Cool Browser Tricks From Hassle-Free PC

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Make Free (and Cheap) Phone Calls From Your Web Browser

Much as I love the idea of using a service like Skype to make free PC-to-PC phone calls (and cheap PC-to-landline calls), it's yet another program to install, and yet another drain on my system's already strapped resources.

Enter GizmoCall, which offers Skype-like calling capabilities but requires no special software. Instead, it works right inside your browser--any browser, on any system (Windows, Mac, or Linux).

All you need is a microphone (the one in your Webcam will do) and/or headset. You can make free calls to other Gizmo users, toll-free numbers, various college campuses, and other VoIP networks (like Earthlink and LiveVoip). Here's the full list of GizmoCall freebies.

As with Skype, if you want to call landlines and cell phones, you'll need to purchase blocks of call-out credit (which start at $10 for 500 minutes). You can also send SMS messages for about 7 cents apiece, great if you're traveling abroad and don't want to pay exorbitant roaming rates.

GizmoCall doesn't do video calls or even instant messaging, but it's definitely a cool and convenient way to make phone calls. And because it runs in a browser, you can actually embed it in, say, your blog. Neat stuff.

Use Your Webcam to Send Video Mail

These days, lots of notebooks and netbooks come with built-in webcams, but I suspect few people make good use of them--perhaps because there's no immediately obvious application. Here's my suggestion: Use Eyejot to record video e-mail messages for friends and family. It's free, and it works inside your browser--no software installation required.

Because there's nothing to install, you can use Eyejot on a whim. Record a birthday greeting for a loved one, let the kids goof around for grandma and grandpa, act like a dork for your blog (you can record a profile video and embed it on your site, as I've done here), or whatever. Just plug in your webcam, click record, and do your thing. It's blissfully easy.

The free version of Eyejot limits you to 1-minute messages, while a Pro account ($29.95 annually) bumps the cap to 5 minutes and lets you upload videos instead of just recording them on the fly. Personally, I think a minute is more than enough time to record a one-way greeting, but to each his own.

Five Firefox Shortcuts

As you may recall from a couple of my earlier posts, "Three Keyboard Shortcuts You Need to Learn Right Now" and "Toggle Between Two Firefox Tabs with FLST," I'm a big fan of keyboard shortcuts. As a touch-typist, I don't enjoy having to reach for the mouse every time I need to do something. Hence this list of five Firefox shortcuts I use all day, every day:

  • Alt-Left Arrow: Sends you back to the previous page you were viewing. Alt-Right Arrow, of course, takes you forward one page.
  • Ctrl-F: Brings up the Find tool, which works dynamically (i.e. as you type). Then I press F3 to jump to the next instance of my search item.
  • Ctrl-T: Opens a new tab. Note that you can start typing a URL immediately upon doing so, as the cursor automatically appears in the Awesome Bar.
  • Ctrl-Tab: Switches you to the next open tab. Ctrl-Shift-Tab takes you back a tab.
  • No "www" prefix: Are you still typing "www" at the beginning of every Web address? Guess what: The browser doesn't need it. So the shortcut here is to just leave it off. Type and see for yourself.

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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