TIME Gadgets

5 Must-Have Hands-Free Kitchen Appliances

I’m really not a germaphobe, but something happens to me when I cut and cook raw chicken.

My husband says I become obsessive: I refuse to touch the sink handle without a paper towel in my hand, and I don’t want to grab a paper towel and touch the top of the dispenser without washing my hands first — but I can’t do that without holding the bottle of soap with chicken-laden hands.

You get the picture. It’s not pretty.

Lucky for me, touch-free devices can help get me through my somewhat obsessive behavior, from the garbage pail to the kitchen sink.

Moen MotionSense Faucet

moen-hands-free-faucet
Moen

Moen’s MotionSense faucets let me wash my hands without ever touching the faucet or handle. Thanks to advanced motion sensors, I can wave my drippy chicken-hands to start the water flowing at a preset temperature.

Four styles of Moen kitchen faucets are available with MotionSense technology. Moen provided a review sample of the Brantford faucet for me to try. It looks just like a regular kitchen faucet, only it requires a little more installation work under the sink, as well as a battery pack that holds six AAA batteries. Moen says the batteries should last for about a year, and an LED light lets you know when it’s time to change.

Once the faucet is installed, which an experienced DIYer can do in less than two hours, the Wave Sensor lets you simply wave your hand above the faucet to turn the water on or off. Not only does this stop the spread of germs, but it’s a convenient way to fill large pots with water. Set the pot in the sink while it fills; when it’s full, just wave your hand to turn the water off. Lest you worry you’ll accidentally wave your hand over the faucet before walking away for the day, an auto shutoff mode stops the water after it’s been running for two minutes.

The other way to activate the flow of water is the Ready Sensor, which is located on the front of the faucet near the base. Just like moving your hands in front of a sink sensor in a restaurant bathroom, holding your hand, cup or pot under the faucet tells the sensor to turn on. Take away your hand or pot, and the water turns off again. This is particularly useful when your hands are dirty from cooking dinner.

Of course, you can use the handle to adjust water flow and temperature as you would ordinarily, and like many other faucets, there’s a pull-down spray spout for rinsing the sink. Wash the faucet as you would any other polished surface; in fact, there’s a guest/cleaning mode that turns off the sensors when you have company or are cleaning the sink.

Moen isn’t the only company to make hands-free faucets, but it offers the largest selection of attractive kitchen faucets. On average, adding MotionSense to the price of a faucet adds from $150 to $200 to the cost. MotionSense faucets are available in chrome, oil-rubbed bronze and spot-resist stainless finishes, which Moen says resists water spots and fingerprints.

Price: From $510 at Amazon, $660 (varies by model) from moen.com

Simplehuman Sensor Pump With Caddy

simplehuman-soap-sensor-with-caddy
Simplehuman

Simplehuman calls its products “tools for efficient living,” and I can think of nothing more efficient than holding a sponge or my hand under a dispenser for a preset amount of soap without having to touch the dispenser or shake a tube of gel. While there are other automated soap dispensers on the market, this one includes a brushed nickel, removable caddy for the dish sponge so it stays put rather than getting buried under a pile of dirty dishes at the bottom of the sink.

I particularly like the “volume control” that lets me set how much liquid I want dispensed, so I won’t get a huge glob when all I really want is a little dab. The sensor (powered by four AA batteries) on the front easily senses my sponge, my hand or even a utensil, and since the sponge is stored on the side, I don’t get accidental drips on my hand. The sensor can be turned off for cleaning, and the caddy comes off for easy cleaning.

Most of the Amazon comments I read about this product are quite positive, with a few complaints about drips. There’s a flexible silicon valve that opens to dispense the liquid and closes immediately to create a seal, so there are no drips. It seems to be working well for me so far, and I’m enjoying the attractive, touch-free design. (One additional note about consumer complaints: Simplehuman seems to get very high marks for its customer service. Every commenter with an issue or defective device said it was immediately replaced by the company.)

Price: $48.98 at Amazon and $50 at simplehuman.com

Simplehuman Tension Arm Paper Towel Holder

simplehuman-tension-paper-towel-holder
Simplehuman

Whether you use an under-cabinet paper towel dispenser or prefer something that stands on your counter, sometimes you need to grab a paper towel with one hand. A quick scan of Amazon brings up dozens of different types of touch-free dispensers, ranging from $50 to $150 for a battery-operated device, but I settled on the $25 Simplehuman Tension Arm Paper Towel Holder.

It looks quite similar to the countertop stainless steel dispenser I currently use, but the variable tension arm on the side holds the towels in place so I can easily tear off one sheet at a time without ever touching the top of the stand. Even better, I no longer have to unscrew the finial to remove the old roll and replace it with a new one.

The stainless steel base is weighted so that it stands its ground as you pull your towel. There’s a finger loop for picking up the dispenser and moving it around.

Price: $25 at Amazon and simplehuman.com

Clean Cut Touchless Paper Towel Dispenser

If you prefer the under-cabinet style and aren’t limited by budget, the Clean Cut Touchless Paper Towel Dispenser is great high-tech option. It uses LED Breaking Beam technology so you control how much towel you want, and cuts it to any length even if you’re using a pre-perforated brand. The longer you hold your hand up to break the beam, the longer the length you’ll get. When you remove your hand, you activate the cutter and the towel is dispensed for you—all without you having to touch anything.

The company says installation should take about 15 minutes. And since it requires an AC adapter for power, you will need to mount it somewhat close to an outlet.

Price: $125.66 at Amazon

Simplehuman Rectangular Sensor Can

simplehuman-sensor-can
Simplehuman

Since most of my kitchen appliances are stainless steel, my effort to find the right touch-free garbage pail led me right back to Simplehuman. Its 55-liter Sensor Can is exactly the right size for my kitchen, with a huge capacity, and it opens automatically with just a wave of my hand.

Since I placed my sample in a high-traffic area of the kitchen, I worried that it would open every time someone walked by. It turns out this can is pretty smart and, for the most part, can detect the difference between a hand that’s passing by and a hand that’s waving. The trigger zone is right above the lid, so you won’t get many accidental opens, though if your hand swings directly over it as you walk by, the lid will open.

Once the lid is open, the trigger zone can sense when your hands are nearby; scraping a plate or peeling a carrot will keep it from closing before you’re done. A “stay-open” mode lets you choose to keep the lid open for a longer period of time.

The only downside to this can is the sound it makes when it opens and closes; it kinds of whooshes as it opens and make a wubba-wubba sound as it closes. That could definitely be quieter.

The can runs on six C batteries, which are estimated to last a year (there’s an optional $30 power adapter), and an integrated charcoal filter in the lid absorbs odors. I like the design and the rectangular shape of this garbage can: It fits up against the wall and takes up less space than a round can, and the fingerprint-proof stainless steel outside is a nice touch, so to speak. The inner can comes out for easy cleaning, and you can use trash bags to line it.

