By Scott Spanbauer
Put a Spell on IE
Internet Explorer: If you do a lot of typing in IE–for Web e-mail, blogging, forum posts, and so on–how about some spelling help? Red Egg Software’s IeSpell lets you do a spelling check of the contents of your browser-based jottings using American, British, or Canadian dictionaries, and you can add your own dictionary terms. Free (personal use), $15 (commercial use).
So Long, Google?
Internet Explorer and the Windows Taskbar: In a Google rut? Copernic’s free search gadget, Copernic Meta, puts highly customized Web searches just a click away from whatever you’re working on. From the toolbar you can run your search term through Copernic’s own topical engines, scroll through recent searches, and add just about any other search engine to Meta’s list (Google included). The tool also integrates with Copernic Agent Basic, which searches multiple engines at once (Google excluded). Copernic Meta, free; Copernic Agent Basic, free.
Cover Your Tracks
Internet Explorer: Clearing IE’s cache–to free up disk space or protect your privacy, say–usually requires digging through multiple levels of menus. BaxterSoft’s CachePal lets you clear your Internet History, Temporary Internet Files, and Cookies folders with a single click. Windows XP users looking for even deeper cleaning may want to opt for the company’s ScrubXP, which erases temporary files, URLs, and other sensitive data when XP starts up. CachePal, free; ScrubXP, free.
Bookmarks in Sync
Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Netscape, and Mozilla: If you’re looking for a painless way to synchronize your bookmarks between different browsers running on the same PC, or even on different computers, let Secure Data Systems’ Sync2It do the job for you. It automatically synchronizes your bookmarks and favorites whenever you save or delete one. Installing the client software on other PCs lets you sync between home and office, but you can always access your bookmarks from any system by logging in to Sync2It’s Web site. $13 per year for personal use, $25 per year for business use (free 90-day trial).
Internet Explorer: Google Toolbar gets rave reviews, but the Yahoo Toolbar for Internet Explorer, a free plug-in, could be even more useful (especially if you’re a Yahoo habitué). The program puts Yahoo’s e-mail, calendar, Internet search, and bookmark services at your fingertips. It also blocks pop-ups and comes with a free anti-spyware program, Yahoo Anti-Spy. If you eschew IE, but still do Yahoo, the free Yahoo Toolbar for Firefox (in beta) offers most of the same features. For IE, free; for Firefox, free.
Link Firefox and IE
Firefox: Though not as automated as Sync2It, SyncMarks nonetheless offers many ways to import and export bookmarks between Firefox and IE. SyncMarks can automatically synchronize Firefox’s bookmarks with IE’s favorites on the same machine when you start or exit Firefox. In addition, the program can write either an HTML or an XML version of the faves file locally. Free.
Total Tab Control
Firefox: Tabbed browsing is a godsend, but this Firefox feature is only about three-quarters baked. Tabbrowser Preferences finishes it by adding a new Preferences submenu that offers fine-grained control over the browser’s tab behavior. With Tabbrowser installed, you can determine which types of URLs and windows should open in new tabs (or in a separate window). Free.
Put It on My Calendar
Firefox/Thunderbird: One of the things that makes Outlook essential for many people is the way it combines e-mail, contacts, and calendars. The Mozilla Foundation’s Thunderbird e-mail program (with Firefox) offers two-thirds of that formula, and the Foundation’s Sunbird project–a calendar module still in beta–adds the last piece. Though only in version 0.2, Sunbird already runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac, and it supports shared calendars through remote servers. Free.
Your Online File Repository
Gmail: What to do with the gigabyte of free storage that comes with your Gmail account? How about remote file storage or backup? GMail Drive creates a virtual file system on top of your Google Gmail account, letting you drag and drop files between your PC and Gmail (stored as Gmail e-mail attachments) using Windows Explorer. GMail Drive has occasional trouble with long file names and with updates to the Gmail site, so don’t use it for critical projects. Free.
OE Under Control
Outlook Express: Quantum Whale’s Outlook Express Tweaker gives you control over a few key OE options, including the ability to eliminate the program’s opening splash screen. In addition, you can disable inline images and block executable attachments. The OE helper also allows you to view, edit, export, and import the otherwise unreachable Blocked Senders List. Free.
Encrypt the Messenger
AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and Trillian: Most IM apps lack encryption, leaving your conversations and personal data open to snoops. Zone Labs’ IMSecure Pro adds encryption to all the major IM apps. (In most cases, the other parties must also use IMSecure Pro.) It’s designed to block spam and prevent attacks. The company’s free (limited) version, IMSecure, encrypts only one of your IM accounts. IMSecure Pro: $20 with $10 annual renewal fee (free 15-day trial).
Outlook Express: OE doesn’t come with its own spelling checker; it borrows the one in Microsoft Office or Microsoft Works. But what if the PC you use for OE mail doesn’t have any of that software installed? Spell Checker For OE is a free tool that catches the glaring errors in your OE messages before you hit Send. It also lets you add your own entries to the dictionary (and that’s about it). Free.
Internet Explorer and Outlook Express: Both IE and OE allow you to customize the layout of their toolbars and adjust the window size to your liking. Problem is, each program is prone to forgetting your preferences, forcing you to resize everything all over again. BaxterSoft’s Toolbar Chest for Internet Explorer and Toolbar Chest for Outlook Express lock the interfaces down tight, so you won’t have to yank your hair out in frustration anymore. While you’re at it, grab Stephen L. Cochran’s OETool, a handy toolbar for Outlook Express that puts close at hand many common maintenance and mail-reading commands that are otherwise hidden away. All free (donations encouraged for OETool).
Quash Spam, Quick Search
Outlook and Outlook Express: If you spend a large part of your day wading through an inbox brimming with spam, phishing scams, and other dreck, you may need help to Qurb the flow. Qurb’s eponymous mail filter(version 3) integrates with either Outlook or OE to block spam, protect against phishing attacks and other e-mail-borne threats, and index your inbox to help you find important messages quickly. (For more Outlook add-ons, see the Office Assistants section.) $40 for home/office use (free 14-day trial).
AIM: Odds are good that you and the people you want to swap instant messages with use AOL Instant Messenger. But don’t you wish the software were less annoying? For five bucks, JDennis.net’s DeadAIM gives the ubiquitous IM app tabbed message windows. It also hides unwanted buttons, blocks ads, and logs instant message and chat room activity. In addition, DeadAIM suppresses the irritating AIM Today startup window and turns the Buddy List window transparent when you’re using other programs. $5.