Saturday, January 3, 2009

More free software ... and the toolbars you can live without

I was going to have a minor rant today, in a post entitled "the cost of free software," and then DreamCraft's resident guru ambled by and said, "Why don't you turn it off?" And, to add insult to injury, got rid of the offending toolbar in three (count them: THREE) mouse clicks.

Well, rabbits. I've been putting up with their pestilential toolbars for about six months ... my browser window has been getting progressively smaller and smaller as the fantastic free addons installed their bloody little toolbars which, when they start to accumulate, aren't so little any longer.


Apparently you can turn them off. If I were the kind of person to shove emoticons up your nose as you read, you'd be gagging on one right now. It would be chuckling in glee on the one hand and blushing slightly in momentary, transitory, more or less insignificant ... embarrassment.

Okay: go ahead and get the addons I'm about to recommend here, because momentarily I shall disclose all ... ie., how to get rid of the aforementioned bloody little toolbars that clog up your browser window like the cybernetic equivalent of arterial plaque.

I've just stumbled over two beauties: both free, and both better than stuff that costs an arm and a leg. We'll start with the PDF reader. Are you sick and tired of the length of time it takes to load Acrobat Reader, the commercials you have to turn off, the constant whining about updates you don't want ... and the sheer amount of your computer's brain this prog commandeers?! If you answered yes to any or all of the above, you're ready for this:

Foxit. Go here:

It's a trendy, nifty, slick PDF viewer with every feature you'd get from Adobe, and a whole lot LESS of the hype, the marketing, the "overhead" that crashes your computer, and ... the angst inspired by the above. There are loads of Foxit versions and addons to buy, but the reader itself is free. If you get into making, converting and adapting PDFs, obviously you want more, in which case go here: ... and even though you'll have to pay some money, it's about 5% of the price you could expect to pay for Adobe products.

I took this for a test drive this morning, and was delighted -- except for the bloody little toolbar it installed in my browser. Hence the mini-rant, and the gleeful chuckles as the DreamCraft guru clicked me out of that particular wood ... like this:

[The following paragraph is for the cybernetically handicapped. If you and your computer speak the same language, enjoy the same sports and are cultivating romance, feel free to skip ahead]

Forget about searching the copious menus of the Foxit toolbar for some way, any way, to turn the damned thing off from within its own mechanism -- you're wasting your time here. You RIGHT click on the gray area to the right of all these accumulating toolbars, and you get a popup menu. Then, you take the trouble to notice something that always blew by me. There's a listing for UNLOCK TOOLBAR. Uh huh. Click to unlock it ... click to un-select all the things you don't want plugging up your browser window ... they vanish one by one ... and then LOCK the toolbar again.

No prizes will be awarded for observation! I never even saw the "unlock toolbar" thing. I'd be prepared to swear it wasn't even there until somebody who knew what it was looked for it. Then it spontaneously appeared. Anyway: Foxit Reader comes on high recommendation, and you don't even have to put up with its toolbar.

The other freebie that's impressing me greatly is Notepad++, which is the souped-up programmer's version of the Windows Notepad. This will save your life when you start to muck about with the "css" gibberish which makes the Blogger templates do what they do. Get into the code for these pages to make they do something special, and you see this:

And that stuff goes on for page after page. Notepad++ makes it halfway possible to wrangle this gibberish by numbering every line -- which your browser won't do, even though it will display an xml file. Also, like your browser, Notepad++ color-codes certain kinds of gibberish, which helps sort out the categories. I like the numbered lines a lot. It's the first time I've seen them since I messed about with Basic back in the early 1980s.

So, if you're thinking about trying to have a fiddle with the css gibberish behind your blog page, get Notepad++ to give you a bit of an advantage. Go here:

Ciao for now,

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