Protecting Vulnerable Elders
Motherpie’s New Year's “Still” List

Browser Toys

As anyone who has recently stopped by Time Goes By knows - ad nauseum - I've been spending a lot of time over the past week refurnishing my computer following a big-time crash. In addition to re-installing Windows, it also required re-downloading all the little toys and goodies I regularly use.

So I thought it might be fun over the weekend to recommend our favorites to one another. I'm not talking about the big programs like word processors and Photoshop. Nor the little necessary utilities like a PDF and zip reader or a media player. And I don't mean widgets for our blogs either. Just those little helpers that sit in the toolbar of a browser.

A couple of days ago, Bitteroot left a comment suggesting FoxMarks as a convenient way to secure bookmarks. Since I use the Firefox browser for everything except visiting Microsoft sites (which, in their provincialism, requires IE), I'm trying out FoxMarks to see if I like it. I do know about, but it never worked for me; maybe it's that I can never remember where the dots go in the name. Different toys work for different boys - and girls.

Given the amount of snow that can fall here in a short period of time, predicting winter weather has never been more important to me than since I moved to Maine. My favorite weather toy comes from

It sits in the top toolbar of Firefox (undoubtedly, there is an IE version) and tells me the temperature and weather - current, tonight and for the next two days. Mousing over any one of those items opens a small box with further information like wind speed, humidity and the time of sundown, and there are links to video reports, Doppler radar and other weather-related data. It installs easily from the home page of Very cool.

Many different kinds of web services have such toys, and there must be thousands of Google Toolbar toys by now. I like an uncluttered desktop, so I use only a few: several news sources like Reuters, CNN, BBC International, The New York Times; quick links to a thesaurus, Google blog search, my Google calendar and Wikipedia; and a button to toggle search term highlights off and on.

It's one-click simple to install the Google Toolbar and once that's done, just drag the toys you want onto the toolbar.

What about you? What toys do you use and which do you recommend? Don't forget to leave links for us to find them.

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Linda Davis tells a story every HR person should be requiredto read, titled Hiring the Elder.]


Thanks for some of the tips. I'm still ambidextrous with my browsers. I use the Fox and IE and can find fault with both.

Although you were looking specifically for'browser toys' I will give you these links for little programs I like...

I posted this one in November...

And if you work with image files at all, you have to use the low cost (free) and easy to use image editor, IrfanView. A favorite of most programmers.

Now that I visited the Irfanview site this morning, I see that I'm one version behind. Must update!

I use a bunch of the things the Google toolbar offers me and find some of them – especially 'autofill' invaluable.
Another utility I have found really useful, since I don't have the fancy adobe software, is Cutepdf. I have it in my printer menu and it can turn any printable file into a .pdf., instantly.

Something else I have really enjoyed playing with is creating 'favicons' for the bookmarked sites I use every day and want to be able to recognize at a glance. (Some sites, like TGB, already have them, but many don't) Here's a site you can go to, to create your own favicons.

When you have made a favicon, store it where you can easily find it. Then go to the bookmark you want,
right click->properties->change icon.
To make sure it remains there permanently, come out, then go in again to properties and make it a read-only file. That keeps it in place. If you don't do that, it is likely to vanish again.

I have also put all my favourites into Google. That way, I can access them wherever I am in the world via my Google account. Plus it is an extra back-up for them.

I write in Word using Research (Microsoft) that allows use of a Thesaurus and dictionary as a side bar. What program are you using that offers this as a stand alone option.

Oh, nice one, Marian, about the favicons.

Linda, I use the Google Toolbar link to, but the damned site always opens a popup no matter what I try to do to block them, so I'll try our your system.

Like you, I use Firefox mostly. I really love Firefox's Live bookmarks feature to browse the RSS feeds I read most frequently. I also use Google Reader to store all of my RSS feeds, but use Firefox's Live bookmarks for the feeds I read most frequently.

Since I blog about identity theft, security is always an issue. It makes sense to configure your web browser to protect your identity and sensitive data. The ZDNet site has some pretty good tutorial image galleries covering:

How to Secure Internet Explorer

Securing Firefox: how to avoid attacks by hackers

I hope that these help as you refurnish your laptop.

How does Irfanview differ from Picasa - Google's image manager?

This isn't a browser toy. It is a blog toy, but lots of fun nonetheless. Go here, drop in your blog's web address, and sit back to watch the history of your site's traffic as an expanding graph/flower. It takes a while to render if you have a lot of content, but the result is intricate and rather pretty.

Over a year ago, I posted how this worked for my site here.

Happy New Year to all.

Sigh, I feel an HTML class coming on...
Does anyone have suggestion(s) for good ones? I'm familiar with, but her html for bloggers is designed for Blogger users.

Meanwhile, I'll share my favorite homepage which gives me quick links to almost everything:
I especially like the links to Good News - right sidebar, just below news headlines.

I use a great, free utility called Paperless Printer which creates a virtual printer that saves whatever you wish to print to your choice of PDF, Tiff, Jpg, etc... It is great for saving receipts from online purchases, recipes ad infinum.