Price: $175 at Amazon and $250 at simplehuman.com

Neato Robotics BotVac

neato-botvac-purple
Neato

While we’re talking about hands-free kitchen conveniences, if you don’t have a robotic vacuum, it may be time to consider getting one for their convenience and smart scheduling. There are a few different brands on the market that roam your house in search of dust bunnies and pet hair; some work better than others on carpets and getting past fringe.

I primarily use a bot vac for my kitchen floor and the hardwood floors on the first floor of my home. The Neato Robotics BotVac does a great job of picking up the dirt and crumbs I would ordinarily have to sweep up and then collect with a dust pan or vacuum. That’s because it has powerful suction capabilities, like an ordinary vacuum. Other robotic vacuums use a sweeping technology, making them better suited for thicker carpets.

Neato uses a technology-laser-guided navigation system that first scans and then maps the room. That way, the unit is armed with a plan of attack for maneuvering around kitchen stools and the center island. If it runs out of battery power while cleaning, the BotVac returns to its base for recharging and then goes back to where it left off to complete the job. I can set a schedule for when I want it to run — say, once I’ve gone upstairs for the night — and know that in the morning, the kitchen floor will be clean and the BotVac will be back where it belongs. For big messes, I can always push a button to turn it on and start the job immediately.

The BotVac series varies in price depending on which types of brushes, blades and filter options you prefer. There’s one designed specifically for picking up pet hair that CNET gave a four-star rating, choosing it over the Roomba. “In almost every situation we threw at it, the Neato picked up more debris than the competition, often in significantly less time,” CNET reported. “It’s an efficient, powerful little machine, and its laser-guided navigation system is one of the smartest you’ll find in any robot vacuum.” CNET also noted “The BotVac also did much better on the pet hair test, making it ultimately more recommendable that iRobot’s Roomba 870.”

Sure, I can use a vacuum like the portable Dyson, but for the same price, I get a vacuum that runs when I want it to whether I’m there or not, and I don’t have to touch it — except, of course, to empty the dust bin.

Price: From $429 at Amazon and from $479 at neatorobotics.com

If you’re looking for more kitchen gadgets, check out Techlicious’ kitchen picks for healthy living and the future of kitchen tech.

This article was written by Andrea Smith and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

Hands On with the Unique Sprint Aquos Crystal Smartphone from Sharp

K.T. Bradford / Techlicious

Recently, Sharp became the latest multi-faceted electronics company to get into the American smartphone game. In conjunction with Sprint, it launched the Aquos Crystal phone, a 5-inch, bezel-less Android handheld that will be available both as a contract phone and a pre-paid option for Virgin and Boost Mobile customers.

The Aquos Crystal is undoubtedly a flagship phone, but it will be available at a budget phone price. Sprint customers can get it for $19.99 with a two year contract, $0 down and $10 per month on Sprint’s Easy Pay, or $149 outright on Boost and Virgin. That price makes the phone, which already has an impressive standout feature, even more attractive.

The bezel around smartphone screens has gotten smaller and smaller each month as makers try to fit in large displays without making the phones themselves larger. Sharp found a way to eliminate the bezel on three sides, leaving just a small chin at the bottom. The edge-to-edge display is visually pleasing and a little jarring. My eyes kept expecting to see a small border around content–nope, just air. That’s pretty awesome.

This, plus the overall design, gives the Aquos Crystal an air of refinement not often found in low-cost phones. It’s not the thinnest or lightest smartphone available, but it doesn’t need to be. More importantly, the lack of bezel makes it narrower than other phones with similar-sized displays, something that will appeal to people who prefer to use just one hand. The back is curved just enough for a comfortable and secure hold when doing so.

The top bezel is usually where you’d find the earpiece and front-facing camera. On the Aquos Crystal the entire screen acts as a speaker, so wherever you put your ear you can hear the caller. You’ll also hear really good quality sound as the phone includes HD Voice technology.

The main speaker is on the back and is helped along by Harmon/Kardon’s Clarifi, which also made an appearance in a special-edition HTC One M8. You can’t expect the same high level of sound quality you get on that phone with the setup here, of course. It may mean you won’t need a separate MP3 player.

sprint-aquos-crystal-back
K.T. Bradford / Techlicious

As for the front-facing camera, it sits on the bottom. While this doesn’t seem ideal for selfies, the camera app prompts you to turn the phone upside down before you take them.

Once you get into specs, it becomes clearer why this phone is only $149. The display has a 720p resolution–HD but not ultra high-res. The quad-core processor is backed by just 1.5GB of RAM and inside there’s only 8GB of internal storage (much of which will be taken up by the operating system and pre-loaded apps). Adding a microSD card will give you extra room for pictures, music, video, and other files, but since Android 4.4 puts a ton of limitations on moving apps there, that’s not helpful when apps are taking up a lot of space.

Speaking of Android: Sharp didn’t put a skin/different interface over the OS, so you get a mostly stock experience. There are quite a few Sprint apps and other pre-loaded software, which wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t taking up limited space.

Aside from that issue, the Aquos Crystal from Sharp is a very desirable phone at a very desirable price. It’s worth checking out, especially if you’re going with one of the pre-paid options.

This article was written by K.T. Bradford and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME apps

The Top 25 Smartphone Apps, Revealed

Digital analytics firm comScore recently released a list of the top 25 mobile apps in the United States, each based on the number of unique users over a one-month period this June. Did your favorites make the list?

According to the report, the top app in the United States is Facebook by far – 115.4 million people over the age of 18 used the social networking app in June. YouTube comes in second with 83.4 million unique users, followed by Google Play, Google Search and streaming music app Pandora. The full top 25 list is as follows:

1. Facebook (115.4 million)

Check out Comprehensive Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings as well as the 5 Biggest Facebook Mistakes and How to Fix Them.

2. YouTube (83.4 million)

Find out How to Discover What’s Hot on YouTube, 6 Great YouTube Channels for the Latest News, 8 World-Class College Courses Free on YouTube, and more about YouTube’s new music subscription service.

3. Google Play (72.2 million)

This is the Android app store that comes preinstalled on every Android phone.

4. Google Search (70.2 million)

Get the most out of search with 11 Google Search Tips Everyone Should Know and How to Use Your Smartphone Camera to Search.

5. Pandora (69 million)

While Pandora is the most popular music stream app, there are many others with different features you should consider.

6. Google Maps (64.5 million)

The indisputable king of online mapping apps, Google Maps is constantly being updated. Just in this year, it added functionality that allows you to save maps for offline use, hail an Uber ride and measure aerial distances..

