Gizmo Richards Support Alert Newsletter - Premium SE Edition "Gizmo's top picks of the best
Tech resources and utilities"
Premium SE Edition,  Issue 135
20th July, 2006


0. EDITORIAL: Security Product Review, Part 1
1.1 Three Ways to Avoid Missing Issues of This Newsletter
1.2 Free Online Social Bookmarking System Shines
1.3 Lots of Stock Photos for Zip
1.4 How to Improve the Quality of Your Digital Prints
1.5 A Really Simple Way to Send SMS Reminders
1.6 A New Way to Save Web Pages
1.7 Discover How Your Web Site Performs (SE Edition)
1.8 Free Tech Cheat Sheets (SE Edition)
1.9 The Best Browser Popup Stopper Test Site (SE Edition)
2.1 New Virtualization Software Provides Excellent Protection
2.2 Get Vista "Guided Help" Functionality in XP
2.3 More Vista Functionality for XP
2.4 Three New Rootkit Detectors
2.5 Top Commercial Download Accelerator Now Free
2.6 Impressive Applications Suite for Zip (SE Edition)
2.7 Free Password Manager Now Auto-fills Web Forms (SE Edition)
2.8 The Best Free Paint Program (SE Edition)
3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 More Unpatched Excel Flaws - Warning from Microsoft
3.3 Unpatched PowerPoint Flaw Being Used for 0-Day Attacks
3.4 Vista Could Initially be Less Secure Than XP
3.5 Version 5 of SpySweeper Released
3.6 Is Ubuntu the Answer for Windows 98 Users?
3.7 Microsoft Buys Winternals Software

4.1 Get the Best Disk Imaging Program Cheaply
4.2 The Thinnest Thin Client
4.3 Free FireFox Language Translation Extension
4.4 Food for the Other Side of Your Brain
4.5 Useless Waste of Time Department
4.6 A Free File Sharing Service with Few Limits (SE Edition)
4.7 Easy Way to Create Your Own Wiki (SE Edition)
4.8 How to Unlock Your Nokia Cell Phone (SE Edition)
5.1 How to Share Bookmarks between Browsers
6.1 The Best Free Program Launcher
6.2 The Best Free Desktop Search Program (SE Edition)

How adequately can our computer security programs protect us against the latest generation of security threats?

It's a question that I first raised in the Editorial in the May issue of this newsletter.  I'm not going to cover the same ground again but if you missed that issue, you can read it online here:

Since then I've been carefully testing a wide range of computer security products to see how well they address modern blended computer security threats.

The security tests I've been conducting are very different from the usual signature scanning tests. I wasn't interested in how many malware programs were being detected in a test sample and the like. My interest was in some specific technical characteristics of the programs being tested. The characteristics that determine how well the program can cope with the latest generation of threats.

Let me explain.

Many security products detect malware using signature files. It's an important technique for protecting your computer. That's why dozens of tests have been conducted and reported showing how well different security products detect malware signatures

However, many modern security threats can attack and attempt to terminate or disable your security programs. It doesn't matter how well a security product detects malware signatures if that product can be easily terminated by a malware program.

This is not a theoretical point; security product attacks are common. Worse still, most security programs can be easily terminated.

Just how easily can be seen in the following termination test results for the major signature based scanners:


Termination Agent

  Windows Task Manager Diamond Advanced Program Termination DarkSpy
Ad-Aware Pro V1.6 Fail Fail Fail
Avast! Home V4.7 Fail Fail Fail
AVG Anti-Virus Free V7.1 Fail Fail Fail
BitDefender Pro V9.095 Fail Fail Fail
CounterSpy V1.5 Fail Fail Fail
CounterSpy V2.0.122 beta Fail Fail Fail
Ewido v3.5 Resistant Resistant Fail
Ewido V4 beta Resistant Resistant Fail
Kaspersky AV V6.0.0 Resistant Resistant Fail
NOD32 V2.51 Resistant Resistant Resistant
Norton Antivirus 2006 Resistant Resistant Fail
SpyBot S&D V1.4 Fail Fail Fail
Spyware Doctor V3.6 Fail Fail Fail
Trojan Hunter V4.5 Fail Fail Fail
WebRoot SpySweeper V4.5 Fail Fail Fail
Windows Defender V1.1.1051 Fail Fail Fail

As you can see, many of the products could be terminated by the simplest possible method using Windows Task Manager. The same applies to termination using Diamond Computer System's Advanced Termination Program. Only one security program, NOD32, could resist termination by DarkSpy though NOD32 too could be easily brought down by deleting some of its key files using a forced reboot.

