Useful Web Services--and a Firefox Tool

It's time for another Internet tools roundup. Last month I introduced you to Regator, Instructables, NiceCritic.com, and other useful (and fun) Web sites. This week I've got some practical tools (price comparisons, help sending large files) and some not-so-practical ones (turn yourself into a Simpsons' character!). Read on for the goods.

One-Click Comparison Shopping with PriceTrace

So you're all set to buy that Widget Pro from Amazon, but just before you add it to your cart, you stop and think: "Am I getting the best price?" PriceTrace, a new add-on for Mozilla Firefox, aims to give you a one-click answer.

It's not perfect, and I should tell you right up front that it adds yet another toolbar to your browser. If you can live with that, you'll probably love the convenience it affords.

There are two ways to use PriceTrace. First, you can type a product name, UPC, SKU, or URL in the search field and hit Enter. In an instant you'll get price-comparison data in a new tab, along with a snapshot of PriceTrace's interesting, informative price-history chart.

Even better, if you're already looking at a product on a site like Amazon or Newegg, just click the "Trace the item on this page" button. You'll get the aforementioned comparison/history results in a new tab.

Unfortunately, this doesn't always work exactly right. Newegg's product page for the Creative Vado HD pocket camcorder, for instance, calls it the "Creative Vado HD Black Pocket Video Cam"--and the resulting comparison page shows only the Newegg listing.

Still, the site offers several other handy features, including price-drop alerts (it notifies you via e-mail when a particular product reaches a certain price) and an Editor Picks section that showcases products that have had big price drops.

Send Large Files via Yahoo Mail

By default, Yahoo allows attachments no larger than 25MB. That's pretty decent, but it probably won't cover a video, big batch of photos, or the like.

Enter Drop.io, one of my favorite file-sharing services. When you sign into your Yahoo account, look for Drop.io's new Attach Large Files option in the Applications box. Give a click and follow the instructions to select your file(s) and compose your message to go with it.

Don't worry about the clogging up your recipient's inbox with your mammoth attachment: Drop.io doesn't send the actual file, but rather a link to where it can be downloaded.

There's no cost to use this new Attach Large Files option, and you don't even have to register with Drop.io. By the same token, you needn't be a Yahoo user to take advantage of the service. Drop.io lets anybody set up "drops"--files hosted online--to share with others. It's a killer tool, one I can't recommend highly enough.

Download Free Reference Guides for Popular Apps

TechPosters is home to hundreds of quick-reference guides for Windows, Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, and even Google.

It's easy to be thrown by some of the seriously techie subjects you'll find on the home page, but just browse the Categories section on the right-hand side and you'll find guides for plenty of mainstream stufff. Look in MS Office, for instance, for posters on Word, PowerPoint, and the like.

Within each category you'll see a large preview of each poster, followed by a link for downloading a PDF you can then print. What's great is that the site has guides for older versions of programs as well, like Publisher 97. (If you can't find something by perusing the Categories, try using the Search field.)

This is a great resource for anyone trying to learn a new piece of software, or for novice users who like paper cheat-sheets they can keep by their side.

Turn Yourself Into a Simpsons Character

Is your Facebook profile picture boring? Looking for a fun avatar to use in online forums? Head to Simpsonize Me and turn yourself into a cartoon character.

All you need is a color photo of your face, preferably in JPEG or PNG format, with a minimum resolution of 640 by 480 pixels. (If you need help creating a photo with the proper specs, I recommend free image editor IrfanView.)

Following the site's instructions, you simply upload your photo, choose a few options, and then click Simpsonize Me. From there you can tweak just about every aspect of your appearance, from hair color to skin tone to body type. When you're done, you can download the image to your PC or e-mail it to a friend.

The Simpsonize Me site is free, and lots of fun, though you will have to contend with a lot of Burger King promotions.

Rick Broida writes PC World's Hassle-Free PC blog. Sign up to have Rick's newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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