7. Gmail (60.3 million)

If you check your smartphone all the time for important emails, check out How To Never Miss an Important Email as well as 5 Tips for Getting More out of Gmail.

8. Instagram (46.6 million)

This image sharing app has the bells and whistles that keeps social photographers clicking away. Now you can even post video.

9. Apple Maps (42.1 million)

This comes standard on iPhones now, but is still far inferior to Google Maps.

10. Yahoo Stocks (42.1 million)

Again, standard on many phones.

11. iTunes Radio/iCloud (40.5 million)

Standard.

12. Facebook Messenger (39.2 million)

This one is now required to use Facebook chat, but on the upside, you can make free voice calls with it.

13. Yahoo Weather Widget (36.1 million)

Standard app for many Android phones. Consider these top-rated competitors.

14. Twitter (34.7 million)

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced user, you can’t be a part of today’s social media scene without Twitter.

15. The Weather Channel (30 million)

See #13.

16. Google+ (28.8 million)

Google’s attempt at a social media service hasn’t done very well, but it still comes standard on many phones.

17. Netflix (27.6 million)

Great for streaming a full season of Orange Is the New Black, but be careful only to watch when connected to Wi-Fi otherwise you’ll eat through your data plan in no time.

18. Snapchat (26.5 million)

This photo sharing app that destroys the image shortly after sending has become an enormous hit among teens.

19. Amazon Mobile (26.5 million)

Many people don’t know the best feature of this app: You can order a product simply by taking a snapshot of it with your phone.

20. Pinterest (24.6 million)

This moodboarding service is a great way to find inspiration, recipes and more.

21. eBay (22.2 million)

While eBay is a great way to unload your used goods, remember to change your password.

22. Skype (18.8 million)

The popular video chat service is always improving. Group video calls are now free and real-time speech translation is coming by the end of the year. It’s also a great way to get free messaging.

23. Shazam (18.4 million)

A popular music recognition service. Check out #5 for listening and discovery options.

24. Yahoo Mail (17.6 million)

Standard for many phones; #7 has more resources for you.

25. Kik Messenger (17.2 million)

A popular messaging app that younger users have flocked to.

As you can see, there are a large number of Google apps on the list, thanks in part to so many of them being built in to Android phones by default. Social networking is big, too – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ all make the list.

Obviously, because the above list is constructed based on user numbers, there are a ton of great apps worth downloading that aren’t in the top 25. You can take a look at picks for the best mobile apps by checking out Techlicious’ top 10 free Android apps and top 10 free iPhone apps.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME How-To

Manage What Happens to Your Online Accounts After You Die

computer keys
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Consider the size of your online presence—your Facebook account, which details your daily life and personal history; your email account, which contains a wealth of your personal and business communications; photos, music and documents you have stored in the cloud; online banking accounts and records; frequent flier miles and more.

What happens to all this stuff when you die?

Will heirs be able to access your accounts to manage your affairs or do you want to prevent them from snooping around in virtual territory you want kept private? Will your accounts simply evaporate over time or will your Facebook page still be up long after you’re gone?

While some people don’t care, others find the idea of their digital assets outliving them disconcerting. Creating a digital will helps you determine which accounts survive and which you take to your grave.

How to Create a Digital Will

The U.S. government wrote a blog post about this very topic and suggested that people create social media wills that spell out how their online identities are to be handled after death. To do it, you should:

  1. Appoint someone as an online executor. Because you’ll be leaving this person with the keys to your digital kingdom, this person should be someone who is willing to put in the time and effort to close or memorialize your accounts, capable of protecting your sensitive information from identity thieves or snoopers, tech-savvy enough to be able to make changes to your accounts and trustworthy to carry out your wishes.
  2. State in a formal document how you want your profiles and accounts to be handled. For example, do you want your email account deleted without anyone reading your messages? Do you want your Facebook account deactivated or would you rather have your Timeline memorialized (meaning only friends can see your page and leave posts in remembrance)?
  3. Understand the privacy policies of each website with which you’re associated. You should know that unless you leave your online executor your passwords, there might not be much he or she can do. Google, for example, won’t let anyone into your email account without that person putting forth an application and undergoing a formal and lengthy process and, even then, he or she might not get in. Same goes with Facebook.
  4. Provide your online executor a list of all the websites and login credentials for which you want he or she to take action. If someone makes changes to your account by pretending to be you it may violate a website’s terms of service, but legally your designation of an online executor is akin to granting a limited power of attorney.
  5. State in your will that the online executor should have a copy of your death certificate. This may help him or her take action on your behalf with various websites and accounts.

Working With Your Lawyer On a Digital Will

Julie Min Chayet, managing director and trust counsel for Fiduciary Trust Company International in New York City, says the idea of a digital will hasn’t become mainstream. However, clients do ask attorneys to include all sorts of requests in their Last Will and Testament, so requesting that someone clean up a digital footprint online is perfectly acceptable and recommended.

Chayet says the executor named in your Last Will and Testament has to settle all matters relating to one’s life—financial or otherwise—and you can specify that this person also should handle your online accounts.

“From a legal standpoint, the responsibilities of a court appointed executor or administrator include shutting down digital assets and accounts. It’s just important to be clear about what needs to be done with information and for the not-too-tech-savvy executor it is important to be explicit about next steps,” she says.

For example, you could leave a written statement to be posted on your Facebook account.

“It’s comparable to someone planning his or her own funeral down to every last detail of choosing the burial site, the music to be played, clothing to be worn, flowers displayed, poems or readings to be read and food to be served,” Chayet says. “Settling an estate is incredibly stressful and emotional. Being prepared will only help your loved ones in every aspect of their mourning.”

Websites That Can Help

While you can certainly keep your digital asset information on paper to be handed over to your online executor once you die, the reality is passwords frequently change and keeping an up-to-date paper list can be a pain. Instead, many password management websites offer features that will turn your digital assets over to others at the appropriate time.

Password Box’s Legacy Locker feature lets you identify your online assets and login credentials as well as “verifiers”—people you trust to handle your online accounts after your death. Once you have passed away, your verifiers must contact Password Box, confirm their identities and the website transfers your account information to them as well as any letters you may have left at the site for family, friends or colleagues.

Price: The first 25 saved passwords are free. Additional password slots can be purchased for $12/year.

SecureSafe is similar to Legacy Locker, but adds various amounts of file storage along with password management and transfer to beneficiaries.

Price: Several pricing and storage tiers are available, starting with a free account that gives you 50 password slots and 10 megabyes of storage.

This article was written by Christina DesMarais and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME How-To

5 of the Biggest Facebook Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

Facebook
Andrew Harrer -- Bloomberg / Getty Images

The world’s biggest social network turned 10 this year. With 57% of the American population — and 73% of teenagers — among its user base, Facebook has morphed from a way for college undergrads to communicate to a multi-tentacled service that has become an integral part of our everyday lives, from connecting us with long-lost friends to serving as the Internet’s de facto photo-sharing service to doubling as a universal login to thousands of sites and apps across the Internet.

