Browser buddies: No-cost apps for better surfing
By Jay Dougherty Feb 24, 2007, 12:25 GMT
Washington - Remove the annoyances of Web surfing while enhancing the enjoyment - that's the goal of many Internet users. Today, you can do both - thanks to free applications and utilities that work alongside or in place of your current Web browser.
--- Browser choices
Here's why. First, these browsers are free and high-quality. Second, installing each is painless, as they will import your IE bookmarks and largely work the same way that IE does, albeit while adding interesting features. But third and most importantly, they provide a way for you to determine whether any difficulty you may have in viewing a Web site is due to the site itself or your browser.
If you use IE long enough, you'll probably run into some Web sites that no longer display the way they used to or do not display at all. The reasons could be many: spyware, adware, an overfilled cache, or something else entirely. But the only way for you to know what the source of the problem is will be to launch another reliable browser and see whether pages load in it.
Use Firefox or Opera long enough, and you'll also be pleasantly surprised with some of the features they offer that IE doesn't. Firefox, for instance, has Forecastfox, which displays weather conditions in your browser window, as well as FoxyTunes, with which you can control a music player right in your browser window. Opera has Wand, a tool to keep track of all user names and passwords that you use and gives you once-click access when you visit the sites.
--- Toolbar time
Today's free add-on toolbars pack in so many useful features that for many the question is not whether to use one but which one to pick.
Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com) inherits the simplicity and elegance of its search-engine parentage. Rather than clutter up your browser window with large, distracting buttons, Google Toolbar keeps a low profile, providing you quick and customizable access to essential features missing or deficient in most browsers.
Most noticeable is that you can execute searches directly in the toolbar, no matter which Web page you're browsing. A drop-down box maintains a list of already-executed searches, saving you time.
Google's pop-up ad blocker is effective and does its job without calling attention to itself, and an integrated spell-checker comes in very handy when you use online forms or forums.
The toolbar's AutoFill function is perhaps the most useful. Instead of typing the same information into online forms time and again, you can set up AutoFill to automatically supply information such as name, address, and credit card number, if you wish - all with one click. You'll have to supply a self-defined password before the toolbar will spit out your credit card number - an essential security feature.
Yahoo's toolbar makes sense if you regularly make use of Yahoo's many online services, including mail, picture storage, news, stock quotes, and search. Because the Yahoo toolbar has so much built into it, it's more cluttered than Google's offering, but if you're a regular at Yahoo's sites, the features make sense.
--- Go faster
In the old days, there never used to be enough computer speed. Now there's never enough Internet speed. Even if you're on a fast DSL, cable, or ISDN line, your Internet speed will suffer from time to time, especially with the growing popularity of multimedia online.
The free CableNut software is designed to ensure that your computer and broadband Internet connection are running at top speed. Download the software, install it, and then open the application. When you do, you'll see a bunch of intimidating-looking empty text boxes. You can ignore them unless you're an advanced user.
Just open the File menu and click Open Custom Settings File. Choose from a list of pre-configured settings that most closely matches yours, and once you've saved the settings, you should notice improvement in your Internet connection speed. If for some reason your computer does not work as expected after the change, it's a simple matter to try other settings or turn the service off.
Stocking up your browser toolbox is just as important these days as having a utility suite was in the days of DOS and early Windows. Now the situation for most of us is better, however, as many of the very good Web browser add-ons are completely free. All that's needed is some of your time to install them.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur