A domain name is the starting point for our online brands and identities, be it for a company, online application or a personal website. Some of us may own only one domain for a portfolio site or blog, whilst others have to manage domain names for clients or all kinds of projects. But even if you do not yet have a personal domain, as the Web becomes more pervasive in our lives, finding yourself a real home on the web becomes more of a neccessity.

Of course, social web services like Facebook, Twitter, etc. do indeed offer usernames, but only domains give us full ownership and control over branding and ultimately how we express ourselves online.

Many of the traditional sites that offer domain names are poorly organised, hard to navigate and covered in spammy ads. In this article we will have a look at a number of smart and user-centric domain tools which help you to find, register and manage domain names, other than the usual domain registrars or webhosting companies.

1. Domainr – domain search engine

The popular Domainr service comes as easy and clean as it gets. They call themselves a “domain name search engine” and solely focus on the domain search experience. Searching for a domain name is very intuitive and fast indeed. If you found a name you can choose from a list of registrars where you can register the respective domain.

Apart from the standard .COM, .NET & .ORG domains, Domainr’s strength is surely the ability to find domain hacks with exotic country code top-level domain extensions e.g. burri.to (.TO – Tonga), lifestrea.ms (.MS – Montserrat) or cli.gs (South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands).

Domainr makes the domain search process fun and is probably the easiest tool to find creative domain names in 2009.

2. Domaintyper – search & generate names

Domaintyper is another simple search tool for checking domain name availability and generating domain hacks but offers some nifty extras on top. One of them is a Web 2.0 Domain Name Generator that generates available names such as sixtor.com, snapsink.com, skafire.com, 6graph.com, threeserv.com or atomslot.com. These names can be registered through links to various registrars. The second highlight is the DomainTyper iPhone application which brings the search and recommendation feature to your iPhone so you can check domain names on the go.

Domaintyper is a well executed little project. Especially the domain name generator can be addictive.

3. Domain Pigeon – find available names

Domain Pigeon‘s approach is different to the search tools mentioned before. It automatically generates lists of available domains as well as Twitter names. The names are displayed in different colors, depending on how many people have showed interest in a certain term. The darker the color the more popular the name. You can also order the lists by length, popularity and show only domains or Twitter usernames. Examples of generated domain names are ablebo.com, meliori.com, minecafe.com or shopshost.com.

Domain Pigeon is an ideal source o

4. Namethis – collaborative naming tool

Namethis cannot only be used for domains but also for names in general. Instead of spending hours and hours in brainstorming sessions you just have to describe a project or product and receive name suggestions by the Namethis community. The service costs a fee of $99 which is distributed to the members that suggested the top three naming ideas.

The Namethis community is a good resource to get ideas for your product or website.

5. Rage Domainer – Mac software

RAGE Software’s Domainer is a well designed Mac application for managing and tracking domain names. You can enter domains that you own along with some additional information or any other site you would like to monitor. It also shows domain-related data such as Page Rank, the amount of incoming Links, bookmarks on Delicious and Digg stories to a particular domain. Other useful features are syncing renewal dates with iCal, Smart Groups for organising and import / export of lists.

Domainer costs $39.95 USD and is the most advanced domain management solution for your Mac.

6. iWantMyName DomainApp – iPhone app

DomainApp is a free application from domain management service iWantMyName that lets you search and register domains directly from your iPhone. Like their website, the application is very clean, user-friendly and intuitive. The domain search covers many international domain extensions and results can be saved as bookmarks for future reference. To register domain names you need an account with iWantMyName and connect the application via a remote key.

The application is a valuable companion for brainstorming sessions, client meetings or the occasional fun domain registration.

7. Tweetname – register domains via Twitter

As the name Tweetname suggests, it is a service that offers domain name registration via Twitter. All you need is an account on their site and send a direct message with the name you want to the @tweetname Twitter account. You will get an instant reply whether the domain registration was successful or the name is already taken.

With Tweetname domain registration has never been more ubiquitoushaving hundreds of Twitter clients around. Whether you want to rely on Twitter for a domain registration is another question though.

8. Domain Punch – Windows software

Windows users find a domain portfolio software with Domain Punch Professional. Besides the portfolio management options, it also includes website monitoring options such as ping or an HTTP home page check and sends an email when the status of a domain changes. You can also save the login details to different domain registrars and login with a single click. Extensive filtering options, a domain name generator and availability checker are useful functions as well.

Domain Punch Professional is the most feature rich software for domain portfolio management.

9. DNZoom – online portfolio manager

hosted domain management solution offers the all-in-one toolDNZoom. You can sign up for a free account and manage domains in a secure and automated way through an online interface even if they are registered with multiple domain registrars. Should you not use a domain, you have also the possibility to connect it to a parking company and earn some money. Domains can be organised in folders, categories and the domain detail view gives you additional data such as Alexa Stats, or whois information. An included domain suggestion tool where you can enter keywords and register domains complete the offering of DNZoom.

DNZoom seems to be more targeted at Domainers but its domain management functions are also suited for the general domain administrator.

10. Domain Portfolio Manager – PHP script

The Domain Portfolio Manager is a classic PHP / MySQL application for your own web space or server. It offers basic domain portfolio management functionality which should be enough for most users. Domains can be imported from CSV or text files, put in different categories defined by the user and lists are completely searchable. A showcase feature also allows you to sell domain names.

This web application has all features to keep track of your domains and is very practical for company intranets.

f inspiration for domains and short available Twitter names.