But with regular introductions of privacy-flouting new features and different sets of etiquette for connecting with colleagues, friends and family, it can be all too easy to make a Facebook misstep that sends the wrong message into the world.

Below are five of the most-common Facebook faux pas – and how to avoid them.

1. Not putting a professional face forward

If you haven’t been keeping an eye on your privacy settings, photos and posts intended for friends can end up on your boss’s newsfeed. A CareerBuilder study found that nearly 39% of employers use social media to screen job candidates, and a 2012 report from technology research company Gartner predicted that by 2015, 60% of employers will be monitoring employees on social networks.

If your boss is your Facebook friend, you can prevent them from seeing what you post by going to Settings > Privacy > “Who can see my future posts,” selecting “Custom” from the dropdown menu and adding their names. To keep them from seeing posts and photos you’re tagged in, go to Settings > Timeline and tagging > “Who can see things on my timeline,” select Custom from the dropdown menu and add their names.

If your boss or potential employer isn’t your Facebook friend, simply go to Settings > Privacy then select “Friends only” as the audience for “Who can see my future posts” and “Limit past posts.” On the same page, you can also edit who can look you up — public, friends of friends, or friends only — and disable Google and other search engines from linking to your Facebook profile.

Finally, you can create a Restricted list — anyone on this list can only see the information and posts you make public. This can be an effective way to avoid looking suspiciously absent from Facebook, without giving up too much information. Head to Settings > Blocking, and edit “Restricted List.”

In all cases, if you and your boss have mutual friends, he or she will still be able to view any posts or photos you may be tagged in with those friends.

2. Oversharing, oversharing, oversharing

We’ve all done it, but now there’s proof that oversharing is the easiest way to get unfriended on Facebook. A study by Christopher Sibona at the University of Colorado Denver found that the top four reasons people delete friends are because their posts are frequent or trivial posts, polarizing, inappropriate or too mundane.

“Share things that are meaningful, witty, newsy or interesting — and be discriminating in how often you post on Facebook,” recommends Jessica Kleiman, a communications specialist and co-author of the book Be Your Own Best Publicist.

Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an audience for that polemic on national politics (or what you had for breakfast). If there are particular people you think would appreciate more controversial — or more mundane — statuses, you can customize the audience for individual posts. Below the status box, click the tab next to “Post” and select Custom to bring up options for “Who Should See This?”. You can then select a specific audience such as Close Friends, or a custom list (if you made one), say for your sports league. You can also select Custom and manually enter friends that can or can’t view the post. You can make this setting your default to avoid future oversharing.

However, Kleiman cautions, “Even if you use filters on Facebook to keep your posts only visible by ‘friends,’ one of your 850 closest friends online is probably friends with someone you wouldn’t want to see that post.”

3. Allowing Facebook apps to overshare for you

Along with posts about that ham and cheese toastie you were eating, oversharing may take the form of posts by apps you’ve linked to Facebook.

Privacy protection company Secure.me found that 63% of apps request the ability to post on the user’s behalf. While giving this permission may allow your info to be shared where it shouldn’t, more irking is the fact that, say, Spotify can post what ‘80s pop ballad you’re listening to, or Candy Crush Saga can update all your friends on your progress.

You can allow or disallow third-party apps to post to Facebook when signing up, but if you didn’t do that, you can edit all permissions from a single page. Select Activity Log from the top right dropdown menu on your profile or news feed, then All Apps (on the left) to view posts made by apps.

To prevent individual apps from posting, hit More (under All Apps), scroll to the offending app, then click the top-right arrow to customize where the app can post to on your behalf — certain friends, all friends, or not at all. You can also tweak the audience for each post by clicking its lock icon. Click the neighboring pen icon to remove the post from your Timeline, mark it as spam or delete the app from your Facebook profile entirely.

4. Allowing others to post content about you that you don’t like

A Pew Research Center survey found that one of the aspects users most disliked about Facebook was that friends can post personal content, such as photos, about a user without his or her permission.

If you’ve been tagged in an unflattering photo, you can remove the tag by clicking on the photo, hovering over its base, and selecting Options / Remove Tag, so that the picture will not turn up in “Photos of You.” To stop it from appearing on your profile page, you must separately toggle “Allow on Timeline” to “Hide from Timeline” in the top-right of the window. However, the photo can still be viewed in other people’s News Feeds and the poster’s albums page, so if you abhor the picture, contact your so-called friend and ask them to take it down.

You can also disable certain — or all — people from posting on your Timeline. Go to Settings > Timeline and Tagging > “Who can add things to my timeline” and select “Only Me.” *(Friends will still be able to view your Timeline.)

To block particular people, head to Settings > Blocking, and add the names to the Restricted list. Then go to Settings > Timeline and Tagging > “Who can add things to my Timeline,” and select “Friends.” Friends on the restricted list won’t be able to post on your Timeline, or view it unless you have set it to be public.

5. Being resigned to a boring news feed

Does it feel like you’re reading more and more posts from friends you don’t really care about? You’re probably not imagining it. In December, Facebook updated its News Feed algorithm to push up posts with links and push down memes. Links with more comments were also favored. Stories that show up are also influenced by which friends you interact with the most.

Meanwhile, a Stanford University study found that user posts that aren’t liked or commented on tend to be viewed by fewer people, so you may find that your college buddy’s engagement announcement floats to the top of your feed, while your best friend’s gripe about the cost of daycare is nowhere to be seen.

To get around this, head to your feed, click on “News Feed” in the top left, and toggle the option to show Most Recent instead of Top Stories. To ensure particular friends’ posts pop up on your feed, add them to your Close Friends list. On your news feed, scroll down the left-hand menu, hover over Friends and click More > Close friends, then add their names in the right-side text bar. Hit Manage List in the top right to select the particular types of updates you get — for example, photos and status updates, but not games or comments.

If someone’s status updates are getting on your nerves but you’re not quite ready to unfriend them, you can unsubscribe from their updates entirely by clicking in the top right of the offending status in your news feed, then selecting “Hide All.”

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

8 Things You Didn’t Know You Can Do with Your Smartphone

I use my smartphone every day, often in the first few minutes I wake up. It’s not because I’m addicted (ok, maybe I am a little bit addicted) – it’s because my phone is so darn useful. It tells me the weather. It helps me avoid and navigate around traffic jams. It helps me keep in touch with my friends.

Of course, you probably know all about that stuff. But your smartphone can do some pretty unusual things that you’ve probably never even considered. Here are some of the most amazing, out-there tasks your smartphone can help you conquer.

