Windows XP Tweaks
Fresh UI is a tweaker’s heaven: With it you can change scores of settings in XP, many of which you probably never knew existed. Want to alter most any aspect of the Windows interface? Go ahead. Customize the Start menu? No problem. Change global menu settings and dozens of network and Internet settings? You can do them all, and a whole lot more.
Windows Vista Tweaks
If you want to do some serious Windows Vista tweaking, you need this utility. Microsoft seems to have gone out of its way to make Vista unfriendly to power users. But this great freebie gives you hundreds of ways to adjust the operating system, tasks that otherwise would be extremely difficult to do. Whether you want to, say, hack the Start menu, put an image on Internet Explorer’s toolbar, or optimize your CPU’s cache, this program has something for you.
If you’re looking for an exquisitely detailed audit of your hardware, this is the download you need. The program starts with the basics, such as the computer manufacturer, installed RAM, hard-disk size, and processor type and speed. But it also shows you the motherboard maker, hard-disk manufacturer, chassis serial number, PC service tag, bus type and speed, multimedia devices…the list goes on and on.
How can you be in two or more places at once — that is, use multiple instant messaging services simultaneously? Use Meebo. It lets you log in simultaneously to seven instant messaging services, namely AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN Live Messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and Meebo’s own network. You see all your contacts in a single list, and you can correspond with them all from a single interface. It’s perfect for instant messaging on the road, since you don’t need to download a client; everything is available on Meebo’s Web site.
Online RSS Reader
The Web-based Bloglines loads quickly, sports a sophisticated interface, and delivers such snappy responses that you’d almost think you were using downloaded software. Bloglines makes subscribing to and reading feeds easy, as well. We’re particularly fond of the Clippings feature, which allows you to add any blog or Web page text to a special Clippings tab; that way, you can keep all of your important posts in a single location for easy retrieval. We also like Clip Blogs, which are clips from blogs that you can keep private or share with others.
Office Productivity Software and Services
What makes Zoho the winner is that it doesn’t merely try to copy Microsoft Office functionality. It’s Web-based, so you can collaborate with others on your documents, for example. But the functionality of even the base software beats Microsoft’s offering in some areas; for creating HTML and graphics-heavy documents, for instance, it surpasses Word. This is the best and most comprehensive Web-based office suite you can find. Included are a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation program, and a database builder — and plenty of other productivity applications are being added all the time.
Juggling multiple projects has never been so easy. For every project you create a separate page, each of which can include to-do lists, freeform text, notes, links, files, images, and reminders. Backpack also has a calendar, and if you use Apple iCal, Mozilla Calendar, or any program that supports the iCalendar format, your reminders will be automatically added to your Backpack calendar. You can even have reminders sent to you via e-mail or to your cell phone.
VLC Media Player
If you play a lot of video and use Windows Media Player, you’ve probably come across a number of files that you can’t play — you’re told you need to have a codec to handle them. Good luck finding that codec. Instead, try the VLC media player. This software plays pretty much every media type you can think of — and likely a few you haven’t imagined. Not only will it play audio and video formats, but it will also play DVDs, VCDs, and many streaming protocols.
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