This is not good news. But it gets worse.

Ease of termination was only one of many technical characteristics I tested. I also looked at such things as whether the programs could detect polymorphic encrypted malware, process injection, changes in critical registry values, rootkits detection and much more.

The results were bleak. Most products failed most tests.

And as a final real world test, I looked at the protection provided by each program when I surfed on an unpatched PC to three drive-by web sites.

Again, most products flunked miserably.

Next month I'll have the full results up on my web site and will discuss them at length in the newsletter. I know it's not happy reading but don't get depressed, something quite positive will come out of this.

By the time this series is completed, I'll have some specific recommendations for you on the best way to protect your computer against the latest generation of threats. These recommendations will be based on facts rather than vendor hype or commercial affiliation.

Even now, two things are already clear to me.

First, it's almost impossible to defend your PC from a modern malware program that is allowed to run on your PC with full admin privileges. The problem here is not with the security programs. The problem is with Windows.

Second, it looks like virtualization techniques such as those used by VMWare, Sandboxie and the newcomer GreenBorder (see section 2.1 below) offer the best option for preventing infection.

Here's my interim recommendation: If you are using Windows 2000 and later I strongly recommend you always surf using one of these virtualization products. It needn't cost you a cent either; SandBoxie is free and GreenBorder is free for the next 12 months.

The situation for Windows 9x and ME users is tough. My current feeling is that the best option is either to upgrade to XP or switch to Linux. Check out item 3.6 in the newsletter for more details.

See you next month.



1.1 Three Ways to Avoid Missing Issues of This Newsletter

Most missed issues are caused by email spam filters incorrectly sending the issues to your Spam or Bulk Mail folders. I do everything I can to prevent this but in the last analysis it's out of my control. If you've been missing issues, here are some things you can do to help:

First, add "" to your email Contacts or Allowed Senders list.

Second, sign up from my free RSS service [1] that will notify you each time a new issue is published.

Third, read the newsletter online. Support Alert is published mid-month every month so if you haven't received an issue by the end of the month then you know you have missed an issue. You can always find the current issue at this page [2] in the Supporters' Area of my web site. It's a page that's well worth bookmarking.

1.2 Free Online Social Bookmarking System Shines

I've used to store my bookmarks for over a year now and have been quite happy with the service. Recently though, I've been quietly impressed by the competing Diigo service, currently in beta. It offers pretty well all of the advantages of but is easier to use and you can store bookmarks locally as well as online. It can also simultaneously update your bookmarks at and other online bookmarking services as well. As a bonus, it allows you to store web pages, either whole or in part, along with any annotations you wish to make. Browser integration is seamless using a special Firefox extension. I'm impressed.

1.3 Lots of Stock Photos for Zip

The site claims two hundred and seventy thousand, which should provide everything you could ever want except of course, the one you really need ;>) Never give your real email address to sites like these - unless you believe in free lunches. (everystockphoto(dot)com)

1.4 How to Improve the Quality of Your Digital Prints

One of the keys to high quality digital image processing is to have your monitor properly calibrated. At this site they explain what's involved and give you a detailed guide how to do it. You'll find lots of other digital tips on this site including a good tutorial on color calibrating your printer. Thanks to subscriber Tony Bennett for letting me know about this site.

1.5 A Really Simple Way to Send SMS Reminders

This site offers a simple, no frills way of sending an SMS text reminder to your cell phone immediately or at any nominated future time. I liked the simple, clean interface and the no-fuss way it automatically recognizes multiple date formats.

1.6 A New Way to Save Web Pages

Ever been browsing at work and found a site you'd like to check out when you get home? is a free web service that takes a snap of the web page and emails it to any address you nominate.

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1.7 Discover How Your Web Site Performs

Find out your site's speed, search index friendliness, browser compatibility, and traffic volume at this all-in-one site.

1.8 Free Tech Cheat Sheets

Regular contributor Andreas Büsing writes "Gizmo, Tech Cheat Sheets is a collection of the best cheat sheets and quick reference guides on the web. Arranged by tags, you can subscribe to a feed for only the tags you want to monitor. Visitors can also give the listings 1-5 star ratings." Nice find Andreas. This is not the biggest collection I've seen but the quality is high.

1.9 The Best Browser Popup Stopper Test Site

This is one of the most comprehensive test sites around. I particularly like the way it allows you to test whether good popups are allowed, a feature not covered by most other sites.

Got some top sites to suggest? Send them to


2.1 New Virtualization Software Provides Excellent Protection

The more I learn about modern malware the more convinced I have become that the best strategy to avoid infection is to always surf in a virtual environment. Virtualization defeats just about any malware infection that manages to install itself while surfing: viruses, worms, spyware, trojans, and rootkits. Everything is eliminated as soon as you shut down the virtual environment. No, it's not a replacement for your other security software but it is a very potent addition.

In past issues I've looked at various virtualization software products and recommended Sandboxie [1], a donationware product for Windows 2000 and later. It's still my top recommendation but as some readers have had problems with Sandboxie I've been looking for an alternative. Thanks to a tip from regular contributor Leib Moscovitz, I think I've found one. It's a commercial product called GreenBorder Pro that's currently being offered for free for 12 months.

It works rather similarly to Sandboxie in that it allows you to launch your browser in a virtual environment. This virtual browser session appears in a green bordered window, hence the product name. The prominent green border is actually quite a useful feature as it clearly flags you are browsing in a protected environment, a feature missing from SandBoxie. Like Sandboxie, GreenBorder Pro can also run programs in a protected environment. You do this by right clicking on the program and selecting "Add GreenBorder protection" from the context menu.

 I tested GreenBorder by browsing to three drive-by download sites and additionally installing two malware products (IstBar and the InService Trojan) in the protected environment: I then "cleared and reset" GreenBorder from the right context menu and then did a "before and after" system snapshot comparison. No hostile running processes were found nor were there any new programs in the various Windows startup areas. I did find some hostile files left in the system prefetch folder but I judged these to be harmless. The most curious change was in the system registry where there were nearly 1000 new entries associated with GreenBorder. That's no worry in itself though I hope these don't further accumulate. If so you would end up with a very inflated registry.

Overall GreenBorder performed as advertised. In many ways it reminded me of a slicker version of SandBoxie and that should be taken as high praise. Will it cause problems on some PCs? Quite possibly, so backup before installing. GreenBorder is currently being offered with a free 12 months license but this offer may soon end so download it now while you can. Shareware, free promotional 12 months trial, Windows 2000 Pro SP4+ or Windows XP SP1+, 10.3MB.

2.2 Get Vista "Guided Help" Functionality in XP

Regular contributor A.K. writes " Gizmo, IMHO the most useful and unique feature of Vista is "Guided Help," a system that either solves problems automatically or guides users to a solution through a graphical interface wizard. Now, it appears, some of that Guided Help functionality is available for XP [1]. For example I just downloaded a Guided Help exe file [2] that covers the situation where XP fails to start correctly because of a corrupted Registry or missing system file and have installed it on a my flash drive for use when I next encounter this situation." A.K. is quite right, Guided Help is a big step forward in problem resolution and it's good to see that this Vista technology is being applied to XP. The number of XP Guided Help facilitated guides currently available is not huge but still very useful - you can see a full list here [3]. Check them out and add them to your tech toolkit.
[3] (support(dot).microsoft(dot)com)