Diagnose a leaky window

flir-one-thermal-imaging-camera-longer-510px
FLIR

As a homeowner in the oft-frosty Northeast, I know how important it is to have tightly sealed windows in the wintertime. Finding leaky windows doesn’t just make my home more comfortable; it saves money on my electric bills.

How can you find these energy-wasting areas of your home? Simple: Turn your phone into a thermal imaging camera with the FLIR ONE add on. It fits onto your phone much like a Mophie Juice Pack does, and translates thermal energy into color images. It’ll show you where cold air is seeping into your house, where pipes need better insulation and even help locate overloaded circuits.

The FLIR ONE Personal Thermal Imager is compatible with both the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s. It’s available for purchase directly from FLIR.com for $349.

Measure your heart health

alive-cor-heart-monitor-case-350px
AliveCor

You don’t need to take a trip to an expensive hospital lab to get a detailed look at your heart health – there’s a smartphone app (and device) for that.

The AliveCor Heart Monitor rests on your chest or finger, converting electrical impulses from your body into a printable ECG graph. The included AliveECG app helps you understand if your ECG is normal, or if you have an issue you should consult a professional about. The device is no substitute for an expertly trained doctor, but if you’re concerned about your heart health, it makes a great supplement.

The AliveCor Heart Monitor is available as a stand-alone device or with a case for the iPhone 5/5S. Both are available for order at store.alivecor.com for $199.

Prevent drunk driving

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BACtrack

Imagine you’re at a house party with a couple close friends. You’ve all shared a glass or two of wine. You feel like you’re probably O.K. to drive, but it’d be far more responsible to know for sure.

That’s where the new Bluetooth BACtrack Vio Smartphone Breathlyzer comes in. The compact keychain device measures the alcohol present on your breath in just five seconds, wirelessly sending your BAC reading to your iOS or Android smartphone. An included app will predict how long it’ll take for your levels to return to 0%, helping you plan whether to call a cab or just “wait it out.”

The BACtrack Vio is available directly from BACtrack and at Amazon.com for just $49.99.

Watch over-the-air TV

Belkin

You may already know that your smartphone can connect to streaming video services like Hulu, allowing you to catch your favorite TV shows on the go. But did you know there’s a way to watch your favorite shows live, over-the-air? It’s possible with the Belkin Dyle.

The Dyle is a small antenna device that connects directly to your older iPhone or iPad’s charger port to receive over-the-air digital signals. It’s a great way to catch coverage of the big game while you’re sitting in the stands, pass time while riding the commuter rail or keep the kids busy in the car. Of course, for the device to work, you’ll need to be close to a major metropolitan area to pick up a quality signal.

The 30-pin Belkin Dyle is compatible with the iPhone 4/4S, iPad, iPad 2 and 3rd generation iPad. You can buy yours direct from Belkin or on Amazon.com for $29.99.

Measure your muscles

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Skulpt

As any health expert will tell you, your bathroom scale isn’t the best way to measure progress at the gym. Muscle weighs more than fat, so gaining the occasional pound or two can be a very good thing.

The Skulpt Aim helps you get a better handle on your fitness by tracking your body fat percentage and the muscle fiber size instead of your weight. It uses small electrodes to measure individual muscle groups and areas and relays the info to your phone, giving you an overall picture of where you’re making progress and where you’re not. The device even comes with an app that recommends exercises that are best for your body’s unique composition.

The Skulpt Aim works with both Android and iOS devices and is expected to start shipping in fall 2014. You can preorder yours at skulpt.me for $169.99, which includes free shipping.

Figure out why your check engine light is on

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Automatic

I own an older Honda Civic. It’s a great, reliable car. But now that it’s been in service for nearly a decade, seeing the check engine light come on is a fairly regular occurrence.

The good news: You and I don’t need to take our cars to an expensive mechanic just to get that light diagnosed – we can do it ourselves using our smartphones and a device like Automatic. It connects directly to your car’s onboard computer, turning check engine events into push alerts to your iOS and Android phone. If it’s a minor issue, you may be able to fix it and clear the light yourself, saving a trip to the shop.

Automatic also tracks your driving, giving you feedback on your acceleration and breaking habits that can help improve your gas mileage. It can even alert emergency authorities in case of a disabling crash.

Automatic is compatible with most gasoline cars sold in the U.S. since 1996. You can purchase the device directly from Amazon for $79.99.

Improve your basketball skills

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94Fifty

Are you looking to take your son or daughter’s basketball game to the next level? You could clear out the spare bedroom and spend some serious cash on a live-in NCAA-quality basketball coach. Or, you could save the six-figure expense and get a similar coaching experience from a smart basketball like the 94Fifty.

The 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball is a regulation size and weight ball that contains a tiny Bluetooth sensor that measures spin and bounce. It connects wirelessly to iOS and Android phones to offer real-time feedback during the included training exercises, helping to improve skills in the moment. It’s like having a real basketball coach with you at all times, even when you’re just shooting a few layups in the driveway.

The 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball is available in both men’s and women’s sizes on Amazon.com for $249.95.

Catch fish

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Friday Lab

Normally, a family camping trip would be a reason to leave the smartphone behind so you can better enjoy the great outdoors. But let’s face it, this is 2014. Modern technology can make everything better – even your time away from it on the lake.

How? Check out the Deeper Fish Finder. The small, spherical device works as a fish-finding sonar in both salt and fresh water, helping you locate fish up to 120 feet under the surface. You simply attach it to a fishing line and cast it where you want to fish – it’ll turn on automatically upon hitting the water. Deeper works with most modern iOS and Android devices, but we recommend pairing it with a waterproof phone or tablet like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the Sony Xperia Z2.

The Deeper Portable Fish Finder is available for purchase on Amazon.com for $243.43.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Software

5 Cheap Must-Have Apps for Back to School

+ READ ARTICLE

Ready for the school year to begin? Once you’ve picked out a tablet or laptop for your student, it’s time to grab the software that will make it the most useful. We’ve found the best cheap apps and programs to help kids study, work more efficiently and keep up with their assignments.

YouCam Snap

Pictures of whiteboards, projector slides and book pages are great for notes. However, the camera apps that come with them can’t always handle these tasks well, especially if it’s not possible to take pictures head on.

YouCam Snap solves this problem. It can straighten out the curve of book pages, whiteboard text taken at an angle, and even correct the brightness and contrast to capture usable images of bright projector screens in a dark room. And the ability to output the captures as PDFs that can be annotated and shared is a big plus.

Price: Free at iTunes and Google Play

iStudiez Pro

A digital student planner can be just as useful as its paper counterpart, especially if it syncs data across devices. iStudiez helps students keep track of class schedules and manage homework assignments, including pop-up notifications around due dates. Students can even keep track of their grades.

