Everybody Else Is Doing It…

… so why can’t we do?

Firefox LogoWhile porting Firefox settings and bookmarks over to replacement laptop I realized that I am using a whole bunch of quite useful plug-ins. So here’s short run-down, in case someone missed any of these very useful things.

  • FEBE – simply must-have. Transfers all your extensions, themes, bookmarks, settings and God knows what else. Unavoidable if you don’t want to spend couple of hours figuring how to do this on your own.
  • AdBlock Plus – blocks everything and their cousins – all known advertising (banners, text ads, even Google ads). Another must-have extension. Personally, I was VERY surprised to see how messy, overstuffed with ads and unreadable some pages appear in IE/Opera/Safari. Ads are being blocked by the list to which you subscribe when you install the plug-in, so you may not even know something was blocked unless you see the page in different browser.
  • AI Roboform Toolbar – actually, I don’t have the toolbar running, but I use “Fill Form” feature almost all the time. The software itself quite useful, especially with so many passwords to remember.
  • ColorZilla – useful, especially during conversations with clients, when the phrase “I like the color I’ve seen on such-and-such web site” gets tossed around. You can actually go and pick that color (unless it’s a part of Flash movie).
  • Download StatuBar – saves you the annoyance of watching that Download Window. Personally, I believe this is the plug-in that deserves to be included in the next release of Firefox. Version 2.0.0.7 would be just perfect for it.
  • IE Tab – for lazy people who don’t like to fire up Internet Explorer to see how it looks. As far as I know it uses Internet Explorer’s engine, so the only two real benefits of this extension is that a) you get to see pages rendered in IE when you miss that “Open in New Tab” in right-click menu (I do sometimes) and b) you can get rid of IE icon on your desktop/quick launch panel.
  • lori – Life of Request Info. Shows times from click to first received byte (can be treated as a server response time), from click to complete page display, loaded page size and number of requests. Very useful web developer tool, we at Zealus use it quite often to see how responsive client’s web site is.
  • MeasureIt – allows you to draw and measure any rectangular area on the screen. Useful when you need to fit content (usually it’s Flash movie) in a already defined environment.
  • NoScript – kills all the scripts (JavaScript, Java and so on) on a page if you want to. Very useful when some script-anxious webmaster puts that no-right-click JavaScript on the page you just happen to visit.
  • S3 Firefox Organizer – if you are using Amazon’s Simple Storage Service you may find this one quite useful, although it does have a very big drawback – if you have a transfer in progress in inactive tab and are trying to close the Firefox it will not warn you.
  • Save As Image – saves the area on the page as image. Very useful when we need to show a client certain area of the web site he may want to pay more attention to.
  • SearchStatus – displays Google PageRank, Alexa Rank, Compete Rank and a bunch of very useful SEO data, like keyword density analyser, keyword/nofollow highlighting, backward/related links, Alexa info and other.

Obviously there are many more useful plug-in, we had (at some point) had them installed and tested but turns out that these above are the ones that get really used around.

Skype’s marketing

Skype MarketingWhile preparing a replacement laptop I do install a lot of (somewhat) useful software. Most of it is freeware like Skype, which I am going to talk about.

As always I went to Skype’s web site and downloaded the latest version of program. If you still on that arctic expedition and haven’t noticed – Skype has bundled a Firefox plug-in with it’s software. And it’s mandatory. That’s right – you are notified about the plug-in installation only AFTER the install is complete. Pretty neat, eh?

Next surprise – if you launch Firefox after installing Skype, instead of your regular home screen (in my case – the ever-tempting about:blank page) you will see an uninvited Skype page devoted to Firefox plug-in (located here: http://www.skype.com/help/guides/ff_extension/) that still has (as of August 26, 2007) the following passage:

Calling phones within the US and Canada is free until the end of 2006. You need to buy Skype Credit to make international calls.

Gee, do you think we still got time for free calls? Or another version: Earth to Skype – it’s already 2007 halfway gone, damn it.

Outlook 2007 to Mozilla Thunderbird mail database conversion

Outlook to Thunderbird conversionEver since I purchased Office 2007 with Outlook 2007 for my business this question was haunting me – how do I convert my 700MB Outlook mail database into other formats? Obviously, converting it into a (really really large) bunch of EML files is definitely not an option. Outlook’s own Import/Export functionality is very limited (to put it nicely). So I set a realistic goal – convert my Outlook mail database into Thunderbird e-mail database. Or at least find a tool that can realistically do it.

Similar problem had risen year ago, when I was transitioning from TheBat! mailer to something more user-friendly with calendar and contacts manager built-in (namely – Outlook 2007 Beta). TheBat’s mail format was unique and non-exportable to anything but EML files. The only sensible way to transfer three years worth of e-mails from half a dozen accounts was (I kid you not!) drag and drop all e-mails into IMAP mailbox (I used my personal AOL account), shut down TheBat!, fire up Outlook, open and sync AOL account there, drag and drop e-mails from that folder (must have different data file and folder for that) into the main inbox (or specific folder). Took me several hours on broadband connection to move everything properly.

But, there is no way I was going to do same thing again. Among many various solutions, including, but not limited to, exporting the whole thing into Outlook Express format and then converting from OE to Thunderbird, I found a software I wish I’ve seen a year ago. It’s called Aid4Mail by Fookes Software and it “understands” bunch of formats, among those Outlook (PST, MSG, MAPI), TheBat!, Eudora, Pegasus and, of course, Mozilla-compatible mailboxes. The conversion is guided by simple wizard and only took me about 20 minutes to process all Outlook folders. The only drawback of the program is its licensing structure – the Standard version ($24.95) does not support Outlook formats (most popular, as far as I know) and in my opinion simply useless. Professional has all the necessary features but will cost you $49.94 and up (depending on number of licenses). Given the one-time use nature of this program fifty bucks isn’t cheap, but not unrealistic. Site license (the one that doesn’t require activation) costs astronomical $1999.95 and I have no idea who it is aimed at. As to my understanding the pricing structure was created with single goal in mind – to push the Professional ($50) version of the product. Why the other two prices exist at all remains a mystery.

However, in spite of 90-s web site and messed pricing structure the software itself worked flawlessly and fast enough to complete conversion during lunch break. Additional perks include mail filtering during conversion and ability to skip the duplicates. Must have if you do a lot of experimenting like this.