Pinball browsing

After months travelling with my book-sized Asus EEE PC, with it’s micro keyboard and mighty 7-inch screen, i’m finally working on a fast computer with a large screen and a real keyboard again, for a while at least. (Thanks, Robert!)

firefoxIf you’re not on the Firefox browser wagon yet, i suggest you get with it. It’s free, community-developed, and open source — the way of the future for broad-spectrum apps, in my opinion — and far superior to the Internet Explorer experience. I can hardly believe how cumbersome and nonintuitive IE has become in recent iterations.

Firefox’s spell-checking and form-filling features alone are worth the switch. Download Firefox here for free.

Still better are the hundreds thousands of Firefox add-ons you can get, also free. Most are frivolous, but here are four i’m working with right now that i really like:

  1. Foxmarks Bookmark Sync — This automatically stores all your bookmarks on-line so you can get to them from anywhere, including public computers at whatever divey hostel you’re staying at. And they don’t get lost when your hard drive crashes. Even better, it’ll sync those bookmarks on multiple computers — and who doesn’t use more than one computer these days?
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  2. Mouse Gestures Redox — This one lets you execute common commands (like forward/back, close tab, new tab, etc.) by clicking and “drawing” with the mouse, or just clicking its buttons in order (right-left for “back,” for example). Takes a few minutes to get used to, but greatly speeds up page navigation and reduces moving around the screen to use the toolbar buttons on top.
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  3. Grab and Drag — Ooh la laa! I installed this little beauty yesterday and i love it. It lets you scroll by “grabbing” the page and moving it, just like in Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Even better, by enabling “momentum” you can grab the page and “throw” it so it keeps on scrolling, slow or fast, until you click again. I had to reduce the “time” and “deceleration” parameters to fine-tune it, but it turns every page into a little video game. Perfectly intuitive once you get the hang of it. It’s nice to work with meticulously designed software.
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  4. Adblock Plus — The Internet, and life in general, has for me become an exercise in avoiding advertising, which is the mental equivalent of choking air pollution. Banner ads are endemic on many sites — i won’t even use the Yahoo service anymore. Adblock replaces (many of) the ads with empty boxes of equivalent size. You can still click on the box if you want to see the ad. I used it six months ago and liked it; hopefully it still measures up.

Now if only i could work up the nerve to make the switch to Linux, and get out from under Microsoft’s demanding thumb for good.

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