Five Websites that Will Make You (Look) Smarter

I’m a glutton for “little tricks.” There’s something really satisfying about accomplishing things more efficiently without spending money or sacrificing quality. And while I should probably pay more attention to all those unorthodox storage solutions on my mom’s Pinterest, my favorite little tricks come in the form of online tools.

Here are five of my preferred websites for saving time, saving face, and saving brain-space:

1. Copy Paste Character


When you don’t have every keyboard shortcut memorized and autocorrect isn’t on your side, you need Copy Paste Character. Every accented letter or symbol you require is housed here, and one click copies the character in question to your clipboard for emails, tweets, and more.

Behold the power of using × instead of x when multiplication is implied! And now you have easy access to everyone’s favorite punctuation mark: ‽, the interrobang. Whether you’re in the market for foreign currency symbols or fancy little snowmen, Copy Paste Character has you covered.

2. Ninjawords


Tired of ninjas’ cultural ubiquity? Hold your exasperation while I tell you about Ninjawords, the fastest dictionary this side of anywhere.

Ninjawords is optimized to return a definition as soon as you hit enter. That means no more pretending you know what that word that person just used means — you will know. Immediately.

Ninjawords won’t give you a term’s archaic definitions or its linguistic origins, but it won’t bog you down with ads either. Plus, you can look up multiple words at once and save a page full of definitions. It’s plump full of win.

3. Color Scheme Designer


Hey, who needs color theory when you have the internet? …Okay, we still need color theory, but for the people without the eye or the training, there’s Color Scheme Designer (CSD).

CSD can help you create color combinations that look mighty fine. Pick a random base color from the wheel or use known RGB values to generate a bunch of “friendly” colors to use. I’ll warn you now, though—once you start playing with all the presets and sliders you may never stop.

CSD can help you out the next time you make personal business cards, change up your Twitter design settings, or have to design a flyer or Eventbrite page with colors that complement your organization’s logo (assuming you have a little wiggle room with your organization’s brand guidelines).

4. Clipped


Clipped analyzes text grammatically to extract the most important information from an article. Now, when you’ve encountered a gargantuan wall of text, instead of releasing a dramatic sigh and thinking ‘Never mind,’ you can get three bullet points on it and know whether it’s worth it to read on.

The intended purpose of Clipped is to give users a cliffs notes version of the text in question, but it’s not quite there yet. Its statistical, graphical, and magical algorithm seems to zero in on numbers and dates.  But, every now and then, the website’s extension just decides that it can’t find any passages worth highlighting. Right now, I’m treating it not as an alternative to reading, but as a loaded dice roll on whether I should carry on with reading an article once I have too many tabs open.

It has a little ways to go, but I hope that by the end of 2013 Clipped will be killing it.

5. Google Guide


Google Guide is an online interactive tutorial and reference site for novices, experienced Googlers, and everyone in between. Nancy Blachman (bless her heart) developed this guide because she wanted to know more about Google’s capabilities. And boy oh boy, Google is capable of a lot.

With the help of Google Guide, you’ll be crafting flawless queries in no time, using a litany of special search operators worthy of the most skilled B-movie hacker. The guide is more functional than fashionable, and all those lists and links can be a bit of a turn-off if you’re a visual person.Check out this Atlantic article for a primer and then, drunk with newfound power, head over to Google Guide to take your search engine skills to the max.

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite shortcuts with you, will you share some of yours in the comments? Fair’s fair.

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