I also use the gmail manager for firefox to manage my 5 gmail accounts. Another extension is Mozilla Archive Format which saves a web page in a single file in either open source .MAF or even Microsoft's proprietary .MHT format. Webdeveloper is another handy extension that not only helps creating websites, but handily, let's the user change the rendering of the webpage you are viewing to control javascript and such. Practically, this has helped me save photos that were blocked from being downloaded.

I also use CrapCleaner for temporary files and application histories.

Free AVG for anti-virus. Comodo for software firewall. Hitman Pro for spy/ad-ware.

Winamp light for music with the Artzar skin for a beautiful and practical interface.

NTREGOPT for optimization and reduction of the size of my registry.

VLC for my video needs.

Another great source is which indexes applications that you can run off a flash drive like firefox, thunderbird, openoffice and many others. This let's you manage your bookmarks and mail off of a key drive on any computer.

Happy New Year


Another great Firefox plug-in is CoolIris. After it's installed, a small icon appears when you mouse-over a link on a web page. When you move the mouse cursor to this icon, a window pops up allowing you to see what is on the linked page.

It's really "cool," as the name implies, because you don't have to open that link in a new window or tab to see what's there. When you move the cursor out of the CoolIris window, the window disappears.

I'm compiling this comment in the CoolIris window that popped up when I moused-over the comments link on the TGB web page. When I'm finished, I'll just move the cursor out of the window and just the TGB page will be visible. Pretty neat!!

Ever since Blogger has changed the way of leaving comments, I have used an add-on called signature
It makes it really easy to define a signature or several, for that matter and leave it in a comment in one click.

I know so little about the computer that I am fearful of using anything I don't already know about....LOL

Kenju, you and me both! It's such a relief to find I'm not alone in being a computer novice.

Sorry, I mentioned Signature above and forgot to mention it was a Firefox add-on.

Oh, Toys!!!!! I love going through that list!! I enjoy the Spanish/English and English translators for when I get stuck at work, there's a nice little Sudoku button for my morning brain exercise, a YouTube button, one for my sport scores so I can check on my teams and a news button. There's probably a button for anything you can think of. I put google toolbar on my computer at work -- it makes life so much easier and its pop-up blocker is excellent. I've been using it on my home computer for years.

When I posted my comment about CoolIris, I didn't notice that there's another George also commenting. So, to avoid confusion, I'll post using the name George P.

Firefox has a little-known feature that is a real help for elders and others who have difficulty reading some of the web pages that use small type. If you hold down the Ctrl key and then press the + (=) key, Firefox will increase the size of the type on the web page. Each time you do this, the type will increase again. By holding down the Ctrl key and pressing the - (_) key, the size of the type will decrease. Again, each time you do this the type will become smaller until you return to the original type size.

I use this feature quite a bit because these tired old eyes of mine start to have difficulty reading some web pages after I've been using the computer for a while. Since Firefox remembers the setting only for the tab that you are using when you increase the type size, you have to set the type size for each new tab that you open. But once you set the size, you can go to any web page using that tab without having to change the type size.

This feature has saved me from becoming bleary eyed many times. Whoever thought up this feature should get a medal.

For more Firefox tips see 15 Coolest Firefox Tips Ever.

I actually stopped by to offer a slightly early Happy New Year and best wishes for a happy, healthy, fulfilling 2008. And a thank you for sticking with the blog. :-)
But regarding toys -- for a creativity stimulator, I recommend StumbleUpon. I never know what I'm going to see there!

Oh Ronni....I just told George that we are far, far, behind the curve with our toys. He has a few; I only one...the delicious. I still use an antique Netscape for email (with Earthlink,) and an equally old E on my five year old computer. It's too old to do much with, and it is his turn to get the new computer not mine. New toys don't work with old computers. Darn it.

PS: And a happier New Year to you.

Steven's initial comment pointing out IrfanView reminded me of an aging but perhaps not out of date essay that Chris Locke wrote on meg's blog while she was still alive. "Cheap Thrills for the Beer Budget Blogger" was written in 2005, I think, and it lists nine free or very inexpensive software add-ons that are very useful. He discusses IrfanView there. The two I can't do without are SnagIt and TextPad (linked in Chris's article).

If you haven't visited Mandarin Design before, I really recommend it. Just clicking around will show you all kinds of tips and tricks to improve the looks of your blog. Michelle E. Goodrich ("meg") was a professional but she wrote for us amateurs. She died in June 2006, but someone is keeping her site alive.

I went back to meg's site only yesterday, I use it at least once a week.
One site I use all the time too, is
a really fast dictionary online. I see they have a firefox extension for it. Maybe it won't come as handy as it does to me, as I am not a native speaker...

Hi Ronni,
Just dropped by to wish you a Healthy, happy & prosperous New Year...and to thank you heartily for staying put.
Every time I visit you I learn something... either from your post or from your friendly bloggers.
I'm so glad I added you to my blog roll in the past year and look forward to many years together.
Write on Ronni! Cheers from cold Canada!

Janisanfran, I love your clustering graph/flower. It is actually meditative, but I wonder what in the heck it is analyzing. Thanks for sharing, everybody.

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