Mike Williams

Protect your Firefox settings with Preferences Monitor

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Firefox is an excellent browser, and its configurability is a major plus. If you don’t like some aspect of the program then there’s probably a tweak which can help.

Keeping your preferred settings can be more of a challenge, though, especially if an extension changes one or more of them without asking. Preferences Monitor is a Firefox addon which can help by monitoring all your about:config changes, warning you of any that seem dubious, and allowing you to undo them with a click.

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FORCEdraft: a text editor which won’t let you quit…

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Twitter, Facebook, emails, eBay -- any web-enabled PC has a pile of distractions to prevent you doing real work.

FORCEdraft is a free text editor which offers an unusually strict solution: it just won’t let you access any other programs until you’ve finished the job.

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Anvi AD Blocker Ultimate now free

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Anvisoft has released Anvi AD Blocker Ultimate 3.2, the latest edition of its web adblocker, and announced that the product is now free.

It didn’t look that way when we installed the program, unfortunately, as a web page opened post-setup inviting us to buy it.

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Cut video file sizes in half with IFME

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HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding, aka H.265) is an amazing video standard which is just as good as its name suggests, routinely producing videos half the size of their H.264 equivalents.

It’s becoming more widely supported, too: the iPhone 6 can use it for FaceTime, Android Lollipop and Windows 10 handle it out of the box, some major applications (CyberLink’s PowerDVD, for example) added support last year.

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Textarea Cache: save web form text as you type (Firefox)

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It’s happened to us all. You’ve spent an age at a website, deep in thought, working on a lengthy forum post or similar wall of text, when the browser window closes unexpectedly -- and you’ve lost everything.

You could get angry, maybe throw things, before calming down and starting again. But it might be better to install Textarea Cache, a free Firefox addon which saves the contents of text fields locally, as you type, and makes them ready for recovery in seconds.

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Launch and close multiple apps on demand with Splat

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Preparing your PC for work -- or play -- often requires several steps. You might launch a word processor, a spreadsheet, database, maybe a couple of websites, for instance. Or perhaps you’ll free up system resources by closing all non-essential programs before running a game.

None of this takes very long, but it’s tedious. Especially if you’re repeating the same steps, time and time again, each and every day. And that’s why you might want to simplify the process with Skwire Empire’s latest freeware release, Splat ( Simple Program Launching and Termination).

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HexDive finds interesting strings in binary files

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You’ve found a mystery executable on your PC. What is it? Could it be malware? You check the file’s Properties dialog, and search for its name online, but can’t find anything useful.

One common next step is to open it in an editor. If the file isn’t packed then you might find it contains meaningful text strings -- company names, URLs, prompts, paths, Registry keys -- which will give you much more information about its origins and purpose.

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Better Search: a one-stop web research assistant for Chrome

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If you're starting a web research project then Chrome is an ideal companion: fast, easy to use, and with a capable bookmarking system to record your favorite sites.

There's still plenty of room for improvement, though, and Better Search extends the browser with a host of new search-related features and functionality.

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Greenshot adds screenshot callouts, resizing, more

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You might have missed it over the holidays, but just before Christmas the excellent screenshot tool Greenshot was updated to version 1.2 with some major improvements and additions.

The program now supports selecting a capture region with the keyboard: just use the cursor keys to move the cursor (hold down Ctrl to accelerate), and press Enter to define the start and end points.

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Leanify: lossless compression for JPG, PNG, ZIP, EXE and more

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Leanify is a file minifier, a lightweight tool which can cut file sizes without affecting the core content (image files are smaller but their quality remains the same, for example).

We’ve discussed similar tools before, in particular FileOptimizer, but Leanify is, well -- a little different.

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dnGrep is a powerful search / replace tool for Windows

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DnGrep is a powerful text search and replace tool for Windows. It comes packed with all the functionality you'd expect from anything with the GREP name, but a well-designed interface ensures it's also very easy to use.

Getting started, for example, is as easy as specifying a path to search, a text string to look for, clicking "Search" and waiting for the results. It's much like any other search tool, really, although even here it’s delivering more than you might expect, as the program searches archives, PDFs and Word documents, as well as plain text files.

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Next Lock Screen: Microsoft's take on the Android lock screen

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Next Lock Screen is an Android lock screen "built for busy professionals".

That sounds very familiar, but what’s a little more unusual is that Next is from Microsoft Garage, an "idea factory" where employees work on whatever "wild ideas" they like.

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DAYU Disk Master adds file backup, sync, zip tools

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DAYU Technology has released DAYU Disk Master 2.5, a major update for its all-in-one hard drive management suite.

The free-for-personal-use build now includes file-based, as well as image backups.

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Check for 'too long' file paths with Path Scanner

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In theory, it should be easy. A quick drag and drop starts the process of copying a folder tree from one location to another, and all you have to do is watch as Explorer transfers each file.

Normally this works just fine, too -- but there can be problems. In particular, if the destination path plus the file name is longer than 255 characters then you’re likely to see an error message suggesting you "shorten the file name and try again". (And if you think that’s unhelpful, it could be worse: in some situations the copy operation fails without generating any message at all.)

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Book wakeup calls from strangers with Wakie

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There are a vast number of alarm clock apps available for every platform, most of which are tired variations on the same thing: choose a skin, set a wakeup sound/ method, and that’s about it.

Wakie is an iOS and Android alarm clock app with a difference. Forget custom audio files or complicated snooze functions, instead you’re called by another Wakie user, who chats, sings songs, ask you questions, or otherwise gets your day off to a much more interesting start.

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