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Facebook platform: five apps you'll use again and again

There are a lot of new applications for Facebook. So many in fact, you might be overwhelmed. Here are five we like.

Regular Webware readers who have been playing around with Facebook's new platform will likely recognize many of the sites and services that are offering their own applications. At almost 90 apps (and growing), there are a lot to choose from. After spending the better part of a day experimenting with many of them, I've chosen five of my personal favorites that I think people are bound to use, and come back to in the long haul because they're useful, and that's ultimately what makes repeat users.

Note: The bold links below won't take you right to the application unless you're logged in to Facebook.

Picnik. This is one of my favorite Web-based photo editors, and the team working on it keeps adding more tools and features all the time. Picnik will sync up with your Facebook photo collection instantly. If you're already a Picnik user, you can login, which will give you access to your photos on other services like Flickr and Picasa Web albums. The best part is that you can grab these photos and send them to Facebook. Picnik has also done something really neat with its full-screen toggle, which lets you escape the confines of Facebook's limited width, and edit shots using your entire monitor without having to navigate away from Facebook.

SplashCast. Facebook's video player that was demoed yesterday is mysteriously missing, but you're probably better off using SplashCast's application. If you're unfamiliar with SplashCast [review], the service lets you combine all sorts of media into one player and publish it in various locations. SplashCast's Facebook player operates in the same manner, and you can showcase it big or small on your profile depending on where you want to place it. Unlike some video embeds, instead of having to remove any video you've posted when adding another, you can simply drop it into a playlist. You can also add photos, and video and audio podcasts.

The widget lets you share files with friends. It also doubles as a media player. CNET Networks is one of our Webware 100 nominees, and their file-sharing widget is now available for Facebook members to use. Once you add it to your profile, you can immediately begin dropping in files to share with others. This is great for any general users, but for the people who still actually use Facebook as a tool in school, it's a very simple way to actively host files to other people and not have to rely on e-mail. Like SplashCast, shared media files can be previewed right in the widget.

30 Boxes calendar. Up until now, the only loose scheduling system on Facebook was a small space on the home page that listed people's birthdays and events that had been set up in groups. 30 Boxes [review] provides an integrated, Web-based calendar that's skinned to match the rest of Facebook. You can plan events and invite your Facebook friends to share your plans with others on your profile. You can also take a "peek" at what your friends are up to on their calendars. For current 30 Boxes users, you can sync up your current account, and if you're already using a calendar service, you can slurp your schedule in as a ICS or CSV file using 30 Boxes' importer.

Yackpack Tag gives you instantaneous chat with others right on your profile. It's a sister application to Yackpack's walkie-talkie widget and provides nearly identical results. Users need simply activate the widget, and then push the big talk button to communicate using their computer's microphones. The Yackpack team is working on adding built-in voice mail, which they say is coming soon. It will then have a similar functionality to Jaxtr's voice widget, which also lets people make calls to your telephone, and is incidentally also available as a Facebook application. Yackpack's CEO BJ Fogg, who teaches at Stanford, uses this widget as a tool for his office hours so students can get in touch with him. For other tech-savvy professors, this functionality could make this widget very useful at colleges.

If there's one thing I've already begun to enjoy about Facebook's approach compared to third-party tools in MySpace, it's not having to go in and hand-code my profile to make adjustments. It's a pain many people have put up with out of necessity, and given Facebook's implementation, I don't think I could go back.

Have you been playing around with the new Facebook applications and found any particularly useful? Let us know in the TalkBack.