2.3 More Vista Functionality for XP

The new Aero Glass interface in Vista is certainly impressive though you'll need a high end graphics card in order to get the full impact. Subscriber Chris Price recently wrote in to tell me about the Vista Transformation Pack, "... an integrated set of utilities that will modify Windows XP to look and feel very much like Windows Vista" without the need for fancy hardware. According to the vendor "the pack changes most of the system icons, skins and toolbars and also adds new enhancements to your desktop such as a dock bar or a different system tray clock." Now I'm not normally into the whole themes and appearance thing but must admit I was quietly impressed by the Vista Transformation Pack. It's got quite a few minor bugs but many users will tolerate these for the invigorating effect on their desktop. As ever, backup your system before installing. Freeware, Windows XP, 14.1MB

2.4 Three New Rootkit Detectors

Rootkits are continuing to evolve but thankfully, so are rootkit detectors. There are three new kids on the block. The first, RootkitUncover, is from security company SoftWin, makers of the well known BitDefender anti-virus program. It's only available from the vendor's site [1] to beta testers but subscriber Jim Powell has provided a download link from MajorGeeks [2]. I've not had a chance to fully evaluate the product but can say that it's very fast in operation and looks to be another useful tool for your anti-rootkit arsenal. The same comments apply to GMER [3], another new rootkit detector. More interesting in some ways is a new product out of China called DarkSpy [4]. Like IceSword, it's not a detector per se, but a set of tools to aid detection. I liked it a lot; it's like IceSword Mark 2. Indeed its ability to terminate any process or delete any file is quite extraordinary. This one is strictly for experts as there is scant documentation and like all advanced tools, it may create problems on some PCs and trigger possible security warnings.

2.5 Top Commercial Download Accelerator Now Free

FlashGet has always been an excellent download accelerator. It performs well, has good browser integration, is reliable and highly configurable. Now it has another attribute: it's free.

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2.6 Impressive Applications Suite for Zip

SeaMonkey is the latest incarnation of the venerable Netscape Communication Suite; the integrated combination of the Netscape browser, email client and html editor. The Netscape Suite was succeeded by the Mozilla Application Suite whose final incarnation was Mozilla 1.7.12 before it was dropped by the Mozilla organization in favor of continuing development of Firefox and Thunderbird. A group of volunteers has picked up the pieces and produced SeaMonkey, a product that in many ways can be thought of as Mozilla Suite 1.8.

The volunteers did a good job, actually an excellent job. The browser is just as good as Firefox for normal surfing and the mail client with its built-in phishing filter, Bayesian spam filter, newsgroup reader and integrated multi-account inbox is arguably better than the current version of Thunderbird. The included HTML editor (think Nvu) is among the best free editors available. The ChatZilla IM client is not so impressive but is totally usable. Overall an impressive package for zip.

What's not to like? First the browser. It doesn't support Firefox extensions. Yes, it might be fuller featured than the standard Firefox browser but the killer feature of Firefox is the customizability available through its extensions. Second, I don't like the way the browser renders some pages. It's always been a problem with the Mozilla browser and it remains. Third, the ChatZilla IM client is very user unfriendly. It's one of those products you need to know how to use in order to learn how to use it. Fourth, I don't like the "look" of the product, it looks really dated though I believe more modern skins are available. Finally and most importantly, I'm not sure the product has a future. The full weight of the Mozilla organization has now been thrown behind Firefox and Thunderbird while SeaMonkey must rely on volunteers.

That said, SeaMonkey is, as it stands, a very competent integrated browser/email/web editing/chat package that is rock solid and full featured. It will appeal to those who like all-in-one solutions as well as to the large band of former Netscape and Mozilla Suite users. Freeware, All Windows versions plus Linux, Mac OS X and others, 12MB.

