Useful Websites Nobody Knows About

Google helps, but it only scratches the surface.

The internet is a big place; it’s ever-so expanding and there’s just so much out there to discover. And although Google can help you meander through the expansive jungle of the Net, there are a few sites that are brilliant but aren’t as well-known. Here’s a list of sites, in no particular order, that I find super useful and thought I’d share…

Prezi http://www.prezi.com

A Prezi Presentation
An example of a presentation on Prezi

When it comes to PowerPoints or Keynotes or any kind of presentation, you usually have two types. First, there are people who plop overused Word-Art, stretched and dis-proportioned images, and bland text boxes with no effort with design (by using templates) or animations. And to make it worse, they read directly from the slides when presenting. Even adults do this! It’s a perfect blend of a presentation-fail smoothie. And then, on the other hand, you have the person who keeps his audience awake (think: Steve Jobs’ Keynotes). No templates, fanciness, and most importantly, the ability to keep the audience actually interested.

Unfortunately, if you’re not too into design or tech-savvy, you usually fall into the first category by default. But that’s what Prezi was created for. Simply, Prezi is a free site that lets you create better presentations. Instead of boring slides, you have something like a big canvas or bulletin board. You can then easily place in your text (even YouTube videos, PDFs, and much more) onto your presentation. But what makes Prezi unique is its “pan-and-zoom” effects. Watch the video below and it’s pretty self explanatory.

And another useful aspect about Prezi is that its all online. No downloading required; you just need a web browser to create. And the same applies for presenting too. No more worrying about have your formatting or fonts lost when presenting on another computer; gone is the inconvenience of any compatibility issues.

Khan Academy http://www.khanacademy.org

A Khan Academy video on derivatives… what are those again?

How I wish I discovered Khan Academy much earlier in my academic career! It’s a free to use site that features over 2,700 video lessons on a myriad of topics including Algebra, Art History, Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Computer Science, Finance, History, Physics, Probability, and much more. What makes Khan Academy great is that it is free, and therefore, open for anyone to use (not just students)!

As of today, according to their site, 88,576,913 lessons have been delivered since the project’s inception, and that number is sure to grow at an exponential rate.

All the videos are on YouTube, so it’s easy to share the learning with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. And in addition to the videos, there are 244 practice exercises for you to use as well!

So, if you’re a college student that ends up with a terrible professor, at least you have a Plan B… or a Plan K, I suppose.

Shmoop http://www.shmoop.com

No matter how much you love English, literature can be difficult. Many high school and college students are aware of SparkNotes, but who knows about Shmoop? No one.

Don’t get me wrong, SparkNotes can be a lifesaver sometimes, but it’s flooded with advertising, and sometimes what it has to offer pertaining to your assigned reading isn’t all too great or helpful.

Shmoop is da poop! ‘Nuff said.

Shmoop follows the same idea as SparkNotes: when it comes to literature, it provides a summary, themes, analysis, quizzes, etc. on many different works. But Shmoop, in my opinion, excels at some key things in comparison to SparkNotes.

First, when it comes to summaries, Shmoop usually gives you more detail. And the way the summary is presented is in bullets, so they’re easier to read. And Shmoop gives you a lot of bullets for each chapter, so if you read the chapter in the book, and don’t have a clue what’s happening, Shmoop will help!

Shmoop’s mobile apps are great on-the-go, but they’re not free.

Second, the writers at Shmoop write well and in plain English; don’t get me wrong, so do the writers at SparkNotes, but Shmoop does have a bit of a curve.  Shmoop’s writers throw in pop culture references to make the content more relevant to you. They realize what’s boring and what’s important, and they actually flat-out tell you in the summary. And to top it off, these writers are graduates of Harvard, Stanford, and UC Berkley, so they’re legit.

And a little disclaimer: Please actually read whatever your teacher/professor assigns. Depending on guides alone usually doesn’t help and you’re probably cheating yourself out of a good piece of work! You never know!

And lastly, Shmoop doesn’t stop there. Like SparkNotes, they offer iOS apps for their articles, but they even have eBook versions for Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. (They don’t, however, offer any printed versions of they’re stuff unfortunately. SparkNotes does since it’s now owned by Barnes & Noble.) You can also easily cite a Shmoop analysis for a research paper. And Shmoop also offers content in other subjects too, such as Biology, Civics, US History, and Pre-Algebra as well as SAT/ACT/AP prep!

Zamzar http://www.zamzar.com

Everyone who uses YouTube has probably come across this dilemma: “I like this song/audio on this one YouTube video, but it’s not available for download anywhere.” Zamzar is your solution.

All you have to do is go to their site. Click URL. Paste the video URL, choose the format you want it to be converted to (eg. mp3), and enter your email address. Wait for the video to “convert” right on the site. When the video’s complete, get ready to receive an email. When you get the email from Zamzar, you then click your special hyperlink on it that redirects you to a page that lets you download your converted file. Simple as that!

The Zamzar website.

You can even convert a YouTube video to another video format to download, but there is a downfall which I will later explain. And, you can upload files (up to 100 MB) to convert too.

What’s nice about Zamzar is that it’s free, it’s easy, there are a lot of formats to choose from, and it requires no software to download.

The bad things are that receiving your email can be slow sometimes, and while quality for audio conversions are good, video quality is kind of bad.

You could always pay Zamzar for as low as $7 a month for perks such as larger file sizes and higher priority for receiving the hyperlink emails, but I’m cheap, so I don’t know about you, but I ain’t paying.

And another disclaimer: Don’t steal music people! Stealing is bad and illegal. Use Zamzar wisely for personal use.

KeepVid http://www.keepvid.com

Everyone who uses YouTube probably has also asked this question: “How can I download a YouTube video?” Zamzar can convert videos for you, but you lose a lot of quality doing so. Fortunately, there’s KeepVid.

Just like Zamzar, KeepVid is free and it’s all online: no software download required! But it is a little different. The best way to describe it would be through an example…

KeepVid gives you a lot of options for downloading your converted video. The quality they provide is second-to-none.

Let’s say your creating a PointPoint for a project. You find a video on YouTube that’s perfect for your project. But you don’t want to plop a URL on a slide because that takes you out of the presentation and onto YouTube through a web browser. It’s just not streamlined. KeepVid can help you easily put that video right onto your slide, and you won’t even need access to the internet to play it!

First: keepvid.com. Next, copy the URL from the video and paste it in the bar. Click ‘download.’ (The button doesn’t actually download the video right away; it “converts” it). Note that you will have to run a Java aplet; acccept the pop-up. It won’t eat your computer or anything.

In a few seconds, your results will appear. Under the title of the video and a thumbnail, you get a small list of formats to download in (such as .flv and .mp4). I personally find .mp4 the most accessible. And what’s great about KeepVid is that you lose not quality whatsoever! If the video is available for 1080p HD on YouTube, you’ll have the options to download the video in either 360p, 480p, 720p, or 1080p. Super useful.

And, I promise for the last time, a disclaimer: Don’t steal videos without crediting the creator! And downloading music videos and stuff like that is bad, so yeah.

So there you have it. Perhaps you already knew of these sites, but most likely you didn’t. Use them! I certainly do. They’re free and available to everyone.

And be sure to leave me a comment telling me what you think! Are any of these sites useful to you?

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7 thoughts on “Useful Websites Nobody Knows About

    1. Hey Pamela! I checked out the page and it seems like it should be able to convert youtube videos to mp3 format. But, it isn’t entirely free. You can download a free demo, but once that trial expires, you’ll have to purchase the product license in order continue using it. Doesn’t sound like the way to go since you could do the same thing on Zamzar as I suggested for free. Hope this helps!

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