This morning I am going to go a bit off topic and talk about three tools that I have grown to love and I highly recommend. I think these gems will greatly enhance your online experience. The second two I’ll talk about will really work better if you choose to go with the first one, just so you know. And, remember, these three wonderful jewels are all free. So without further ado let’s get to the first one, shall we?
Firefox is a web browser that can make your internet life easier, more organized and greatly customizable. Now I’m not one of those Microsoft haters. They do a grate job as far as I am concerned. For me the choice is simply a matter of what works better, has better features and allows me to customize it to suit my needs.
Why is Firefox better?
Tabbed browsing. Think of it as having multiple sites open in the same window, but layered in tabs so that you can easily switch between them. With Firefox it is easy to open a link in another tab and keep reading down the site you are on while you wait for the new one to load. then you can either close the old one, or keep it open to come back to. Since you only have one window open, it seems to take less of the system resources.
Easier Search. If you like the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer you will love the search in Firefox. It has a drop down menu that you can customize with different sites to search with one click. In addition to Google, I have Yahoo, MSN, Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, IMDb and others. I can search the same term in the different places with one click of the mouse to find what I want. And there are dozens, if not hundreds of different search engines you can add and access with just one click of the mouse.
Customizability. (Is that a word?) You can add Downloads, Extensions, Plugins and Themes to do all kinds of things straight from your Firefox browser that you’d have to get additional programs to do with Internet Explorer. For example I am using a Firefox Extension right now as I write up this post using a tool that I’ll tell you about in a minute. You can move the different pieces, toolbars and buttons around, add ones that are useful, and remove ones that you don’t use (or no longer use) – all very simply.
There is one down side that I’ve noticed with Firefox and that is the customization doesn’t always work as easily as advertised. Most times it does, but occasionally I’ll have to wrestle with something that the instructions say should be pretty easy. I don’t know if that is a case of “operator error” or if there are really a few issues with some of the things I’ve added in.
Go download Firefox and get started.
I’d heard about StumbleUpon a while back but didn’t try it until just recently. It is kind of a cross between a social bookmarking site and a search engine. Basically you download their toolbar, take about two minutes to sign up with their free service and enter some basic interest categories and then you are ready to start stumbling around the internet.
What you get is a surfing session that is oriented toward things you are interested in. Then as you hit the “Stumble!” button you have an opportunity to give each site you encounter a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down vote.
The service somehow uses those votes to learn your preferences and give you sites even more oriented toward your preferences. Imagine cruising around the internet and the vast majority of the sites you find are actually interesting to you.
How cool is that?
And if you are a blogger you need to be using StumbleUpon and refer your own posts. My traffic has more than doubled since I started using it. And the best part is you don’t have to feel guilty because people who StumbleUpon your site are actually interested in what you have to say. Just be sure to use the appropriate category and descriptive tags that describe your posts. Then you will find the time visitors spend on your blog will go up too. It’s all about providing quality content and good honest tags.
This last tool is really just for bloggers. Performancing has a free Firefox extension that you can use to edit your blog right from your browser. If you follow my blog at all you’ve probably noticed that I have spent some time using Qumana as a blogging tool. I’ve got to say Performancing is easier for me to use.
I can’t tell you how many times Quamana locked up when I tried to move a picture around. I’ve gotten used to very few crashes since I’ve been using Firefox. It’s a known bug with their program, but it sure seems like they’d fix it already.
There are a couple features I’d like to see them add to Performancing, though. I’d like to be able to define the alignment of graphics and add titles to graphics and hyperlinks. As it stands I submit my posts as drafts and then put the finishing touches on them before I publish them.
Oh, and I did have a bit of a go-round getting the spell check feature they recommend installed and working correctly. I did it, but it wasn’t easy for me. I would think they’d incorporate spell check right into the blogging platform. But all’s well that ends well, eh?
There you have it. Three web tools that you’ll fall in love with. There all really good. And best of all they’re all free. Go ahead, download Firefox and get started with them.
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