Price: $9.99 at the Mac App Store and $2.99 at iTunes

Looking for an Android alternative? Check out Class Buddy Student Planner for $1.99 on Google Play

Zotero

Zotero makes it easy to collect and organize information on the web as source material for research papers. When the software is installed, it detects usable content pulled up on your computer—text, images, video files, screen shots of web pages or documents, like PDF files—and gives the option to save with one click.

All of the text is searchable and tags can be assigned to each piece of content for easy organization. Once it’s paper-writing time, Zotero will create accurate citations for each item.

There are two versions of Zotero: a Firefox add-on that works across operating systems, and a standalone download for PC and Mac that plugs in to browsers. There are also plugins for MS Word and LibreOffice to make citing easier. All for free.

Price: Free at zotero.org

LibreOffice

If you want a full-featured free office suite, LibreOffice is the best choice. It can do everything that Word, Excel, and PowerPoint can do (except a very few functions only business/power users need) and can save to all the Microsoft Office file types as well as export to PDF.

The only things missing from the suite are Outlook and OneNote equivalents. If desktop email is a must-have, Thunderbird works well and has a great associated calendar app called Lightning. For notes, I suggest Evernote.

Price: Free for Windows and Mac at libreoffice.org

Looking for a good (free) mobile office suite? Check out WPS Office on Google Play and iTunes.

ezPDF Reader

PDFs are one of the most common file types students will encounter, and having an app that can read and edit them is a must. With ezPDF, students can add highlights, notes as comments, scribbles and written annotations, plus add, crop, rotate and delete pages.

Price: $2.99 on iTunes and Google Play, Free for Windows 8 at unidocs.com

Bonus: Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium Edition

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is not inexpensive, but it’s so useful for students that it’s worth the price.

Why? The top-notch voice recognition engine is able to easily to distinguish a voice from background noise, which makes it possible to get transcriptions of lectures. All a student needs is a good recording device or a smartphone with an external mic.

Price: $199 at nuance.com

This article was written by K.T. Bradford and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME How-To

3 Apps That Actually Pay You Money

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Fronto

“Earn extra money simply by doing the things you do every day!”

Let’s be honest: You have good reason to be skeptical of “free money” claims. But there really are a small handful of legitimate advertising-powered smartphone apps that offer you money in exchange for being able to advertise to you.

That’s right, the following three apps won’t save you money — they’ll actually pay you money. None of them will make you a millionaire, but they could put an extra $20 or more in your pocket each and every month. And that’s not too bad just for playing around with your smartphone, right?

Fronto

Would you subject yourself to extra advertising if it meant more money in your pocket? If the concept seems appealing to you, check out the Android app Fronto.

Fronto works by placing ads and curated links to content on your smartphone’s lock screen. Every time you interact with this content, you earn points. Unlock your phone while an advertisement is being shown, for example, and you might earn 20 points. Download an app that Fronto suggests for you, and you might earn 100 or more. Fronto also doles out points for referring friends.

Points do take a while to accumulate, especially if you don’t take Fronto up on any of its special offers. But that’s okay – here, it’s worth the effort. Every 25,000 points can be exchanged for $10 in cold, hard cash, payable directly to your PayPal account.

You can download the free Fronto app on Google Play.

Perk

Want to take your earnings beyond the lock screen? Then check out Perk, a series of apps, browsers, search tools and more that converts virtually everything you do on your phone into points, redeemable for cash.

There are a lot of different apps in the Perk universe: Perk Shopping, Perk Search, Perk Screen, Perk Browser, Perk TV and Perk Pop Quiz. Each offers a function along with a small reward for using it. Search using Perk and you’ll get a few points. Watch an ad on Perk TV and you’ll get a few more. Buy something on 1-800-Flowers and other similar retailers via the Perk Shopping app and you’ll earn a ton.

Like with Fronto, Perk points can be redeemed for cash via PayPal. You’ll get the most bang for your points by redeeming them for gift cards instead. Minimum payouts with Perk are $5.

You can find out more about and download the Perk family of apps at Perk.com.

Shopkick

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Shopkick

Walking around your local mall may be a good way to get a little extra exercise, but it can also be a way to get a little bit of extra money, too. That’s the idea behind Shopkick, an app that rewards you simply for visiting stores.

When you open the Shopkick app at your local mall (or really, whenever), you can see a list of nearby stores that are willing to offer you “kicks” (points) just for walking through the doors. Most of the stores tempting you with points are the type you might walk into anyway, like Walmart, Macy’s, Target or Crate & Barrel. Once you’re in the store, the app might offer you a few challenges (e.g., find and scan a certain item) to earn bonus points. You can even link a credit card to the app to earn points for completing a purchase in-store.

You can rack up enough points to get a reward in a single trip, given the right mall. The minimum reward with Shopkick is a $2 Target gift card, yours for redeeming just 500 points.

You can get the free Shopkick app for iOS via the Apple App Store and for Android via Google Play.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME How-To

Here Are Some Apps to Keep Your Family Organized

Appointments, medications, game schedules, chores — to make a household run smoothly, you need a safe place to store and share information. That’s where apps come in handy.

I found apps that fit every family from traditional nuclear families — parents and kids living under one roof — to grown children taking care of parents to divorced parents with joint custody to people who want to track their pet’s care. Plus, there are specialized apps for playdates, carpooling and chores. Check out my picks below.

For families with young children

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Cozi

Cozi

Cozi lets you keep everyone’s calendar in one place. Each family member is assigned a color, so it’s easy to see who’s busy and who’s free at a glance. And you can make appointments for anyone in your family and sync appointments with Outlook. There’s a very robust reminder system, with the ability to send text and email reminders, as well as a weekly digest. In addition to calendaring, you can share shopping lists and to-do lists with family members, plan meals and create a family journal, which everyone can contribute to.

For $29.99 per year, Cozi Gold members get an ad-free experience, shared contacts, calendar change notifications and a birthday tracker, among other features. The subscription is good for the whole family.

Price: Free at iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Appstore and Windows Store (for Windows Tablets and PCs)

AboutOne

AboutOne knows that there’s a lot more to keeping your family organized than keeping a family calendar. The service goes beyond, with easy ways to store medical information and your home inventory, share pictures, notes and videos and save important documents — receipts, college applications and family-member care sheets. And, you can manage everything with the AboutOne app on your iOS, Android, Windows Phone or Windows 8 device.

The basic service is free and comes with 1GB of document storage, room for six family members and contacts and emergency management. For $5 per month you get 5GB of data, 10 family members and, when available, a family calendar that syncs with popular calendar programs.