2.7 Open Source Password Manager Now Auto-fills Web Forms

I've spoken very positively in past issues about KeePass, the open source password manager, but lamented the fact that it couldn't sign on to a web site automatically. Instead, users had to cut and paste values from the program into the web form. The good news is that there is now a free plug-in available from the site that automates this task. The plug-in is called KeeForm. It's an AutoIt script that allows you to login to a site just by clicking on the web link in KeePass. I tried it and it works like a charm. Now the bad news. KeeForm only works with Internet Explorer. Worse still, the author states that it's not possible to produce a version for FireFox. IE users should check this out. It turns KeePass into a real alternative to commercial products like RoboForm with the advantage that it is both open source and doesn't cost anything. It works with all versions of Windows. Note: It appears from the web site that there are now builds of KeePass for PocketPC, PalmOS and Linux. (993KB)

2.8 The Best Free Paint Program

Although they overlap in function, paint programs are really a different class of product from digital editors such as Photoshop and The Gimp. Paint programs are specifically designed to facilitate freehand drawing. They are ideal for sketching, painting, creating animations and special effects. Most folks have dabbled with Microsoft Paint (aka Paintbrush for Windows), which comes free with most versions of the operating system. In fact MS Paint is probably responsible for the generally bad reputation of paint programs. Early versions could only produce crude two dimensional drawings with jagged edges and no color gradients. Its free availability also encouraged untalented amateurs to produce works that could only be described as abysmal. Past reputation aside, the latest XP version of Microsoft Paint is actually a very capable and resource efficient product and deserves to be more widely used. In the hands of a good pixel artist it can give excellent results.

My favorite free paint program is however, not Microsoft Paint but Project DogWaffle. This is a commercial product but the developer offers an older version (V1.2) as freeware. The free version is surprisingly full featured. It has a comprehensive set of tools including fully customizable brushes, lots of filters and effects, multiple color selection options, a good set of color gradients, animation aids and more. On the downside the program runs slowly on older PCs, has limited layer support, has a clunky cut and paste mechanism and only handles .BMP and Targa files. Like all graphics editors, you'll need to invest a bit of time to learn how best to use DogWaffle but those with artistic skills will find the effort well rewarded. Freeware, all Windows versions, 4.5MB.

Got some favorite utilities to suggest? Send them to


3.1 Microsoft Security News

Several times in the last few months I've started this section with the words "Another bad month for Microsoft." This month is no different. I'm not leveling all the blame on Microsoft for this. Yes, some of their past sins are catching up with them but the real problem is the increasing professionalisation of security attacks. There's serious money to be made in exploiting computer security flaws and there are some serious dudes out there pursuing that money. Strange isn't it? We can almost look back at the days of the amateur hacker with a kind of gentle fondness ;>)

Microsoft's Patch Tuesday on the 11th of June delivered seven new security updates [1] five of which were rated as "critical." Prominent among these was a fix for several serious flaws in Excel, exploits for which have been circulating on the web for months. The Excel patch covers eight different vulnerabilities, the worst of which could allow an attacker to take complete control of an affected PC. Two of the other critical updates were also directed at Microsoft Office, one relating to the processing of PNG and GIF images and the other the parsing of long string values. The two other critical updates covered a remote code flaw in Windows Server Service and a DHCP Client Service buffer overflow problem. Full details can be found here [1]. All Windows updates are distributed automatically by Microsoft Update Service. It is extremely important that users who do not have automatic updates enabled visit the Update Service [2] now.
[2] (Requires IE5 or later)

3.2 More Unpatched Excel Flaws - Warning from Microsoft

Just 24 hours after Microsoft released a fix for eight Excel flaws it was discovered that two more serious flaws remained unpatched including one rated by Secunia [1] as "highly critical." This is a serious omission, as the flaws are well documented and with demonstration code readily available. According to Secunia, "The vulnerability is caused due to a boundary error when handling overly long styles. This can be exploited to cause a buffer overflow by tricking a user into opening a specially crafted spreadsheet." The flaw affects virtually all versions of Excel, including fully patched copies from Excel 2000 onwards. In recognition of the serious nature of the problem Microsoft had recommended that all users take particular care not to open spreadsheets from untrusted sources.

3.3 Unpatched PowerPoint Flaw Being Used for 0-Day Attacks

This one is serious folks. Secunia [1] has reported an "extremely critical" flaw in Microsoft PowerPoint that can allow an attacker to compromise a victim's PC. More exactly, the flaw is in Windows but can be exploited through PowerPoint. All versions of Windows are affected. The vulnerability can be triggered by simply getting a user to open a specially crafted PowerPoint file. As this exploit is currently in circulation make sure you don't open any PowerPoint files or email attachments unless you are totally sure of their trustworthiness. And that includes all those PowerPoint-based joke emails right? Don't believe me? Then here's what Microsoft had to say "We recommend that customers exercise extreme caution when they accept file transfers from both known and unknown sources." [2]

3.4 Vista Could Initially be Less Secure Than XP

Or so claim Symantec [1]. Who's arguing?

