Browser Tips & Tools From Hassle-Free PC
Keep Internet Explorer Bookmarks in Sync With Foxmarks
Good news, Internet Explorer users! Now you can use Foxmarks to keep your bookmarks in sync across multiple PCs. If this sounds familiar, you're not imagining things: A few months back I reviewed the Firefox version of Foxmarks (which is soon to get a new name), and now it's available for Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple Safari.
Say, for example, you use Firefox at home, but at work you're stuck with Internet Explorer (not that there's anything wrong with that). Foxmarks will keep your bookmarks in sync between the two PCs and the two different browsers. (It also makes your bookmarks available online from any PC, smartphone, etc.)
Just be sure to check the settings before you perform the initial synchronization, as Foxmarks gives you the option of merging or overwriting bookmarks in one direction or the other. You'll want to give some thought as to how the first sync should go.
Unfortunately, the IE and Safari versions of Foxmarks lack one key feature: password synchronization. For now that remains exclusive to Foxmarks for Firefox. Even so, this is a must-have tool for anyone who runs multiple PCs (and/or Macs) and wants to keep a consistent, automatically updated set of bookmarks on all of them.
Make Free Phone Calls From Your Browser
A while back I wrote about GizmoCall, which lets you make free phone calls right from your Web browser. (You supply the headset, Gizmo supplies the VoIP.) The only catch was that the freebie calls were limited to other GizmoCall users and a smattering of toll-free numbers, other VoIP services, and college campuses.
Enter CallingAmerica, an ad-heavy but otherwise free alternative to GizmoCall. Like the latter, CallingAmerica requires no software; all you need is your browser.
In fact, you don't even need to sign up: Just enter the phone number for anywhere in the U.S. or Canada and click FreeCall Now. You can make an unlimited number of calls this way, but each one is limited to two minutes. By registering (also free), the call cap gets raised to 15 minutes.
However, here's the rub: In order to register, you have to agree to receive e-mail from CallingAmerica "and its sponsors." Spam alert!
Whether you register or not, you'll have to spend 10 seconds looking at an ad before your call goes through. But that's the end of your obligation: There's no advertising on the call itself. The CallingAmerica site is pretty ad-laden, but so what?
I made a few test calls with CallingAmerica and was pretty impressed by the quality. Plus, I found that I didn't mind the 10-second "ad delay" one bit.
Granted, this is a pretty bare-bones service, without so much as a phone book for frequently dialed numbers. But if you just need to make a quick call, there's no cheaper solution.
Use Google to Search Within One Site
One of my favorite Google tricks is site-specific searching. In other words, you run a Google search just like you usually would, but limit the scope to one site.
Suppose, for instance, that you're trying to find an old post of mine--say, the one about using Gmail to filter spam. One option is to head to PC World, type in a few keywords, then wade through the results in hopes of finding the post.
Or, you could save several steps and type this into your Google search bar:
site:pcworld.com broida gmail
Try it. You'll see that the exact post appears in the first two search results. Now, suppose you recall hearing an NPR story featuring the music of Brendan Benson. Instead of slogging through NPR's own less-than-stellar search engine, just hit Google with this:
site:npr.org brendan benson
Get the idea? Just prefix any search with site: and the domain name, making sure to leave no space after the colon.