Wednesday, December 28, 2005


I don't know why this software wasn't in my first post, because I can't live without it. Despite the name that conjures up visions of a porn site, StrokeIt is a piece of software that I'm surprised that no one thought of sooner.

I found StrokeIt after using Opera's mouse gestures -- I got really used to them and wondered why mouse gestures weren't part Windows (that's part of a Microsoft "innovation" rant, so I won't go there right now), so I Googled "gestures windows" and StrokeIt was the first result. I downloaded and installed it, and was immediately impressed.

StrokeIt has always been stable -- I don't think it has ever crashed and I've been using it for at least two years on multiple computers.

In addition to StrokeIt being stable, its design is elegant -- you can define global mouse gestures that apply to all windows, and can override the action that a gesture performs in another application if you want. For example, the gesture "C" closes a window by default. But in certain MDI applications (such as tabbed windows in Firefox), I like "C" to close the MDI child windows, not the whole application. If you want to disable StrokeIt in an application, you can do so easily.

Here are a few examples of StrokeIt's usefulness -- to minimize a window, do a quick diagonal gesture toward the lower-left corner. No need to go up to the top corner, find the minimize button, then click it. To close a window, just a quick "C" gesture and the window is closed. These are just a few examples of how to use StrokeIt, but hopefully you get the idea.

The best part about StrokeIt is that it's free, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try. But be forewarned -- once you start using it, you won't be able to stop using it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Are you tired of sending out emails to all of your friends telling them you have a new email address? Wouldn't it be a lot nicer to just give everyone an email address that never changes? Well that's what the Pobox email service offers -- a permanent email address that isn't dependent on your ISP.

It works like this:
  • Sign up for Pobox (for a nominal yearly charge) and pick an email address (like
  • Tell Pobox up to three real email addresses (like, to which you'd like your mail sent.
  • Let all of your friends and family know your new Pobox email address.
  • That's it -- now you can check your regular email accounts, but all of your friends only know your Pobox account.
What if you switch ISPs? No problem -- just go to Pobox and tell them where to send your email. It switches almost instantly and you're now in business with your new ISP.
Besides being your new permanent email address, Pobox also performs decent spam filtering to keep the spam in your inbox to a minimum. I've been a Pobox customer since 1998, and I'll gladly keep paying for it. Firefox extension

The Firefox extension gives you easy access to the social bookmarking website. It works like this -- first, sign up for a free account. Then, while you're surfing the Internet and you see a site you want to bookmark, click on the TAG button, which opens up a window to a new entry. You add tags that categorize the entry, so you (and other users) can later find your entries utilizing the tags.

The real power of is that it allows you to see other people's bookmarks, allowing you to find new websites that interest you. Let's say you're a web designer and you want to find some good sites on CSS. Go to, put css in the search box, and it will display all of your bookmarks related to CSS along with everyone else's bookmarks that they have categorized with the css tag. is a great site, and this extension makes it that much better.


Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that runs scripts that can change a web page's behavior. For example, I have a Greasemonkey script that adds a Delete button to Gmail. There are others that strip advertisements from pages, show negative feedback of eBay users, and countless others that fix some of the annoyances of our favorite web pages.

You can get Greasemonkey here, and go to to get your hands on some great scripts that will let you browse the web the way you want to browse it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

TaskSwitchXP Pro

The other day I had about 15 applications open and was using the built-in Windows task switcher via the Alt-Tab keystroke. As I was cycling through the windows, I thought to myself, "Self, why can't I use the mouse to just point to one of the windows in the list?" I tried, but it doesn't work.

So I Googled "windows task switcher" and ran across this gem -- TaskSwitchPro XP. Not only does it allow you to use the mouse to point to the window you want to switch to, but it shows you a thumbnail of the window as you point to different windows. I just installed it, so I haven't fully investigated it yet, but there are dozens of configuration options that let you tweak it just the way you want.

If you often have more than 2 or 3 applications open at a time, and want quick access to them, then this application is for you. It appears to be well-written, stable, and offers all of the functionality that Microsoft neglected to include in the Windows task switcher. Oh, and best off all it's free!

Monday, November 21, 2005


You've probably heard all of the hubbub about Firefox during the last year or so, and guess what? It's all well-founded hubbub. So go get Firefox now. I'll wait. OK, good. Now you've got the best web browsing experience there is. The biggest advantages of Firefox are increased speed, tabbed browsing, web standards compliance, extensions, and themes.

Tabbed browsing allows you to have several websites open in one browser window, so you don't have to keep switching between browser copies to get back to another website.

Web standards compliance simply means that Firefox adheres to the W3C (the people that write the web standards) standards for rendering web pages. Not all browsers follow the standards (uh...Internet Explorer comes to mind), so web designers must work around their limitations. Since Firefox follows the rules, you see web pages the way the W3C meant them to be seen.

Extensions are small add-ons that add functionality to the browser. There are already so many extensions, it wouldn't make any sense to list them all here. In the near future, I'll be suggesting extensions that I regularly use -- in the meantime, go visit the Firefox extensions page to see everything that's available.

Themes allow you to change the look and feel of the browser to your liking. You can create your own, or go to the Firefox themes page to choose one of the many themes that have already been created by the Firefox community.


Imagine this scenario -- you're registering for a website that requires an email address and you're not quite sure if you want to give them your real email address. But the site looks interesting and you want to join. Your mind is swimming with indecision -- give them my real address, where it could be sold to who knows who, or go and create a new fake email address with one of the big free services?

Enter Mailinator -- when an email is required, you can enter any address (,, -- you get the picture). Later, go to, enter the email address you just entered, and it will display your mail. Very handy for registering for sites that require you to click on a link to complete your registration.

A few notes -- the email accounts are created on the fly as mail arrives at the server, so no password is required. This means that anyone can read your mail, and you can read anyone else's mail if you guess an existing account. The mail only stays around for a few hours, and any attachments are stripped from the mail. You cannot reply using Mailinator, only read incoming mail.

Mailinator is one tool to keep in your spam-prevention arsenal -- a great tool that does its job well.