3.5 Version 5 of SpySweeper Released

The more I use SpySweeper the more convinced I become that it's the best anti-spyware product on the market. Perhaps more accurately, I should describe it as the least imperfect in its class ;>) Whatever, a new version, V5, has been released that features an improved user interface, as well as better malware detection and infection prevention. New features include a keylogger shield, inbound email scanning, automatic quarantining of malware and enhanced rootkit detection. Shareware, $29.95, 30 day trial, Windows 2000 and later, 10MB.

3.6 Is Ubuntu the Answer for Windows 98 Users?

Microsoft has now officially discontinued support for Windows 98. This means that no more security updates will be released for the product. As a result Windows 98 machines will be increasingly targeted by malware writers. I'm currently looking at the best options for Windows 98 users and one of the most attractive is to convert from Windows 98 to Ubuntu Linux or its less machine intensive cousin, Xubuntu. I'm currently looking for volunteers to undertake this conversion and write up their experiences for other users. If you would like to participate drop me an email. Let me know your current hardware and your general level of experience - users at all levels are welcome. I'm also looking for some experienced Ubuntu users to do a little hand-holding. Again, just email me. This is an important internet community project and your participation would be most valued.

3.7 Microsoft Buys Winternals Software

I suspect this is sad news but it may prove otherwise. Hey maybe Microsoft will make the Winternals Administrator's Pack available for free. Dream on Gizmo, dream on.


4.1 Get the Best Disk Imaging Program Cheaply

Subscriber Dennis Federwitz writes "Gizmo I just wanted to mention that Acronis True Image is a lot cheaper than you stated in the newsletter. At least the home edition is anyway. I purchased it from last month, and I am sure glad I did. The downloaded version is currently $49.99, but Newegg [1] is running a promo on the Retail version for $19.99 plus $4.99 shipping." Thanks Dennis but I checked just before publishing this issue and that special price is now gone, it's up to $24.99. That's still a great price for a product of this quality.

4.2 The Thinnest Thin Client

This one hides in wall-mount LAN box!

4.3 Free FireFox Language Translation Extension

Isn't it frustrating when you finally locate a web site with exactly the information you have been looking for only to find the page is in a foreign language. Yotam Elal, the webmaster of has written an excellent Firefox extension that will translate dozens of languages with the click of a button. There are several extensions that offer similar capabilities but Yotam's offers the widest choice of languages and translation engines and also preserves the original web page layout. The toolbar is a tad intrusive so I suggest you turn it off from the Firefox View menu and rely on the right click context menu instead.

4.4 Food for the Other Side of Your Brain

At this site you can hear famous poets read their own works. Amazingly they have a recording of Tennyson from 1890 reading "Charge of the Light Brigade." My favorite was Wendy Cope's "Men and Their Boring Arguments" ;>) Thanks to Andreas for the link.

4.5 Absolute Waste of Time Department

I don't normally feature freeware games but when they come with a glowing endorsement from a reliable contributor like A.K., I take note. Here's what he says "the recently released Blackjack International 1.1 is a lighthearted and very well-done freeware game with excellent graphics and a very good set of options and features ... For me, it's definitely a keeper." Freeware, Windows 2000 and later plus Mac OS X, 4.2MB

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4.6 A Free File Sharing Service with Few Limits

There are now dozens of free online file storage and sharing services. What's different about this one is that it's a Web 2 application and there are no pre-set file size and download limits. As the site says "We (may) have to introduce some kind of non-intrusive ads (like Google AdSense) or the possibility of having a paid `pro' account where more disk space is available ... However, for now, we'll leave it as it is. No limits, no ads, no paid accounts. Let's see how it works." Thanks to Andreas for this one.

