Apps for Staying Informed and in Touch Online

Has your life moved to the Internet? If so--or if it only seems that way--these three free downloads will help keep you safe, in­­formed, and in touch online. A smart security tool eliminates irritations with the built-in firewalls of newer Windows OSs, making caution less onerous. A browser add-on helps you keep and tag information from the ever-changing Web. And a beautifully simple video calling program lets you chat face-to-face with your less tech-savvy friends--without having to walk them through a painful installation process.

Windows 7 Firewall Control Free

Do you want to be able to exercise fine-grained control over the firewall built into Windows 7 and Windows Vista--especially over the way it blocks outbound connections? Good luck. Even if you manage to unearth the controls buried deep in Windows menus and applications, you'll be baffled. Luckily, Windows 7 Firewall Control Free solves the problem.


With Windows 7 Firewall Control Free, you can tell the Windows firewall to forbid applications to make outbound connections to the Internet, or you can customize how they make those connections. When you run the program, anytime an application tries to access the Internet, a screen will pop up, with the application's name, its publisher, and similar details about it, as well as its path and file name. You can then enable or disable the inbound or outbound connections it tries to make, either permanently or just that one time.

--Preston Gralla

iCyte

The here-today-gone-tomorrow nature of Web pages can stymie researchers who try to go back to cite or review information they found at an online source, only to discover that the page in question has changed or vanished. To save the data, you could cut and paste everything to your own documents. Or you could use iCyte.

With a free iCyte account and browser add-on, you simply right-click a Web page and create a "cyte," which saves a snapshot of that page to your online iCyte account. You can add the cyte to an existing project or use it to start a new one, and you can attach tags and notes to the cyte. Storing the data online with iCyte means that you don't have to worry about losing the data after a crash, and that you can easily share it with others. Of course, it also means that you'll need Internet access to get to your saved information.

--Erik Larkin

Logitech Vid

When you think of Logitech Vid, think of a version of Skype that is easier to use and delivers superior quality. The upgrade in ease of use is due to your being able to choose people to chat with on the basis of their e-mail and a photo they submit when they sign up, not some po­­tentially obscure screen name. The on-screen interface is simple but intuitive.

You have relatively few settings to tweak--just options for automatic call answering, noise reduction, included devices, and volume. That's a good thing, as the goal Vid is aiming for is to make video calling a simpler process.

Vid is easy to use, and it's a free download for anyone who either owns a Logitech Webcam (any vintage) or has a Logitech Webcam owner on their contact list.

--Jon L. Jacobi

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