20 free web-based tools a small business should use

By: Ted Kritsonis

October 21, 2010

Running a small business naturally requires that you make the most of the resources you have. If any of those can be had for little to no cost — and they get the job done right — then it’s hard not to buy into using them. It’s with that in mind that we’ve assembled this list of handy office tools. The vast majority are free.

We should note that the likes of Microsoft Office Online, iWork.com, Acrobat.com and Google Docs each offer unique features and functions that work well with desktop counterparts, but what we wanted to look for were mostly unsung and unknown tools that help fill in the gaps or provide a quick fix.

Ever get an attachment or download a document that just won’t open on your PC or Mac? ConvertFiles will take care of that for you, and it covers a wide range of file types. Just upload the file and choose what you want to download it as.

PDF to Word and PDF to Excel
Taking a PDF and making it into a Word or Excel document can be a key time-saver, depending on what your task is. Both PDF to Word and PDF to Excel are free Web apps that do exactly as described.

You can send a document as an attachment via email, but an easier way to give the other side a good look is through ViewDocsOnline. Just upload the document and then share the link with your contacts so they can all see it at the same time.

Sometimes a good font can make an aesthetic difference in a presentation or document, and Fontex offers plenty of free ones you can download and use as you see fit.

You need to send a larger file quickly but email doesn’t work and you don’t have an FTP. JetBytes can solve the problem by allowing you to upload the file, while the recipient downloads it on the fly.

Open IT Online
This cool add-on allows you to open and edit documents from directly within a web browser, even if there is no office desktop software installed on the computer. Open IT Online works with Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome.

Sometimes you want to design a chart or graph that illustrates data to a client, or for your own business. ChartGo makes it easy to create simple and effective graphs for free.

Invoicing and billing clients can be made a lot easier with a service like CurdBee. It’s all web-based, so you can access your records from anywhere. A free account is available to use, but $5/month gets you more features and security.

There are instances where you want to share something with a contact by sharing your desktop screen with others. Yugma has a free account option that lets you do that, though you will need to pay for other features like real-time collaboration and recording the webcasts.

In those times where you need technical support from a friend or colleague, or you need to lend a hand yourself, CrossLoop is one of the best free tools out there to do it. And it now works on a Mac, too.

PDF Pirate
The idea behind this is dead simple: any restrictions embedded on a PDF doc can be removed using this free web tool. The site’s bonus feature is the ability to turn any web page into a PDF as well by just copying and pasting a URL.

This is a really simple word processor and text editor that allows multiple users to make changes in real-time. CollabEdit is not only free, but also doesn’t require you to sign up for an account. It just works in your web browser and you can invite others in by just emailing the URL.

Adobe eSiganatures
This may one day become a paid service, but for now, eSignatures is in beta and free to use. Use it to sign any PDF doc that requires your autograph.

One of the coolest ways to store and manage files of various types for access both locally and remotely, Dropbox has now become renowned for what it can do. If you don’t use it, it’s time to start doing so.

This is a cool Dropbox add-on that lets you request files from others so that they land in your Dropbox. With AirDropper, all you need to do is request the file, while the other side just needs to upload it straight into your Dropbox.

Rather than be one particular app, Tonido can be indispensable as a way to share files, access your own remotely and backup and sync them to other computers running Tonido as well. Take a look through the site because it offers even more.

One of the most popular remote desktop apps available, LogMeIn comes in many flavours, but it’s LogMeIn Free that provides you with free access to your computer at home, no matter where you are. That means you can also interact with files and apps you have installed on that PC or Mac as well.

If you ever need to send a big file to someone, WeTransfer can be your friend. It can handle files up to 2GB in size, and the download links are good for two weeks. It’s free to use, doesn’t require you to sign up for an account and is always free.

Though aimed at U.S. business owners and freelancers, you can still use this to keep track of your receipts and expenses for tax purposes. Scan receipts using an iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phone and the information anytime through a web browser.

This site continues to be free, but that’s only the beginning of how good this is. Todo.ly is an organizational and to-do tool that should help you keep track of everything you need to know and do for your business. It’s all web-based, and the drag-and-drop interface is super cool.


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    Evernote – notes/tasks
    Google Docs- remote access and shared docs
    ScreenConnect – remote access to workstation and meetings

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