4.7 Easy Way to Create Your Own Wiki

Wikis can be thought of as user modifiable web pages. It sounds attractive but in reality most wiki software requires both site owners and users to acquire some rather arcane markup language skills to make the system work. This site seeks to overcome this barrier by employing new wiki software that features a user-friendly interface.

4.8 How to Unlock Your Nokia Cell Phone

If your phone is locked to a particular Telco or country, you can find out how to unshackle it here.


5.1 How to Share Bookmarks between Browsers

NOTE: Backup your Favorites and Bookmarks before trying any of the programs or services mentioned in this guide.

I've been getting quite a few requests from readers asking how they can share bookmarks between different browsers installed on the same PC. A separate but related question is how to share bookmarks between different PCs

Now most browsers including Firefox and Opera, offer an installation option of importing Internet Explorer bookmarks. That's simple enough.

The real problem starts when you bookmark new sites in different browsers and you want these to be available in all browsers. There are several ways of doing this:

The first is to use a free utility called BookmarkBridge [1] that can sync all bookmarks across all browsers installed on your PC. It automatically recognizes and handles most of the major browsers and will synchronize all bookmarks across all browsers with the click of a single button.

It works pretty well but has a couple of problems. First the sync has to be performed manually. Second it won't handle all browsers. However if you just use IE, Firefox or one of the other supported browsers then it offers an excellent solution.

A second option for Firefox users is to use the free PlainOldFavorites Firefox extension that allows you to access the Internet Explorer Favorites folder from Firefox and use it to store your bookmarks rather than the normal Firefox bookmarks file.

It's a clever solution. It eliminates the need to synchronize because you only use one bookmarks folder and share it between browsers. It has other advantages too. The Favorites folder is accessible from many different places in Windows so having all your bookmarks in the Favorites folder gives you far greater accessibility to those bookmarks.

PlainOldFavorites offers a pretty complete solution provided you only use IE and Firefox. It does nothing though for users of Opera and other browsers.

Unfortunately I'm not aware of any free utility that runs on your PC that will automatically sync Opera V9 bookmarks with other browsers. I'm not aware either of an online bookmark syncing service that will do the job. There are however some online bookmark storage systems solutions that will allow you to share bookmarks between virtually any browser.

Online bookmarking services allow you to keep all your bookmarks on a central server. Your bookmarks are then accessible from just about any computer and any browser. When you use an online bookmarking service you don't have to worry about syncing bookmarks between browsers as the same bookmarks are accessible from all browsers. The stored bookmarks can be easily searched and with some online services, you can also store web pages, not just links.

These are real benefits but there are negatives too. Accessing and adding your bookmarks to a central server is slower than when you do it locally. Additionally, you may not have access to your bookmarks if you are off-line. Finally some folks don't like the idea of storing their private bookmarks on somebody else's computer.

On balance though, I feel online bookmarking is the way to go. For most folks bookmarks are one of their most valuable resources and they want to be able to access them from any PC they happen to be using. is one of the best known examples of online bookmarking services. It's free, easy to use incredibly popular, has lots of third party tools and browser plugins and supports tags. It's also a social bookmarking site so you can share your bookmarks with others if you so wish and indeed, share and search theirs.

It's the service I use together with the free Firefox extension [4] that allows me to add bookmarks to the central server directly from Firefox. There are similar add-ins for Internet Explorer [5] and Opera [6].

I also use another Firefox extension called Foxylicious [7] that creates a local copy of my bookmarks in the Firefox bookmarks folder. The online and offline versions are automatically synced when I startup Firefox. I find having the synced online and offline copies extremely useful and a great backup.

There are some excellent alternatives to including,, ,,, the excellent and many others. You can see a more complete list here [8]

If you are new to online bookmarking and social bookmarking in particular, I'd start with There are add-ins available for all the major browsers and it's got the greatest support and momentum. If you want to be a bit more adventurous try I've been using it lately and have been quite impressed.

Whatever online social bookmarking system you choose to use, do be warned, you may find it addictive ;>)

[1] Freeware, all Windows versions, 3.3MB


6.1 The Best Free Program Launcher

In issue #132 I gave a glowing review of Find&Run Robot, a program launcher that allows you to locate and run an application by simply typing its name into a query box.

