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50 great, free ways to improve your software

Make your software do more... for free

We rounded up more than 50 of our favourite tools and tips for unlocking extra value from popular browsers, productivity applications and multimedia tools.

Browser boosters, part I

Web browsers - especially Firefox - are built with plug-ins in mind.

Thousands of these code snippets are available, but here we present some of the most useful add-ons, plus a few tips that don't require any extra code.

Nuke web ads: Although decried by many webmasters and publishers for cutting into a lucrative revenue stream, Adblock Plus is practically a mandatory addition to Firefox, due to an increasingly onerous glut of web advertising. (IE users can try Ad Muncher free for 30 days and then pay $30).

Put simply, Adblock Plus blocks ads - not just pop-ups, but regular banners, towers, rich-media stuff, and Google's ubiquitous advertisements.

Adblock Plus doesn't stop everything, but it nabs enough that you'll notice the difference immediately.

Many PCs, one set of bookmarks: If you use numerous computers, you have undoubtedly had to deal with separate browsers on each of those PCs, each with its own set of bookmarks that must be managed separately - unless you have a bookmark synchroniser, that is. Foxmarks is one of a number of tools that can sync Firefox bookmarks among multiple machines.

Just install Foxmarks as an add-on to the Firefox installation on each system, and never worry about manual syncing again. As a bonus, you can access your bookmarks on the Foxmarks website, too.

Put an FTP app into Firefox: Even the most casual web developer needs an FTP application, but many of these are cumbersome and unintuitive - and they require installing yet another full-blown program.


FireFTP turns Firefox into an impromptu and speedy two-way FTP application.

Once installed, FireFTP appears in the Tools menu. Click it and a new FTP tab opens up, offering a simple two-pane system that lets you easily copy files between your desktop and your remote site.

Get a handle on downloaded files: If you are a download junkie who always has something in the queue to leech off the web, you need a download manager to help handle everything. FlashGet is a free and extremely popular download manager that can help you organise and queue up HTTP, FTP, BitTorrent, and other types of downloads, working in the background and letting you pause and resume downloads.

It can even tell your computer to shut itself down when the downloading is done. Works on any browser.


Restore embedded passwords to IE URLs: Several years ago, Microsoft disallowed Internet Explorer to use an embedded password as part of a URL (of the format https://username:[email protected]) when a user goes to a protected website; instead the person must type in the password manually at the pop-up log-in screen.

(This restriction was a response to phishers' employing phony password fields to deceive unsuspecting users.) Restoring IE's original ability takes a Registry tweak. Run Regedit and browse to the following Registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\FeatureControl\FEATURE_HTTP_

Here, create two new DWORD values: iexplore.exe and explorer.exe. Leave the default DWORD value for each of these at '0'. Restart IE.

Grab a hard copy of any web page: Did you ever print a hard copy of a Web page only to have it come out garbled, missing images, and otherwise nigh unreadable? One reason that may happen is because the newfangled Web 2.0 standards don't play well with 0.1-era printers.

Solution: Grab a screen shot of a web page, and select Print. But how do you do that, when a single page has enough content to fill up three display screens? Simple: Install Screengrab for Firefox, which lets you save a full page, the visible portion of a page, or just the tidbit you'd like to keep.

IE Screenshot performs similar tricks for the Microsoft browser. Save images as digital files or print them out.

NEXT PAGE: Browser boosters, part II > >

  1. Make your software do more... for free
  2. Browser boosters, part I
  3. Browser boosters, part II
  4. Five essential browser add-ons
  5. Office optimisers
  6. More office optimisers
  7. Five essential office add-ons
  8. Multimedia muscle builders
  9. More multimedia muscle builders
  10. Five essential multimedia add-ons

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