Launch a new business on a shoestring and you learn pretty quickly how to root out free - or really cheap - tools to help.

Gone are the assistants, the smartboards in the conference rooms, the corporate-paid web conferencing contracts and, of course, the expense account.

So this is the first in an occasional series on Freebies to help small business do more with a lot less.

Today, it's Timebridge ( which is a free tool to help plan meetings and conference calls. This is cooler than winter's in Des Moines. And it is extremely easy to use.

Sign up for a free account (so far I have gotten very little unsolicited email from them - so that's a big plus), let the program connect to your calendar. Now you're ready to plan a meeting.

Let's say you've got three people you have to pull together for a conference call. Through the Timebridge web page, you pick five times out of your calendar that you are free, enter the email addresses of the three attendees and you're done.

The program sends emails, gives the attendees a nice interface to select their available times and to name their "best" time. It also puts tentative appointments on your calendar so you don't accidentally schedule over one of your proposed times.

The program will remind you if you are getting close and not all of your attendees have responded yet. Once responses are complete, the program will send out messages letting everyone know when the meeting is scheduled and giving a free conference call number.

A paid account gets some additional tools like the ability to schedule web conferences through Timebridge.

There is even a local interface you can install on your Mac or PC that lets you check your meetings or schedule meetings directly from the app.

This is a small app that does its job very well. And did I mention it's free?
What's your favorite free application? Cast your vote and help other small businesses.