This prompted subscribers James Oldfield, Devan Bennett and others to write to tell me about another similar utility called Launchy.

I'd actually tried Launchy a while back but it was an early version and it didn't work on my PC. Prompted by the subscriber letters I tried that latest version and was impressed. So impressed that I now think it's the best in its class.

Launchy solves the fundamental weakness shared by most application launchers; intrusiveness. Unlike other products that use launch bars or tray icons, Launchy is invisible until you hit a special hotkey combination. By default this is Alt-Space.

Hitting the hot key combination brings up a small window into which you type the name of the application you are looking for.

You rarely even have to type the full name; mostly all you need do is just type a couple of letters. Launchy instantly displays on a find-as-you-type basis, any program that matches the letters you typed in.

Its power lies in the fact that it's lightning fast. When I type the letter "E" I instantly see all programs whose name contains the letter E. There are quite a few as you can imagine. If I then type in the second letter "X" the list shortens immediately to only those programs that contain "EX". By the time I type in the "C" the list is down to one program, Excel itself. Hitting Enter then launches the program and at the same time the Launchy window disappears. The whole thing takes less than 2 seconds.

By default Launchy only searches files in your Start Menu folders. You can however, configure it to handle any file types and search any folders. So Launchy could be used to launch web link shortcuts or even your MP3 files. Configuration is easy; just right click on the Launchy Window.

What I've described probably sounds quite similar to Find&Run Robot, my previous favorite launcher. Launchy however is Open Source, faster, less conspicuous and more attractive. As my son used to say when he was three years old "Hey Dad, this is funner." Free Open Source, Windows 2000 and later, 841KB.

** Bonus Freebie for Premium Edition subscribers **

6.2 The Best Free Desktop Search Program

Desktop search has transformed the way we use our computers. Gone are the days of carefully filing everything away in hierarchically arranged folders. Today, with desktop search you can quickly find anything on your computer, regardless where it is located.

This is particularly true of email. I have over 10,000 emails stored in my PC, all located in a single folder, yet with my desktop search program I can find an individual email in seconds. That's why email search has become the single most important application for desktop search.

Indeed the ability to quickly locate email is THE most important attribute of a desktop search program. Sure, it's nice to find program files, images, mp3s and contacts on your PC quickly but all this is for naught if you can't find a wanted email quickly.

I've tried all the major free desktop search programs and while they are uniformly excellent in searching, I found big differences in the way email search results were presented. It's all a question of format. Some formats facilitate the task of quickly scanning your eye over the results list while others made it hard.

In the end I rejected all the free desktop search program and settled instead on a commercial desktop search utility. I didn't shell out $99 for this lightly. I did it because it gave me what I wanted without a lot of features that I didn't want.

The program I chose was X1 Search. The good news is that X1 Search no longer costs $99. Rebadged as the X1 Enterprise Client, it's now free for personal use.

X1 is actually the search engine used to power the free Yahoo Desktop Search program. However Yahoo Desktop Search (DTS) comes with a whole bag of features you may not want including a browser search bar for Yahoo. I don't know about you but I don't like Yahoo search. My search engine of choice is Google.

By installing X1 Search you get the power of Yahoo DTS without the clutter. The stand-alone version of X1 also indexes more file types than the version in Yahoo DTS, more than 370 types in all. This includes all the popular e-mail clients such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Netscape, Eudora and Lotus Notes. On my PC, X1 seems a tad quicker than Yahoo DTS as well.

Like all search engines it takes a little time to set up X1 Search. You need to be careful in specifying what folders to index. You need to allow several hours for the first index to be completed. Take care too when you allow the index to be updated. I schedule mine to take place overnight so indexing doesn't slow down my PC during daytime use.

Once properly set up you'll love X1 Search. It will simply transform the way you use email. At $99 it was a bargain, as a free product, it's a no-brainer.

X1 Enterprise Client, Free for personal use, Windows XP, 12.9MB.


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See you next issue

Ian Richards