Some free-or-cheap Internet services are more trouble than they're worth. Yahoo, however, ( offers useful features.

E-Mail. Free Yahoo e-mail offers excellent spam and virus filtering, plus "throw-away" addresses to help avoid zealous marketers.

Yahoo Messenger. If you're on a job and need a document, you can message someone in your office and open it on your laptop seconds later.

Contact management. Yahoo offers a free online calendar, address book, and "notepad" that you can share online or keep private. Appointment reminders are sent automatically via e-mail, Yahoo Messenger, or to another portable device. These features can also be synchronized with a PalmOS PDA or CRM software like ACT!.

Collaboration. If you want to try online project collaboration without spending a lot, check out free Yahoo Groups ( Message boards, file and photo sharing, real-time chat, and an online database mimic some of the features of paid services.

Maps. Yahoo maps ( can send driving directions to your cell phone, and a free add-in lets you load a Yahoo map directly from an ACT! contact record. — Joe Stoddard is a process/technology consultant to the building industry. For private help contact him at