Diana Botluk is an online legal information professional who lectures, teaches and writes about finding law-related information in an online environment. She is the author of The Legal List: Research on the Internet, and a columnist for Internet Law Researcher newsletter, with a column called Finding Information on the World Wide Web. She teaches basic, advanced and online legal research at the University of Maryland, and Internet classes at CAPCON Library Network. She has lectured at many professional conferences, is actively involved in the Law Librarians Society of D.C. and the American Association of Law Libraries. She is a reference librarian at Catholic University Law School, where she earned her J.D. in 1984.
(Archived January 1, 1999)
In this season of gift giving, the World Wide Web provides a place where smart researchers can find some interesting useful gifts for themselves, as long as they know where to look. Many freebies exist on the Web in the form of software and computerized services. Take a look at some of the interesting products, services and other items available for free on the Web.
Organizers & Reminder Services
Face it. Busy professionals need to be nudged every now and then (or, if you're like me, it's a little more often than that). The free reminder services that are popping up on the Web are some of the most useful freebies to be found out there. Some of them send reminders of events to a specified e-mail address. Others provide interactive calendars right on the Web where you can make appointments, enter to-do lists and receive reminders, all usable from anywhere you have Web access. For descriptions of many of the online reminder services available, visit The Free Site.
Web Page Space
For those who want to dabble in development of personal Web pages without paying extra for the space, there are a few spots online that provide free space. In exchange for the free space, advertisements will pop up on the screen whenever your personal page is visited. Try some of these for free space: GeoCities, Angelfire, or Tripod.
Electronic Greeting Cards
Send your holiday cards through cyberspace and save a tree, not to mention the money you would spend on the cards and postage. The fact that free electronic cards exist on the Web is no great revelation. But the one I like best is E-Cards. Not only can you send free e-cards, but a donation is given to the World Wildlife Fund every time a card is sent. Also, check MessageMates for some cool animated greetings, including a version of the dancing baby.
It makes sense that some of the most valuable products you can find for free on the Internet would come in the form of computer programs, free, instantly downloadable, and yours for the taking. ZDNet has long been a leader in linking to sites that provide programs. Just about every type of program you can imagine is listed at ZDNet, which links to all kinds of downloadable programs, whether or not you have to pay for them. ZDNet makes it easy, though, to find the most popular free stuff. It provides a list of the fifty most popular free downloads, describes and rates them, and lets you see how many people have downloaded them. Find the Budweiser frogs screen saver here for free.
Online Computer Tune-Up
WinTune 98 is a free service that checks the performance of your computer by clicking through a series of Web pages. Problems with performance or configuration are described on the pages immediately. This service is available only to Internet Explorer users.
Spice up your Web page with 3D photos. 3D 4 FREE will turn your photos into 3D images for free. Simply submit your .jpg, .bmp, or .gif image at the Web site. The image will be transformed into 3D within a few days...sometimes even sooner! Warning: you have to supply your own 3D glasses!
The text of many classic books are available online in electronic text. The On-Line Books Page helps to locate the text of over 8000 books online by title, author, subject or keyword searching. Additionally, a researcher can read through the full text of classic historical documents at Yale Law School's Avalon Project.
At first glance this might not seem like a free offer, but if you're going to spend time surfing the Web, you might as well get paid for it. Volition has pulled together a list of places on the Web where you can register to earn cash or points toward gifts for surfing the Web, checking ads, reading e-mail, and more. It also links to several market research sites that pay you to fill out online surveys.
Webcelerator is free downloadable software that speeds up Web browsing. Advertiser supported, this acceleration software combines several methods to optimize your Web browsing speed, making it seem as if you've got a connection that's faster than it really is.
Some of the most valuable information an online researcher can gather will be from a free online newsletter. LLRX - 'nuff said?
Where might you begin when looking for freebies on the Web? Lots of Web sites pull together free and discount offers for Web visitors to explore. Lists of these freebie sites can be found through regular research channels at places like Yahoo! or Lycos. But an interesting site is one that a researcher might consider a gift in and of itself because of the valuable access to online reference information it provides. My Virtual Reference Desk has dozens of categories pulling together the Web's best resources for serious researchers.
One of the lists it provides is a list of over 230 freebie sites, but that is just a small part of it. My Virtual Reference Desk has scoured the Web to see what is available for online researchers, and pulled the sites to gather into one convenient place from which to start. This site will lead you to online dictionaries of all languages, calendars, maps, news resources, quotation books, encyclopedias, currency converters and anything else a researcher might imagine finding in the library reference room. This whole site is a gift in and of itself to anyone who does online research.
The Free Site is like a Yahoo! for free stuff. It is a directory of sites that provide freebies on the Web. Each site listed at The Free Site has a link and a short description of why the site is useful. There are many categories to browse through, such as free utilities, free fonts, and free java. All sorts of interesting free items can be linked to from here, from free Power Point templates, to free birth announcements, to free space on the Web that can be set up to be used by families or other groups, and includes personal Web pages, calendars, and discussion board space.