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 @mailinator.com (anyaddress@mailinator.com, earl@mailinator.com, screwyou@mailinator.com -- you get the picture). Later, go to www.mailinator.com, 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.