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Tools to spruce up your PC
BS Bureau | May 27, 2006
The word 'Intelligent' in the case of a fox is redundant. So is the case with Firefox too. A very credible (and much desired) alternative to Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox is a fast, full-featured Web browser that makes browsing a pleasure.
It includes pop-up blocking; a tab-browsing mode that lets you open several pages in a single window (one feature that IE sorely lacks); integrated Google searching; simplified privacy controls that let you cover your tracks more effectively; a streamlined browser window that shows you more of the page than any other browser; and a number of additional features that work with you to help you get the most out of your time online.
Version 1.5 allows you to reorder tabs by dragging and dropping them. You'll also find a tool that lets you quickly clean up your surfing history with two clicks of the mouse or a hot-key combo.
Moreover, the browser hogs much less space and memory than IE. Of course, if there are a few IE-specific sites, you may not be able to open them with this browser. You can download it from www.mozilla.org.
Meebo: Merging IMs online
Instant messengers - be they AIM or ICQ, Jabber or Gtalk, Yahoo or MSN (if you are clueless about what these names stand for, it's time to download one and start chatting with people in the vicinity and across the world free of cost) - can all be logged into on a single online screen. The URL is: www.meebo.com.
The graphical interface gives clear instructions on how this is to be done. Once you sign up with meebo, you can sign in to your individual accounts (with regard to your messenger preferences) and keep on jabbering to no end.
Unlike Trillian, which performs a similar task, the beauty of meebo is that you do not have to install it on your machine. You can simply log on to the site. Besides, it's an easy way to beat the network administrator who may have blocked your favourite messenger.
Roboform: Why fill so many online forms?
As the name itself suggests, Roboform makes it easy for users to reduce the time spent in filling out Web forms and logging onto subscription sites.
Besides, why have many passwords, which are difficult to remember? With RoboForm, you remember one password, RoboForm remembers the rest. It memorises and securely stores your online and offline passwords (using encryption algorithms such as Blowfish and AES to protect your data and includes a password generator), so you will never forget them again.
The latest version improves usability. You can set up multiple identities with different credit-card numbers, passwords, and contact information. The trial version, though, limits the tab instances on each identity to three. You can download the program from www.roboform.com
Adobe Reader: for e-books too
If you ever want to read an article in the ubiquitous portable document file format, then you must have an Adobe Reader in your machine. The software not only allows you to view but also print Adobe PDF files on a variety of hardware and operating system platforms.
With the newest version, you can submit PDF forms created with form fields to applications such as Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional and Adobe Form Designer.
The program can be downloaded from www.adobe.com
The application control allows you to decide which applications can and cannot use the Internet. The Internet lock blocks Internet traffic while your computer is unattended or while you're not using the Internet and it can be activated automatically with your computer's screensaver or after a set period of inactivity.
Zones monitor all activity on your computer and alert you when a new application attempts to access the Internet. ZoneAlarm is free for individuals and not-for-profit charitable entities.
Avast: A free anti-virus software
The avast! Home Edition is a free anti-virus software for home non-commercial use. It has a Simple User Interface to start on-demand scanning, work with the results and change various options.
The Interface is the main application. Additional avast! Modules such as the Virus Chest, Updater or Log Viewer can be started from here. The appearance of the Simple User Interface is very flexible. It supports so-called skins, allowing users to change the appearance of the application interface. Its file system protection ensures that no virus will be started on the computer.
There is also a special plugin for MS Outlook only. Avast features protection for IM and P2P (peer-to-peer) programs. Moreover, if your Internet connection is on, the updates are performed automatically at fixed time intervals. If you connect to the Internet only occasionally, avast! watches your connection and tries to perform the update when you are online.
Ad-Aware: Takes care of your privacy
Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition is the latest version of Lavasoft's popular anti-spyware program. This tool has the ability to scan your random access memory (RAM), registry, hard drives, and external storage devices (like CD- and DVD ROMs, Zip drives, pen drives, etc.) for known data-mining, advertising, and tracking components.
It can clean your system, allowing you to maintain a higher degree of privacy while you surf the Web. The paid version includes real-time protection, automatic updates, and advertising block – features that are disabled within the free edition.
Ad-Aware's custom skins can be customised. If you've been using your PC on the Internet without any spyware protection, the program is worth trying. You can download it from www.lavasoft.com
Remember the phrase: "Nero fiddled while Rome burnt"? In this case, though, Nero fiddles while your CD- and DVD burn. What this means that if you want to burn (copy / transfer) your photos, data, music or video onto a CD or DVD, this is a nifty tool to have.
The latest version lets you convert audio files; capture video; edit photos; make back-ups; check your hardware specs; and create slide shows, custom audio mixes, and disc covers. This version also allows you to watch and record TV as well as manage your entire collection of media. The downloadable file is a big and does hog memory.
Besides, the demo version expires at the end of the month of your download after which you are expected to buy the product. You can download it from: www.nero.com
Do you Skype?
It's a question that any youngster could ask you today. Skype is software that enables you to make free calls anywhere in the world. To make free calls, both parties will need to have the Skype software installed. To call regular phones, you will need to sign up for a plan with SkypeOut - paid service that offers cheap by-the-minute calling. It's a boon for international callers.
The interface is intuitive and the sound quality is good. If you've installed Skype on a laptop, you will need to attach an external microphone (You can make a test call to Skype or your friend to find out if your laptop's internal speakers work).
This software (version 2.5) is in its beta version and will allow you to call normal phones easily from while introducing new ways to pay. You can keep in touch with friends and family by using Shared Groups to share contact details and introduce friends and create a social space for your group for free with conference calling and group chat.
There are many times when you wish you had a single tool to clear your Internet history, find and fix stubborn errors, clean up space-wasting junk (duplicate files, for instance), optimise Internet and download speeds, ensure personal privacy and security, and maintain your computer for peak performance and reliability by defragging it and the like.
One such tool is System Mechanic. Your PC needs regular tune-ups to maintain peak performance. This virtual toolbox can enhance the speed, safety, and power of your computer with a wide range of functions and an extensive help system.
This program has additional tools for removing spyware and for defragmenting your hard drive. It's free but the professional (read paid) version has a lot more to offer.We have not formally tested these products. However, many members in our team use these software regularly