.com ). It has practical information, lists of helpful resources, and other support.
Working your way through a giant job-hunting site can be time-consuming and daunting. But WetFeet.com ( www.wetfeet.com ) lets you perform extensive research on employment fields as well as companies, so you can find out exactly what "excellent opportunity for building communications skills" means in different jobs.
The InternetSourcebook.com ( www.internetsourcebook.com/jobs/ ) offers an uncluttered, simple way to find job openings in specific fields and locations. It searches the employment pages of a variety of sites, giving you an idea of who's hiring and what they're offering.
JobWeb ( www.jobweb.com ) caters to the relocation-minded. Its simple interface and plain-text listings lead users to geographically specific job listings sorted by job type.
Looking for volunteer opportunities in your area? VolunteerMatch ( www.volunteermatch.org ) is a free service from Impact Online that helps you find what you're after, using just a ZIP code and answers to a few simple questions. And if you can't carve out time to leave the house, check out the Virtual Volunteering section for ways to help by doing work on your computer.
You can locate articles on nonprofit fund-raising, managing, and training at PhilanthropySearch.com ( www.philanthropysearch.com ). Use the Speed Search links to find information about organizations you're interested in or to discover new ones.
Whether you manage a nonprofit or just have some spare time to offer, idealist ( www.idealist.org ), from Action Without Borders, is where you can find or post jobs and learn about upcoming events. Its Tools for Nonprofits section has information on running your organization smoothly and using the Internet to become more visible.
For online storage, it's hard to beat the 300MB of space offered for free by Myspace.com ( www.myspace.com ). Besides dwarfing what rival sites give away, Myspace makes it easy to share files with other members.
Many online calendaring applications suffer from clutter - but not MyPalm ( www.palm.net ), which has a clean interface and simple-to-use commands.
With eFax.com ( www.efax.com ), you can get voice mail and faxes by e-mail - a useful tool for PowerBook-toting business travelers who want to stay in touch while on the road.
Looking for game news, previews, and reviews? Check out Inside Mac Games ( www.imgmagazine.com ). The site also offers juicy tips, hints, and cheats. If you want to talk with other enthusiasts, turn to the forums.
When you're itching to play games online, head to Shockwave.com ( www.shockwave.com ), featuring arcade classics such as Spy Hunter and Robotron. You can also play newer games, such as South Park Snowballs or Deer Hunter. First-time users must download the Shockwave plug-in before enjoying the site - a small price to pay for hours of free fun.
The myriad games at flipside.com ( www.flipside.com ) include some inspired by current Hollywood films, plus networked games you play over the Internet. Registering on the site allows you to rack up points, which can be redeemed for prizes.
If you have the bandwidth to view movies on the Web, click over to AtomFilms ( www.atomfilms.com ). You'll be able to watch a variety of short films and animations, ranging from Academy Award nominees to obscure gems from around the corner or around the world. Filmmakers note: if AtomFilms accepts your submission, you get paid!
Owners of DVD players will find DVD Review ( www.dvdreview.com ) to be a gold mine of information. You can check on upcoming releases, read reviews, and even chat with other DVD owners. Our favorite part of the site reveals the hidden features, or "Easter eggs," in some DVDs.
When you want your entertainment on the big screen, Moviefone ( www.moviefone.com ) delivers the goods: you can check show times and buy tickets for movies at this site. But in case you're not yet ready to venture outside, Moviefone also provides reviews, star gossip, made-for-the-Web movies, and chat rooms.
You might want to set aside some time before checking out the All music guide ( www.allmusic.com ). Use a band's name as a search term to get a biography page with links to all the members, other bands they've played with, their influences, discographies with reviews, track listings, credits, and more.
If it's live music you seek, then Tourdates.com ( www.tourdates.com ) is a must. Search for shows by city, date, club, or artist. You can post scene reports for your area; sell, swap, or beg for tickets; and read reviews of shows headed your way.
If you'd rather make your own music, launch Netscape and go to Thomas Dolby's site, Beatnik ( www.beatnik.com ). Beatnik's MixMan software allows you to remix popular songs. Now you can hit Pat Benetar with your best shot until you get it right. After recording your mix, send it to your friends with Beatnik's Netscape plug-in.
Hundreds of sites offer online dating - as long as you're willing to pay. But if you're saving your money for that first dinner date, check out these free sites that cover all the basics. Yahoo! Personals ( http://personals.yahoo.com ) has a good interface that lets you narrow your search for a dream date to within four miles of where you live.
Love@AOL ( http://love.aol.com ) features an in-depth search-criteria engine, and you can choose to view only listings with pictures-to narrow your search even further and sneak a peek at your potential new squeeze.
If all this is new to you, Way Too Personal ( www.waytoopersonal.com ) will show you some prizes and pitfalls of online dating. It has examples of scary responses people have gotten, as well as sage online-dating advice, chat rooms, and links to help you find your virtual soul mate. Good luck!
Can a site's navigational tools be too good? Visit Salon.com ( www.salon.com ), and find out. Each polished, well-researched story offers plentiful (and irresistible) links to related stories, and the inviting design encourages visitors to settle in and stay awhile. With sections devoted to politics, media, sex, and breaking news, this addictive site has something for everyone.
Less well-organized but worth a daily visit is Feed ( www.feedmag.com ), a collection of consistently well-written, in-depth reports and essays on culture, science and technology, and entertainment. A daily feed keeps you current on the latest happenings; special issues focus on topics ranging from open-source software to DNA.
Francis Ford Coppola's literary magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story ( www.zoetrope-stories.com ), will appeal to both aspiring writers and anyone who appreciates the short-story genre. Listen to a live reading, download a PDF of the latest issue, or submit your own story for critique - possibly by an agent or producer. Great community features give this site a homespun feel, while big-name contributors (David Bowie art-directed one issue) give it an edge.
The NHL's home site ( www.nhl.com ) is a fantastic resource for hockey fans. It contains up-to-date information on players and teams, and you can even listen to the home and away teams' radio broadcasts for the season in RealPlayer format.
If you're into the nitty-gritty of football, NFLFans.com ( www.nflfans.com ) carries the latest buzz and stories, as well as chat rooms and links to fantasy football sites.
If those don't cover your sports interests, ESPN.com ( www.ESPN.go.com ) will fulfill your needs. Whether it's golf, horse racing, or high-school sports, ESPN has coverage of almost every sport imaginable. If you don't find what you need on the main page, try the links to more-specific sports areas such as soccer ("football," to the rest of the world), extreme sports, and boxing.
Where can you find a four-and-a-half-pound steak that's free if you eat it in less than an hour? Or a building that's shaped like a shoe? At roadsideamerica.com ( www.roadsideamerica.com ), these offbeat tourist destinations and many others are listed. Ideal if you're planning a road trip or simply have a penchant for the unusual.
The Travel Channel's Web site ( www.travel.discovery.com ) caters to anyone interested in travel - in the United States or abroad. Impressive photography shows you what to expect at a variety of destinations, and live Web cams broadcast from a number of locations, including Loch Ness in Scotland and the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas.
Whether you want to know what's going on where you live or to plan a trip out of town, citysearch.com ( www.citysearch.com ) is a comprehensive Web site that covers major cities in the United States and abroad, from San Francisco to St. Louis and Reykjavik to Rio. Listing restaurants, movie show times, and much more, citysearch.com is expansive and easy to navigate.