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50 free tools to extend your Windows XP PC

Extend XP today, for free

While Microsoft is keen for us to move to Windows Vista, we've got other ideas. With a brand-new service pack and a slew of useful add-ons XP works better than ever. Here are 50 tools that can extend XP's useful working life still further.

XP browser boosters

Web browsers, especially Firefox, are built with plug-ins in mind. Thousands of these code snippets are available; here we present some useful add-ons, plus a few tips that don't require any extra code.

Web ad zapper

Although decried by many webmasters for cutting into a lucrative revenue stream, Adblock Plus is practically a mandatory addition to Firefox, due to the increasingly annoying quantities of web advertising.

Put simply, Adblock Plus blocks ads. It's not just pop-up adverts that are blocked; normal banners, towers, rich-media stuff and Google's ubiquitous advertisements disappear too. Adblock Plus doesn't stop everything, but it deals with enough for you to notice the difference immediately.

Multiple bookmarks

If you use numerous PCs, you probably deal with separate browsers on each computer, each with its own set of bookmarks that have to be managed separately – unless you've got a bookmark synchroniser.

Foxmarks is one of a number of tools that can sync Firefox bookmarks between multiple machines. 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.

Put an FTP app into Firefox

Even the most casual web developer needs an FTP application, but many are cumbersome, unintuitive and reliant on the installation of another 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, enabling you to easily copy files between your desktop and a remote site.

Get a handle on downloaded files

If you're the sort of PC user who always has something in the queue to leech off the web, you need a download manager to help you 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.

It works in the background and lets you pause and resume downloads. It can even tell your PC to shut down when the downloading is done. We also like the fact it works with any web browser.

Restore embedded passwords

Several years ago, Microsoft stopped Internet Explorer (IE) using an embedded password as part of a URL (in 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 the use of
fake password fields by phishers.

Restoring IE's original ability takes only a Registry tweak. Run Regedit and browse to the following Registry key:

Hkey_Local_Machine\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\FeatureControl\Feature_Http_Username_Password_Disable

Create two new Dword values: iexplore.exe and explorer.exe. Leave the default value for each of these at ‘0' and restart the browser.

Grab a hard copy of any web page

Most of us have experienced the frustration of printing a web page, only to find the result is a garbled mess that has images missing and is generally almost unreadable.
This can happen because Web 2.0 standards don't play well with earlier-era printers. One workaround is to take a screengrab of the web page and then print that. This is hardly practical, however, when a single web page contains enough content to fill up three display screens.

Instead, install Screengrab for Firefox, which lets you save a full page, the visible portion of a page or just the bit you need.

IE Screenshot performs similar tricks for Microsoft's browser. Either save your images as digital files or print them out.

Copy any web video

Various internet services allow you to type in the URL of a web video and then churn out a digital copy of the clip that you can save to your hard drive. But they're often slow and buggy, and you never know if they'll work on the less popular video-sharing sites.

Orbit Rich Media Downloader adds a context-sensitive set of menu items to your right mouse button when you're using a web browser. Now when you see a video or song you like, just right-click to save it to your PC.

Save protected media files

Some websites disable the right-click button on images and other media, preventing you from easily downloading them. OOrbit Rich Media Downloader offers a workaround, but you may find that it's overkill if all you want to do is to save an image occasionally.

Instead, Firefox has a quick, built-in way to save protected media files without the hassle. Visit the web page you want, right-click anywhere on the page (but not on the image), then select 'View page info'.

Click the Media tab to see a list of all the images found on the page; scroll through the list (a preview will appear at the bottom of the window) and click Save As when you find the one that you want.

On to something new

Collected quotes of Albert Einstein? Winners of the 'I Look Like My Dog' contest? Pictures of real-life sea monsters? All these web pages can be yours at the touch of a button if you install StumbleUpon, a plug-in toolbar available for both Firefox and IE.

StumbleUpon, like social news sites such as Digg, accepts submissions from users
who think a site is worth a look, pointing others to the page in question.
Click the thumbs-up button if you like what you see, or hit thumbs-down if you don't. Over time, StumbleUpon refines its suggestions for you, making it (eventually) the perfect time-waster – and one that's always at your fingertips.

Relocate the Firefox sidebar

Some of us just can't help but tinker. If you're itching to move Firefox's sidebar, follow these steps to shunt it out of the way and off to the right of your screen.
Edit your userChrome.css file or create a new one in your profile/chrome folder. Find it in C:\Documents and Settings\xxxxx\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\yyyyyyyy.default\chrome, where xxxxx is your username and yyyyyyyy is a random set of eight characters.

If the Application Data file doesn't appear in your user folder, go to the Tools menu, click Folder Options, choose the View tab and select Show Hidden Files and Folders.
Rename the example file found there as userChrome.css and add the following line
of code to the bottom of the file:

/* Place the sidebar on the right edge of
the window */
hbox#browser { direction: rtl; }
hbox#browser > vbox { direction: ltr; }

Keep track of Adsense earnings

If you use Adsense, use Adsense Notifier, a Firefox plug-in, to keep track of your daily earnings within the browser in real time. Just check the bottom right corner for total advertising impressions and your total daily earnings as they accrue.

NEXT PAGE: Five essential XP web-browser add-ons > >

  1. 50 tools to help extend Windows XP
  2. Vista's failure to launch
  3. XP: Trick or tweak?
  4. XP-alidocious!
  5. Windows XP – your rights
  6. Windows XP – Support goes on
  7. Market pressure
  8. The save XP campaign
  9. How to downgrade to XP

50 free Windows XP tools

  1. Office optimising tools for XP
  2. Five essential XP add-ons
  3. XP browser boosters
  4. Five essential XP web-browser add-ons
  5. Extra media muscle for XP
  6. Five media boosters for XP

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