The 25 Most Innovative Products of the Year by PC World – 2007

1. Google Gears

Innovation: Plug-in lets Web applications work offline.
Benefit: Tackles the single biggest hurdle to making Web apps truly convenient.
Imagine firing up only one application--a Web browser--for handling all of your daily computer tasks. It's a nice dream, but it has one major problem: What do you do when you're offline? Google Gears, a Windows application now in beta, solves this problem by allowing service designers to create versions that still work when your PC doesn't have an Internet connection. Google Reader, Zoho Writer(which added offline editing via Gears in late 2007), and online task manager Remember the Milk already use it, and Google is working to add Gears to other applications in its stable. (If you're thinking of ditching desktop software entirely, read one writer's take in "Life Without Desktop Software.")

9. Facebook API

Innovation: Platform lets anyone with a good idea and some coding chops add real value to Facebook.
Benefit: Facebook taps developers' creativity, in turn permitting Facebook users to customize their pages.
Sure, the killer app of Facebook has not been written yet--and many of the ones that exist now are kind of silly. But Facebook has been on a roll in more ways than one, having led to the creation of the Google-backed OpenSocial, which looks likely to result in open platforms' becoming widespread. Common ground should spark lots of creativity, and it should keep the social networking and media buzz alive

17. Zoho Notebook

Innovation: Web-only app stores just about any kind of content and allows you to share it with anyone.
Benefit: More full-featured than competing online tools.
AdventNet's Zoho tools include everything from wiki software to customer relations management and project management applications, many of them free. Zoho Notebook(free, in public beta) continues the winning streak. You can enter text, graphics, audio, video, and embedded content from other sites onto your notebook's pages--or use the page as a single word processing document or spreadsheet. Put together everything on a certain subject, and you're ready to share your work with online compatriots.


Innovation: Web site aggregates your financial account transaction data, alerting you to any unusual activity or to a rapidly dwindling balance.
Benefit: Takes most of the work out of keeping on top of your money.
Signing up for Mintrequires a leap of faith--you must give the site the numbers and passwords for your bank and credit card accounts. But once you do, it acts as your personal-finance lackey. Mint downloads your latest transactions for all accounts and does its best to categorize them. You decide when you want to receive an alert, such as for when a bill is due, a big purchase appears on your credit card, or you just got a nice, fat deposit.

21. Microsoft Popfly

Innovation: Lets you use Microsoft's Silverlightplatform to create Web mashups.
Benefit: Though Popfly is still in early beta, its operation is clearer and its display is more attractive than that of the similar Yahoo Pipes tool.
If you ever played with Legos as a kid, then you should be able to assemble a Web mashup in Microsoft's Popfly. No coding know-how needed--using Popfly is as simple as choosing content sources (such as pictures, video, or news feeds from various online sources) and connecting them to a display model (such as a video player, a dynamic box for text, or a game of whack-a-mole that pops up pictures, for instance). Voilà, you have your mashup. You can embed the resulting creation in a blog entry or Web page, or just share its URL so others can admire your work.


Innovation: Melds comprehensive search results more coherently than competing universal searches do.
Benefit: Proves that not every site needs to mimic Google, and that a venerable search engine company can do cool new stuff., a compete redesign of the former Ask Jeeves site, asks very little but gives a lot via its thoughtfully designed interface, including search suggestions as you type. With one query you can retrieve traditional search results as well as news, images, blogs, video, and more. Once you've searched, you can filter the results with useful suggestions to home in on just what you were looking for. The site is visually minimalist, but you can skin it for a new look. If privacy is a concern, AskEraser wipes away private data that search engines typically store.

24. eXpresso

Innovation: Allows Excel users to share their spreadsheets, online or off.
Benefit: Melds the best of traditional office software and Web-based services.
eXpresso($80 per seat per year) adds a new twist to Web applications, offering both Web-based sharing in a standard format and tight integration with the most familiar spreadsheet application, Microsoft's Excel. Users can share spreadsheets in real time using eXpresso's service, which also allows you to restrict some users' access to certain segments of a master spreadsheet. In a nutshell, eXpresso is delivering today what Microsoft has promised that its Office suite will do in the future.