There’s plenty of freeware (and “cheapware”) residing on the Internet, but setting aside time to download and experiment with it sometimes isn’t an option. Most busy small or medium sized business (SMB) owners don’t relish the idea of surfing aimlessly in the hopes of discovering one or two useful
SMB Extra has provided background on five of the latest tools (some very basic, others a little more complex) that may interest you. Of course, what’s useful to one SMB may be useless to another and this is by no means a comprehensive list, but I’m sure you’ll find a few applications here that will spark some efficiency, solve a problem or save your company time or money.
- You’ve likely heard of Mozilla Firefox, an alternate to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. If not, you could be in for a treat. It features tabbed browsing, customizable search bars and a built-in RSS reader (see this issue’s Ask the Expert section for more on RSS). Firefox does not support ActiveX so the odd site may not work properly, but the application is stable and quite fast. The “Find in this page” text search itself is worth taking the time to download Firefox, a free download at www.mozilla.org/
- Activity Monitor 3.8, a remote surveillance and spy program, monitors all computers in a local area network (LAN) in real time. You can use it to see how long users work with particular programs or spend on the Internet, what sites they visit — even what they are typing in e-mails or chats. Activity Monitor 3.8 is free to try for 15 days and pricing starts at $89.95. Check out http://www.softactivity.com/employee-monitoring.asp/
- Spam, viruses and adware continue to preoccupy business users. Fortunately, with vigilance and the right tools, they can be held in check. Norton Internet Security ($99.95 (US) from www.symantec.ca) is a popular, integrated suite of anti-virus, personal firewall, intrusion detection, privacy control and anti-spam components. For fending off spyware and adware, Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware SE Professional Edition (free for non-commercial use, $39.95 (US) to buy at www.lavasoft.com/) may do the trick.
- Magnifying Glass is a tool designed to let you check out fine details on your PC’s display without constantly changing the screen resolution. For those reading scanned documents with small type or perhaps toggling between a few text-heavy applications, this might help. Magnifying Glass follows your mouse’s movements, increasing magnification of any screen area. To close the lens, simply click the left mouse button. It’s free at http://magnifier.sourceforge.net/.
- The Google Mini (a combination of hardware and software, yes, but it was just too good to leave off this list.)Ever wish you could search your own network and Web sites the way you use the Google search engine? For $2,995 (US), the Google Mini offers an index and document capability of up to 100,000 documents in more than 220 file formats, including HTML, PDF and Microsoft Office. The Mini is a single-unit rack-mountable box that plugs into a standard power outlet and into a network Ethernet port. It is then configured and pointed toward the company intranet or Web site you want to index. There are limits to the document sizes, but they’re still quite liberal. The Mini indexes the first 2.5MB of any HTML document and the first 30MB of binary files, such as Word or PDF. Visit www.google.com/enterprise/mini/.
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