Sometimes just a little fix makes it that much easier to surf the Web, navigate your PC's desktop, or even use your keyboard. This month, we look at a Firefox extension that works like Microsoft's Internet Explorer, a freebie that lets you rename the standard Windows Desktop icons, and a low-cost goodie that makes Caps Lock dance to your tune.
Putting the 'IE' in 'Firefox'
Even die-hard Firefox fans often surf with an Internet Explorer window open, just for those holdout sites that require IE to function. IE Tab is a Firefox extension that makes it a little easier to reduce your IE dependency: It lets you open a Firefox browser tab that runs sites intended for IE.
To download IE Tab, you must visit the Mozdev.org page and install the extension directly into the Firefox browser. After restarting Firefox, you'll see a new entry for IE Tab Options in the Tools menu. It opens a dialog box that lets you list the Web pages to open with an IE rendering engine -- but in a Firefox tab. When you next open those pages in Firefox, in most cases they'll behave as if you'd opened them with IE. It's not perfect -- for instance, I had trouble making some forms work properly -- but IE Tab does obviate the need for an always-open Internet Explorer window.
If this extension looks familiar, that's probably because it's based on IE View, which opens a separate IE window from Firefox. The main difference is that IE Tab does so entirely within Firefox, instead of opening a separate window.
IE Tab is free of charge. Its Taiwanese developers, who go by the names PCMan and yuoo2K, don't provide a method for accepting direct donations. If you'd like to encourage this project by sending money to someone involved, consider donating to the Mozdev Community Organization.
'My Desktop' icons can really become yours
Windows' standard desktop icons sound like a toddler named them: "My Computer," "My Documents," and "My Network Places." And since the names are exactly the same on everybody's PC, the first-person-singular verbiage rings a bit hollow. With a freebie called Desktop Renamer, it's simple to give these icons and the Recycle Bin more personal names.
Desktop Renamer's one-screen interface shows the four Windows desktop icons and corresponding fields in which you can type new names. Once you click OK and restart the PC, the new titles take hold. If you change your mind at any time, you can reset to the defaults with Desktop Renamer's Reset button.
Iconico, which also created EasyRead and Magnifier, offers Desktop Renamer free of charge. The vendor's Web site asks you to register the software for free and sign up for newsletters; however, doing so is not a requirement for downloading the software.
Eliminate Caps Lock and Num Lock frustration
The Caps Lock key lurks between commonly used keys, ready to transform you from a mild-mannered Netizen into MR. SHOUTY. And just one little stumble of the fingers, and the skulking Num Lock key turns the keys you know into a number pad -- whether you need one or not. Smartcaps delays these keys' responses, making it less likely that a stray finger-tap will suddenly change everything you're typing.
By default, Smartcaps automatically slows the response time of the Caps Lock and Num Lock keys, requiring that you hold down either key for a few seconds to activate it.
Smartcaps also lets you add sounds, system tray icons, and/or desktop icons to alert you to the status of these keys. The program includes a "Simulate Apple/Macintosh" check box to disable the Shift key when Caps Lock is on, a "Simulate typewriter" option to turn the Caps Lock off with the Shift key, and even an option to disable the Caps Lock and/or Num Lock keys completely.
The vendor, Phoebus, offers a 30-day free trial for Smartcaps. To continue using it, you must pay US$15 to register the product.
PC World's Free Agent columnist Matthew Newton contributed to this story.