Hassle-Free PC: Use a Sneaky Signature to Reduce Spam

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Call me a kvetcher, but I'm tired of spam (ain't that a surprise). I also think it's nutty to have to fill in a field on a Web form repeatedly. If you are as steamed as I am, read on for some nifty solutions.

The Hassle: I keep reading that to prevent spam, I shouldn't put my e-mail address into messages or on newsgroups. But I'd also like to make it easy for people to send e-mail messages to me.

The Fix: My solution was to turn my e-mail address into an image and use it as my signature line in messages so spammers can't harvest it. You can customize it for a slew of e-mail services, including EarthLink, Gmail, and Yahoo. Check out mine here, and create yours here. Adding the image to a message takes a couple of steps. Once done, the signature line is easy to use. For an Outlook Express step-by-step, consult About.com. There are also instructions for current Outlook versions and for Eudora.

The Hassle: I use spam controls but need to make sure that no legitimate e-mail messages get blocked. Is there an easy way to check?

The Fix: I'm in the same boat because I regularly and diligently check three large lists of e-mail marked as spam. I sort on the subject line, which lets me immediately spot the duplicate spam messages and single out legitimate arrivals. I'm obsessive so I sort again on sender.

The Hassle: I replied to someone on a Web site and was forced to fill out an annoying and lengthy Web form. To make matters worse, my browser then crashed and I lost everything I had said. This is miserable. Help!

The Fix: I have a few fixes. The quickest trick is to copy the contents of the lengthiest field into the clipboard for safekeeping. That way, you have it stored in case you need to paste it. A more elegant method of grabbing forms by the lapels is with IEFillForm, a free tool that saves the contents of every field with one click, letting you fill out the form later. See how to use it here. It's not as automatic, but Firefox users can use InFormEnter, which is also free and is available here. And if you don't mind spending the bucks, get the advanced version of RoboForm; it costs $30 but works in all browsers.

The Hassle: I need to send text messages to friends' and coworkers' cell phones. I've tried using my phone to do it, but that's cumbersome. Using my PC is even worse because I have to know the carrier, the domain, and other complicated syntax. Got a better way?

The Fix: Just enter the ten-digit phone number followed by @teleflip.com into the To: box of an e-mail message. It looks like this: 4255551212@teleflip.com. And yes, the Teleflip service is a freebie.

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