Price: Free at iTunes, Google Play and Windows Phone app store

Two Happy Homes

Managing the lives of busy children between two homes can be challenging. But Two Happy Homes makes it a little easier with a communication and organization service built specifically for co-parenting. Parents keep a joint calendar and contact list, can send private notes and share medical information, documents and pictures. There’s even a place to track and pay expenses online.

The basic service is free and includes the calendar, notes, expense tracking and 10 contacts and documents. For $14.98 per month, you get unlimited documents and contacts, plus medical information sharing and payment of expenses through PayPal.

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Carpool Kids

Carpool Kids

Coordinating carpools can be stressful, but Carpool Kids makes it easy. Set up one-time or recurring events, assign a driver and add kids to the car. If there are changes, updates can by pushed to everyone through the app or email. If you want to set up more than one carpool at a time, there’s a $4.99 yearly subscription fee.

Price: Free in iTunes or on Carpool-Kids.com

InstantPlaydates

Who’s free to go to the park right now or meet at the museum on Saturday? InstantPlaydates lets you easily schedule playdates with your Facebook friends. When you’re heading to the park, you broadcast your availability and how long you’ll be there. Or, you can check to see who’s currently available.

Price: Free at iTunes or on InstantPlaydates.com

You Rule Chores

You Rule Chores ($3.99 on iTunes) makes it easy to set up a chores and rewards list. Throughout the day, kids can check off their chores and earn coins to gain rewards. Kids can choose from a great selection of avatars and level them up with new powers and gadgets as they complete chores. A quick glance at the opening screen of the app shows how many chores are left for each child, making it into a competition to see who gets them all done first. A good choice for Android is iRewardChart ($3.99 on Google Play and iTunes), which has a similar chore and rewards system, but no fun characters or weekly competition.

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CareZone

For adult children taking care of parents

When parents need the help of their adult children, caretaking can become a family affair. CareZone helps ease the way with a free service that lets family members share care. The CareZone Senior app has a journal to record what’s going on, notes for day-to-day communication, a place to store important documents and a shared to-do list. Medication dosages, doctor’s visits and prescriptions can be easily tracked. And, there’s one shared contact list and calendar. Better yet, everything can be tracked on your smartphone.

Price: Free at iTunes and Google Play

For pet parents

Keeping on top of feeding, grooming, exercise and medical care of a pet requires organization. Pet Master Pro keeps you organized with easy tracking features for medications, vaccinations, insurance and even microchip information — invaluable in any emergency situation. In addition, you can manage appointments with the groomer or dog walker.

Price: $2.99 at iTunes or $4.99 at Google Play.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME How-To

The Best Photo-Sharing Sites

Digital cameras and smartphones mean that most of us have a ton of photos scattered everywhere, from phones and computer hard drives to Facebook and Instagram profiles.

But what happens when you switch phones, upgrade computers or simply want to search all your photos at once?

Uploading pictures to a photo sharing site is a simple way to answer all those questions—and the services offer lots of other benefits, as well. You can organize large photo collections, make it easier for friends and family to contribute to shared albums and ensure your pictures stay with you no matter which device they came from.

There are four main criteria to think about when picking the best site for your needs:

1. Cost of storage. First you need to figure out how much memory you’ll need. This is largely determined by where most of your pictures come from. Smartphone photos can range from 500KB to 2MB in size, while photos from point-and-shoot cameras are usually 1-5MB, depending on the megapixel count of the camera. Choose lower storage limits at first; you can always pay for more when you need it.

2. Automatic photo sync. If you take a lot of photos, a service that syncs images automatically via a smartphone app or folder on your desktop can take out the hassle out of backing up.

3. Privacy. Do you want complete control over who can see your pictures? Family albums, for instance, might benefit from a site that keep albums password protected.

4. Full-size upload and download. If you want to back up a collection or print your photos, find a service that allows full-resolution uploads and downloads. Some services downsize photos for quicker uploads.

Below are our favorite sites and their best features. Let us know what you think – and what you use – in the comments.

Photobucket: Great for Editing

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Photobucket

If your smartphone doesn’t offer much in the way of touch-up tools – or if you’re transferring pics from a digital camera – you may want to check out photo services with basic editing tools built in. Stalwart photo-sharing site Photobucket offers an intuitive image editor with simple features, such as red-eye removal, sharpening and cropping. You can also add splashes of color to a black and white photo, try out vintage-style filters and draw or write on pictures.

You can upload photos from Facebook, your computer, or other websites. You can also create shared albums where friends can contribute photos, video and text of their own. Albums can be posted to Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Photobucket has a large community of users who post pictures to a public photo feed with tons of interest tags and trending topics, so it’s also a good option if you want your albums to reach more than friends and family.

The site also has its own photo-printing service to reproduce images for framed prints, canvas wraps, photo books and even blankets and shower curtains.

Cost of storage: 2GB free, with an additional 8GB if you use the Photobucket app; prices range from 20GB for $2.99/month ($29.99/year) up to 500GB for $39.99/month ($399.99 a year)
Automatic photo sync? Yes, with desktop computer and iPhone/Android apps
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can add a password to albums or choose to make them visible only to you
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Flickr: Great for Large Photo Collections

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Flickr

The grandaddy of photo-sharing sites, Flickr offers 1TB of storage for free (which can hold some 2 million photos) with no limit on picture resolution. Users can also upload 1080p high-definition video clips up to three minutes long.

Users can organize pictures into collections and sub-collections, with options to tag keywords and people either individually or in batches of photos. You can search your library by keyword or people tags and sort by dates that pictures were posted or taken—a godsend when a lifetime’s worth of photos start to stack up.

Flickr displays photos in a minimalist grid with a slideshow option. The site also offers the same beginner-friendly image editor as Photobucket, with Instagram-style color filters, cutesy effects like frames and stickers and basic editing tools, such as contrast, saturation and focus tweaks.

You can upload photos via email, the website, or directly from the Flickr smartphone app and share albums on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter. Avid photographers will have a huge audience in the Flickr community, who post 3000 photos every minute on average.

Cost of storage: Free, with 1TB of storage and displayed ads; $49.99 a year for ad-free version
Automatic photo sync? Yes, through the Flickr smartphone app for iPhone and Android
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can choose the audience for every photo as friends, family, public or only you (adding contacts allows you to set them as friends or family)
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Yogile: Great for Collaborative Sharing

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Yogile

If you’re hosting an event where many people will be taking photos, such as a wedding, Yogile is a simple way to create a shared gallery where everyone can upload their photos without the need to sign up for an account. Once you create the gallery, attendees have two upload options: Upload images directly to a custom URL or reply to a Yogile-generated email with photos attached. You are given a link where attendees can go to upload or email their own photos.

This no-frills service has no editing options except for changing captions and photographer credits. You can sort photos by date or by contributor and anyone with access to the album can download full-size images. A slideshow option is a neat way to watch the story of the event unfold, as each photographer’s pictures intermix into the correct chronological order.

