Fab free web services for you to use and abuse - getdropbox.com and xpenser.com

Having had no time or inspiration to come up with exciting new innovations himself, the Poorhouse resorts to jibbering about other people's fancy stuff.

First up, "Dropbox", or rather getdropbox.com, there being various other services out there with rather similar names. Designed for those of us who either need to back up their computery stuff (i.e. anyone who uses a computer for more than Solitaire...and even then if you want to keep your scores saved in the case of nuclear holocaust) or have multiple computers that you want easy-peasy access to the same files on, your files are "effortlessly" synchronised and "always accessible".

Excite o'clock it may not be for the less geekazoid of you, but it's a massively handy service to be sure. Kind of a mixture of sync-service Foldershare and backup-service Mozy, both virtuously good free products previously mentioned in these very pages [1][2]and utilised by the Poorhouse on a daily basis, a folder called "My DropBox" appears on your Windows PC, Mac, or soon to be Linux computer. Other than a slightly different icon, it looks like any other folder. The difference is that any file that you put in that folder will be auto-magically copied to the getdropbox website for password protected access from any internet-enabled computer, and then synced to all the other computers you've installed dropbox on. Fast, too. Mere seconds, usually.

The big advantage over Foldershare is that, as your files are backed up to getdropbox centrally, your computers can sync even when they are never turned on at the same time, and you can access your files from anywhere else even if all your computers are all off. It also has a sharing service, along you to have a folder shared with a set of other dropbox users, where anyone can add, edit and view files. Every file placed in the public section of your account can also be given a publically accessible web address, providing a nice easy way to share your fabulouso documents. World, oyster, etc. The downside vs Foldershare of course is your secret personal private data is stored in a 3rd party location too - encrypted to an extent sure - but still it's a potential added risk if you're the type to reguarly store blueprints of nuclear facilities in your My Documents folder. You could always sync an encrypted volume if this is the case one imagines.

Furthermore, like Mozy, it stores revisions of your files. If you edit a file in your dropbox and save, it instantly gets copied up to the server and synced, but should you realise that your edits were in actuality massive errors, you can use the web client to retrieve all previous copies of that file onto your computer, like a awesome file-based "undo" button.

It's free too, at the moment, as it's in beta, so nothing to lose. In fact it's apparently always going to have a free aspect to it, but limited to 1 gb of your files. If you go grab it now during the testing faze you get a lifetime 2gb account instead (actually 5, or even 10gb, had you got on the case a bit earlier). Later on, when the service launches properly, you’ll be able to buy bigger accounts to your heart's content. It’s early days yet so more features are promised to come, including the ability to watch any folder for changes, not just the official "dropbox" folder; allowing sync and backup of your whole document tree.

It's getting a whole lot of love in the blogosphere, so hopefully the fine service will continue into the long and distant future. The storage side of things should be reliable enough, it being based on Amazon's S3 service, a famous big fat storage service that is unlikely to drop off the face of the planet with your data anytime soon (well, erm, not too often anyhow).

Second site de la jour: xpenser. Yes, it has the super super cliched missing vowel syndrome in its nomenclature. However its description of itself as “fire and forget expense tracking” is not far from the truth. For those of us who have to take temporary personal responsibility for our corporate debts, it's a great way to ensure you don’t forget any receipts in your expense claim. After all, if you bought a cheeseburger on the train that cost £14.99 and was almost inedible, assuming it was no later than 4.59pm in the day, your company should pay. As the wallet becomes a mass of paper receipts it can be a bit hard to keep track of things for the final claim a week later.

Xpenser however lets you quickly zap the details of the expense in the form "name cost notes" via email, IM, twitter, SMS and even telephone via voice recognition (some options not available outside the US). It will assemble the details into a nice neat report, which you can then print out for your claim or export the details to Excel, Quicken, MS Money or Freshbooks, ready for sending to your corporate overlords for the usual 3-month delayed expense remittance. It may not sound over-useful, but it is, really. The Poorhouse is convinced he's been drip-losing less lost expenses now he spend 2 seconds after each currant bun receipt zapping a swifty Blackberry message over.

It can handle multiple reports, keeps track of statuses (approved, submitted, etc.) and has a nice Ajax-y feel when access via the web-browser. Also free, of course. Go use other people’s hard work for your own selfish good.


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