Google is the internet surfer's best friend and worst enemy. If you know what you're after, just type it into the search engine's famous little box and – hey presto – you'll be given a list of related sites in order of relevance.
Such is Google's dominance that its name has become a synonym for search. And rightly so. When was the last time you Yahooed something? And good though Bing is, it's not ringing our bell just yet. There's a problem, though.
Searching for something implies you know what you're looking for. Gold prospectors search for gold; they don't scour the earth on the off-chance there's something which may or may not be of any value knocking around. So what happens if you don't know what you're looking for; if you just want to be amazed?
How do you ask Google for some brilliant sites, sites which will feed your mind, soul or just let you waste time in style? If you're in that kind of mood, you're in the right place. Welcome to PC Plus's directory of the best websites on the internet.
Our experts have put their thinking caps on and come up with a list of their favourite sites. So, do yourself a favour: forget Google for a while and put your trust in us.
Best sites for learning
Martin Cooper uncovers the best sites for discovering amazing facts and figures
When you're after something to feed your mind, body or soul, you'll be sure to find something on the internet that will make you think. From recipes to help us geeky types boil an egg to sites that help you track down the origins of slang, amazing discoveries are always only a few clicks away.
If you're ever in doubt about how to do something, visit eHow. As well as helping with everyday tasks such as how to polish your car or change ISP, the site isn't shy of difficult topics. You can learn how to politely turn down an amorous suitor, for example. The breadth of topics is staggering and the content sensible. Just be aware that it's an American publication, so don't follow its legal advice too closely.
Cooking for engineers
If you're scientifically minded, endless drivel about organic chickens, rustic honesty and sun-dried tomatoes can leave you nonplussed. This site is a great antidote to foppish gastronomic pomposity. Its instructions for soft boiled eggs are a triumph of analysis, and the end result looks tasty too.
The CIA World Factbook
If you're looking for a glossy travel guide with indulgent photographs, flowery descriptions of views and lists of chic little boutiques, look elsewhere. This site is all about hard facts. All nation states are profiled, and data about everything from infant mortality to population size is quoted.
Even though printing out the whole of Wikipedia would result in a stack of paper about a kilometre high, it is somewhat exclusive in what it contains. If you're after outrageously detailed guides to popular culture, Wikia's various sub-sites will suck you in and never spit you back out. Take a look at Wookieepedia, the Star Wars wiki, for a perfect example: it features a whopping 70,000 articles, and all of them are obsessively maintained.
No prizes for guessing what Dictionary.com is. As the old cliché goes, it does exactly what it says on the tin. If you're looking for a dictionary definition of a word, it certainly returns a more detailed definition than Google's 'define' function. Dictionary.com does more just define things for you, though – it also has a Word of the Day feature. Sign up, and you'll receive a new word, gift-wrapped and delivered by email, every day.
You can't beat Google's news homepage when it comes to getting a snapshot of the most important stories in the world. Or can you? It turns out you can. Newsmap presents Google's news feed pictorially, giving the most important stories proportionally more prominence on the screen.
Genealogy has become something of a national obsession in recent years. If you fancy tracking down your antecedents and finding out whether your heritage is tied up with agriculture or aristocracy, Genuki is the place to start.
Only read a few Dan Browns but want people to think you've had your nose deep in tomes by Proust and Tolstoy? Just drop the Quote of the Day from this site into conversation to give yourself some instant intellectualism.
What Should I Read Next
Enjoyed a particular book or writer and want to find something similar? This site will recommend a good follow-up read for you to get your teeth into. Its suggestions rely on the magic of user-generated content, and the site isn't in the pocket of any publishing houses, so you should get a fairly unbiased recommendation.
This site is a statistician's dream. It's bursting with all sorts of numeric data about hundreds of nation states, from Burundi to Belgium. Did you know that 1.1 out of every million people in Turkmenistan is a chess grandmaster, for example? Didn't think so. Dive on in and see what else you can find out.
Cute and clever, The Fin, Fur and Feather Bureau of Investigation aims to teach kids about problem solving and critical thinking. Both are essential for life in this computer rich age, and what better way is there to learn such skills than by becoming a spy for a detective agency run by a plethora of friendly animals?
If you've got a curious mind, a look at NASA TV is a must. You can watch space walks and all the rest live, giving us on Earth an insight into the life of an astronaut.
There's nothing any industry likes more than an impenetrable acronym. If you're presented with a particularly cryptic one, Acronym Finder will decrypt it for you instantly.
This fantastic site lets you explore Earth using multiple sources of mapping data, all controlled through a single interface. A must for all geographers and high-altitude voyeurs.
PopURLs gives you a snapshot of what's being said on the biggest social news websites, neatly displaying a grid of headlines in (almost) real-time. If you have to be cutting edge, this is for you.
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