Useful Internet Tools

The Internet isn't perfect and if you're a heavy user, some of its oddities become annoying over time. Fortunately, some smart people out there have written some really useful software to help with day-to-day activities. Here's my list of favorites.

The Google Toolbar has two features that I really like. The first is a search box where I can type in a search phrase that will take me straight to the results from Google. I do a lot of searching and this feature saves me a click. The second is a pop-up ad blocker. I've tried a few ad blockers that were effective, but Google's toolbar is the only one that allows me to turn off the blocker just by holding down a key. The Google Toolbar is free.

Although Google's toolbar blocks pop-ups, it doesn't stop Flash ads. After pop-ups, Flash ads are the most annoying thing about surfing the web. So I installed a free tool called No! Flash [site now down so I can't link to it] and now I don't see Flash ads. I wonder if Flash ads will become so annoying that everyone will have Flash blockers. That could have a serious impact to Macromedia's bottom-line.

Viruses abound and a good firewall can protect you from some of them. Outpost Firewall is a free firewall that offers a few advanced features and settings that aren't as nicely implemented in more popular firewalls such as ZoneAlarm.

Trillian let's you combine all your instant messaging accounts in to a single application. This is particularly handy if some of your friends use MSN while others use AIM and still others use Yahoo. There's a free version that is sufficient for my needs, but there's also a paid-for version with some advanced features.

For anyone that subscribes to RSS feeds and uses Outlook, I recommend NewsGator. It adds RSS feed support to Outlook, which is quite convenient compared to the alternative of running an e-mail program and a feed aggregator program. This tool isn't free, but you may find it to be reasonably priced.

PDF content extraction tools can also be recommended. They’re great if you need to get through a lot of content relatively quickly, and you can even convert them into whatever format you’d like. It’ll be more useful than you’d think.

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