Some manufacturers have called the past year "flat" in terms of new tools. But if this has been a flat period, we'd like to see what comes out during "peak" periods. In fact, this has been a terrific year for new tools and tool-related innovations. From new battery technology to safety accessories, we've had lots to choose from while searching for this year's Editors' Choice winners.

You'll see that the cordless tool voltage race has evened out somewhat, but new battery technologies are now coming into play. We're commending toolmakers for adding computer chips to tools to enhance their performance. One winner created a new kind of adjustable staging that makes so much sense we wondered why it hasn't been around for years. And one Editors' Choice award goes to a tool that gives birth to a new category.

By honoring these new tools, we pay homage to the innovation and leadership of the people who developed them. Innovative and practical thinking still abounds in the tool world and it's coming from all directions: industrial designers and product engineers at large companies, as well as independent inventors working quietly on important breakthroughs. The tools, features, and possibilities they generate keep making our tools easier to use and safer to operate, which improves our work.

Every year we honor tool industry members for their creativity and commitment to making better tools for professional tool users. This year, we're initiating the Editors' Choice Grand Award for broader innovations that affect tool users in a way no single invention ever could. All in all, we feel that the tool industry has never offered more new ideas, products, and services than it has in the past 12 months.

Editor's Choice 2001 Grand Award: The Internet

Our first ever Grand Award goes to the Internet for changing the way we do business and the way we find, compare, and buy tools. Every day, technology brings us further into the Digital Age, where the 'Net grows in power, scope, and its ability to accept and accurately process information. We've seen astonishing changes in the building industry almost daily, and expect those changes to continue in coming years.

The Internet affects every aspect of business, from communication and management to e-commerce platforms that bring tools and building materials to your jobsite via electronic purchase orders. You can look deep into tool companies' catalogs, get an updated weather report on your cell phone, or manage projects with a handheld organizer. In a growing number of localities you can even submit and monitor your building permits electronically. The effect so far has been incredible, and the potential is revolutionary.

Since giving an award to the Internet is like honoring trees for creating lumber or saluting trigonometry for complex roof framing, we're not sure just who we should thank. We can say this, though: The 'Net wins this award for what it has enabled us to do, and what it has in store for us in the future.

Spec out Tools on ebuild, the Professional's Guide to Building Products (TM).

Senco Products

Senco installed the tool industry's first on-board computer chip in a pneumatic nailer. The innovation, called ThinkTrac, reduces the possibilities of accidental fastener discharge by programming safe-use nailing sequences into the chip. The tool identifies a bump-nailing sequence when the user pulls the trigger and depresses the nosepiece. The nailer stays in that mode as long as you keep firing nails at least every two seconds. After that, the tool times-out, and you have to restart the sequence to keep firing. You activate single-fire mode by depressing the nosepiece and then pulling the trigger. You've got one second to pull the trigger in this mode, and the tool will only dispense a single nail. Once again, if you don't shoot in the allotted time controlled by the chip, the tool times-out and the sequence must be repeated. Senco's research has shown no loss in productivity and great gains in safety. The chip is tough, too. Senco says it's both shock- and water-resistant. Frame Pro with ThinkTrac sells for about $349. For more information, contact Senco Products, 800-543-4569; www.senco.com.