Cost of storage: $44.95 per year for unlimited uploads; free for 100MB worth of uploads a month, but albums automatically delete after 14 days
Automatic photo sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can add a password to your gallery.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

500px: Great for Discovery

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500px

This sleekly designed site is all about its striking photography. You’ll find no family pics or collections of vacation snaps on 500px; instead there are highly edited shots of landscapes, animals and beautiful people, displayed in a minimal, endlessly-flowing grid.

You can upload pictures from your computer or import them from Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram and more. You can add keyword tags to make your photos easier to find.

Once you pick a couple categories you’re interested in, say People or Macro, 500px will try to match you with other users whose tastes match yours. When you start following particular categories and photographers, your homepage (called “Flow”) will display pictures that your contacts have liked or commented on. You can also browse through dozens of themes, including Abstract, Street or Journalism.

For pro users, premium accounts come with a portfolio website. 500px also offers the chance to buy – or sell – photos as wall art or stock photography.

Cost of storage: Free for 20 uploads a week; plans from $2.08/month allow unlimited uploads and the ability to organize photos into sets
Automatic photo sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can upload pictures privately so that only you see them; otherwise they are publicly visible by default.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Shutterfly: Great for Photo Products

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Shutterfly

Shutterfly offers a creative range of photo gifts, including metal prints, wooden wall art and battery cases for smartphones. There’s also the usual lineup of personalized stationary, crockery, blankets and cushions, as well as kiddy-oriented products like lunch bags, puzzles and books customized with your little one’s face throughout their pages.

Even if you don’t purchase any photo prints, Shutterfly is a good option for collating your photo collection online, as it offers unlimited storage with no restrictions on the size of photos uploaded and the ability to import pictures directly from Facebook, Instagram, iPhoto, Google+ Photos and Adobe Photoshop. You can also send pictures through iPad, iPhone or Android apps.

Once pictures are uploaded, you can send a link to the gallery via email or Facebook for friends to view. Anyone who can view your album can also order prints of the pictures in it. For collaborative albums, you can create a “Share” micro-site for group members to upload photos and share calendars, messages and polls.

Cost of storage: Free, with unlimited storage; signing up gets you 50 free prints
Automatic sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: Albums are private by default and Share sites are limited to their members.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

ThisLife: Great for Collating Diverse Sets of Photos

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ThisLife

If your pictures are scattered throughout the Internet, photo aggregator ThisLife can import and organize them. The service links with Flickr, Instagram, Facebook, Picasa and SmugMug to pull in all your photos and sort them by date and place. You can upload full resolution pictures directly from your computer and premium accounts support high-definition video, as well.

Photos are privately displayed in a timeline and can be further organized by category and people tags. You can also search by information in the image metadata (the camera used to snap the photo), its original source and the keywords associated with it (Instagram hashtags).

You can also organize pics into “Story” galleries that you can then share via email. Since the service is owned by Shutterfly, you can also create prints and other photo gifts of your pictures.

Cost of storage: Free up to 2,500 photos; $59/year for 25,000 photos; $139/year for 100,000 photos
Automatic photo sync? Yes, through a desktop folder or the Instagram app
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: Only friends with the link to the gallery can view it; however there’s no password protection
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Google+ Photos: Great for Slideshows

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Google+

A lot of photo-sharing sites offer a slideshow feature, but Google+ Photos throws in some unique auto-create options for photos taken with an iPhone or Android phone.

If you turn on auto back up and location history in the Google+ app, Google will collate a “Story” slideshow based on pictures snapped while you’re away from your usual haunts—that is, when it thinks you’re on vacation.

If you take a set of similar photos—say, on burst mode—the Auto Awesome feature turns the images into a mini-animation, viewable from the website or app. If you’re on an Android phone (OS version 4.3 or newer), there’s an additional Movie feature that can stitch together a movie from photos and videos you select.

You can also upload photos from your smartphone or computer and manually create albums. Photos can be as public or private as you want; users of the Google+ social network can set which Circles can view the photos, or simply email friends a link to the gallery. The photo viewer offers sharing and editing options, as well as a slideshow view.

Cost of storage: Free for unlimited photos at Google’s downsized “standard” size, which is sufficient for web sharing, or 15GB of full-size pictures (storage shared with Google Drive and Gmail accounts); from $1.99/month for 100GB, up to $299.99/month for 30TB
Automatic photo sync? Yes, option to sync to a private album via a desktop folder and iPhone/Android apps
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can set the audience for the photo album and prevent others from sharing the album.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes, but full-resolution photos count against storage limit

Zenfolio: Great for Professionals

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Zenfolio

Built to host portfolios rather than photo feeds, Zenfolio offers sleek homepage layouts to show off your best images and a blog where you can easily upload photos and videos as you go.

There’s no limit on the size or number of photos you can upload, so it’s a good tool to store ultra-high resolution images taken with a DSLR.

You can sort photos into galleries that have searchable descriptions and category and keyword tags. Photos can be viewed as an elegant slideshow in which you control the background music and the player’s speed and transitions.

Zenfolio supports plug-ins to transfer pictures from professional photo-management software, such as Adobe Lightroom and Aperture. For pros who want to sell their prints, there’s the option to build in a shopping cart, as well guestbook and contact pages.

Cost of storage: $30/year for 2GB of storage, plus an additional 1GB for every year you hold an account; $60/year for unlimited storage; from $140/year to add selling features
Automatic photo sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can add a password to a gallery to keep it private
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Facebook: Great for Social Sharing

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Facebook

If you simply want your photos stored where it’s easy for friends to see them and share them with other friends, then Facebook might the best place to upload your camera work. You get unlimited uploads, a high likelihood that the person you want to tag is also on the network (something that the fuller-featured, lesser-used Google+ cannot claim) and a simple interface for liking and commenting on photos.

You can send individual pictures by private message, or share a particular photo publicly on a friend’s wall. Each album also has the option to be turned into a shared album, allowing multiple friends to add to the gallery.

The downside, as with all things Facebook, is that it isn’t possible to be truly private. Even if your album visibility is set to friends-only, photos tagged with friends’ names are still viewable to all their friends (unless they’ve set their privacy so that no one can see their photos), which could be a turnoff if you’re looking to share family albums.

Uploaded photos are limited to 2048 pixels wide, so high-resolution pictures off a camera will be downsized and therefore less suitable for printing.

Cost of storage: Free, with unlimited uploads
Automatic photo sync? Yes, option to sync privately from smartphone apps, then you choose which ones to share
Do you need an account to view photos? Yes
Privacy control: At your most private settings, friends of anyone tagged in a photo will be able to see that photo.
Full-size uploads/downloads? No

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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