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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.

More office optimisers

Import Outlook contacts to Lotus Notes, and vice versa: Moving your contacts list from Lotus Notes to Outlook (or making the opposite migration) is a snap using the Personal NAB (Notes Address Book) Import/Export Utility, a no-cost download from Lotus's website.

Open the utility the same way you would any Notes database, and you'll see a simple form where you can point to the file that you wish to convert, choose the desired operation, and hit a button to start the conversion.

It's very useful if you're migrating to a new platform, for example.

Get a bird's-eye view of your contacts: "Xobni" is inbox spelled backward, but there's nothing misdirected about Xobni Insight's cool interface, which provides information about each person that you correspond with as you read messages from them.

Xobni (currently available only if you sign up for a private beta invitation) lives on the right side of your Outlook window. It provides a graphical look at email frequency, contact information, and old conversations with each contact. Don't miss the Xobni Analytics feature, which tracks how much email you send and receive every day.


18 ways to tweak Outlook: MAPILab Toolbox is a pile of 18 Outlook add-ins bundled into one big package. Some of the tools are simple; one, for instance, hides fax numbers in contact searches. Others are pure genius, such as a plug-in that scans outgoing email for phrases such as "see the attachment" and then pops up a reminder in case you forget to attach anything. The toolbox is free for 30 days, $24 thereafter.

Redact text in Word: You know how the feds black out sections of documents they deem too sensitive (or embarrassing) for public consumption? You can too, if you download Microsoft's Word Redaction add-in for Office 2003. You can read your own redacted text; but when you export the documents in redacted form, the marked portions cannot be read (or edited, if you choose this limitation).

Share Excel files without groupware: You can share an Excel file without using a web-based collaboration system. The eXpresso Plug-In for Excel lets you store the file while working in Excel, locking it while one user meddles with it, and then making it available for others to edit. Email alerts tell when the file is unlocked. You can even lock specific portions of a spreadsheet to prevent others from editing them.

Swell your spreadsheets with demographic data: An Excel spreadsheet is only as good as its data. But manually adding information (such as the population in an area code or the average income in a postcode) is tiresome.

CDXStreamer does the heavy lifting: Install this Excel plug-in, and configure it to find information about a region or a stock ticker you are interested in. CDXStreamer then grabs the latest content from the web, automatically. More than 100 pieces of demographic data are indexed to each postcode. The free trial lasts 14 days; regular CDXStreamer service costs $30 per month.

Add real-time stock quotes to Excel: Obsolete stock data in a spreadsheet does you no good. The MSN Money Stock Quotes for Excel add-on inserts MSN stock prices (which are delayed by 15 minutes) into any Excel spreadsheet, with updates every time you change the spreadsheet.

NEXT PAGE: Five essential office add-ons > >

  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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