The best of the internet's free websites and online services can help organise everything from your workload to your weekend. And we've collated the 50 best free tools on the web for UK users.

Your web browser could well be the most useful – possibly even the most powerful – element of your computer. Despite the promises of chip makers and PC manufacturers, a web application such as Googlemail, running on a massive server farm thousands of miles away, can often be faster and more reliable than the best client-based program.

Developers are pushing browsers by creating even better online alternatives to desktop applications, ranging from spreadsheets to instant-messaging clients to full-blown operating systems.

However, remotely storing data raises privacy and security concerns; web applications that rely on JavaScript are ripe targets for hackers. Browsers still struggle to mimic desktop-application interfaces, and we've yet to see a web app that features an 'application mode' allowing it to appear on your desktop instead of in a browser window, lurking among 10 other windows.

But innovative and genuinely useful web services are blooming across the internet. Google is probably the best known web-application company – and it's snapped up some of the most promising tools on the net. But a Google badge isn't always indicative of the best tool of its type.

See also: The week's best cool internet tools

We've tried out a vast number of internet tools – from online office suites and applications to help you get organised, to sites that exist to recommend places, services and other sites. Some of these online applications are shining examples of exactly what's now possible online, while others are less successful but nonetheless a great indication of where the brave new web is bound.

We'll let you know which ones we rate (and why) and suggest alternatives
to some of the better-known online tools. We've also researched and assembled a collection of useful desktop widgets – small desktop applications that pull data from websites.

Quick links

Best online word processors

Best online bookmark managers and password managers

Best online instant-messaging services and answer sites

Best online to-do lists and video aggregation websites

Best online mashups and user review sites

Best webmail services, online operating systems and desktop widgets

Get the latest broadband internet news, reviews, downloads and tutorials at PC Advisor's Broadband Advisor website

See also, Office 2007 alternative: best free online office software