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Downloads roundup: 18 important tools or updates you may have missed in the last week

08 July 2011, Chris Wiles

Never fails to amaze us how much effort web browser development teams are investing to bring us the latest and best browser. Where’s the end goal? You can understand Google pushing significant resources in to Chrome, as it’s part of the new Chrome OS. But why are Opera and Firefox so keen to be seen to develop and release new versions of their browsers more quickly than ever?

This week has seen a plethora of new or updated web browsers from Mozilla and Opera. Earlier this week, Firefox 6 beta was launched to the general public. Firefox Aurora is now 7.0a2, whilst Firefox 8 moved in to the Nightly channel. And there are almost no differences between 7.0a2 and 8.0a1. On top of this, Opera 12 made it’s very fist public bow in the form of a….pre-alpha. Since when did any developer release an alpha, never mind a pre-alpha, to the general public? It’s up there on the Opera website for anyone to download. You can test Opera 12 “Next” alongside the regular Opera 11.50, if you’re keen to see the latest developments. Maxthon was also released this week, which is a browser based on the engine that powers Internet Explorer.

Instandbird 1.0 finally made available, along with Instantbird Portable 1.0. This is a multi-IM chat client that enables you to connect to your MSN, Google Talk, AOL and other friends. It’s really old-school. Doesn’t handle video and audio and is a simple way of enabling you to send messages to other people on other networks. Sadly, unlike the superb Trillian 5, it doesn’t support Skype, which means it’s not a client we’d recommend over and above either Trillian or Pidgin, which are tried-and-tested multi-IM chat clients.

Many of us still use sticky notes to jot information whilst we’re on the phone or a quick “to do” note to remind us of a task. Stick a note to your computer and it’s easily lost. The solution is to use the equivalent of a sticky note on your desktop, such as a note posted to your screen. PNotes 8 was released this week, along with the portable version, and this free tool enables to a lot more that put a sticky note on your desktop. You can use it to handle your tasks, schedule an event, password protect your information and even synchronize your notes across your computers.

Completely re-configure the look and feel of Windows using Winstep Xtreme

Want to take a look at the new Windows 8 user interface, without having to locate a developer build or other early release? Windows 8 UX Pack 2.0 is, effectively, a theme pack which will customise a Windows 7 operating system to mimic the planned v8 changes. You get Metro inspired visuals and much more. Once  you are bored, simply uninstall. If you want to go much further and deeper, then try Winstep Xtreme 11.6. This is commercial (trial) software, but will completely change the look and feel of your desktop by giving you a different Start Menu, a new gadget system and much more.

Whilst we wait for Firefox 7’s new memory management (which is months away), there are various new tools that will keep memory use in check. Memory Restart 1.4 for Firefox is a relatively new tool that will not allow Firefox to use more than a specified amount of memory and, once it gets close, will warn and allow you re-start Firefox (with your current tabs). Firemin (was Firefox Plumber) is another similar tool, although Firemin attempts to manage your Firefox memory automatically, although the pay-off may be increased CPU time as as result.

Other highlights include Comodo Internet Security Premium 5.5, the free security suite, Paragon Rescue Kit 11 Free Edition, which will enable you to create a bootable disc in case you cannot get back in to your system, whilst Acronis True Image 2012 was launched as a private beta this week.  Redo Backup and Recovery 1.0 was given a final and official launch and iolo System Mechanic 10.5.1 was released as a minor maintenance update.

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