Saturday, September 4, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [September 3rd]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [September 3rd]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [September 3rd]

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 08:31 PM PDT

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. All listed websites are FREE (or come with a decent free account option). No trials or buy-to-use craplets. For more cool websites and web app reviews subscribe to MakeUseOf Directory.

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vReveal – Here is one free video editor that you should check out. vReveal is software that offers basic one-click editing for your home videos allowing you to stabilize, sharpen and clear up blurry videos easily. Read more: vReveal: Quickly Clear Up Blurry Videos


LetsVoteNow – Whether you are trying to decide where to go for lunch or electing your club president; the voting process can be tedious and cumbersome. However, LetsVoteNow is a online voting tool that lets you vote on any topic without any hassle. You start by entering the topic you are voting on, then choose if the vote would be a simple “Yes” or “No”. Read more: LetsVoteNow: Quick & Easy Online Voting Tool For Any Topic



Disclosure Policy Generator – If you are planning to make money on the internet using referrals and affiliates, you are probably required to have a disclosure statement on your website. DisclosurePolicy Generator is a free tool that helps you pen your own customized disclosure policy that you can copy and paste into your website. Read more: Disclosure Policy Generator: Create Website Disclosure Statement Within Seconds



Achievr – Some of us can keep track of our goals mentally while others need to maintain a diary or written record. If you belong to the latter group, then you could surely use the help of Achievr. Achievr is a free and smart goal tracker that allows you to set your goals and monitor them as they progress. Read more: Achievr: Free & Smart Goal Tracker Online



Bynamite – When it comes to online ads, internet users either do not care or they find them bothersome enough to use tools like AdBlock – there is simply no middle ground. But this "middle ground" is exactly what Bynamite aims to achieve. It monitors what information online networks such as Google Ads, Yahoo, and Lotame can view about you. Read more: Bynamite: Control What Advertisements You See


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These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 07:31 PM PDT


Check out the top picks from MakeUseOf Geeky Fun during the last week.

  1. The Touch Screen Haters Club (Pic)
  2. If Websites Were Pets (Pic)
  3. Music Piracy Before Computers (Pic)
  4. This Applies To 99.9% Of Albums. (Pic)
  5. Geek Wedding Invitation (Pic)
  6. This is how I feel about buying apps (Pic)
  7. Be Careful When Using Google Maps! (Pic)

If you would like to keep up with all latest Geeky Fun additions, please subscribe to the Geeky Fun feed here. You can also subscribe and get the latest additions via email.

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The 5 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 06:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf AnswersAre you a wiseguy? You may be just what we need at MakeUseOf Answers.

This week’s prize for Best Answer of the Week goes to Dave for the answer to this question: “Where can I buy the best digital camera?” Congratulations!

Could you use some extra cash in your pocket? Help us solve questions. No sign up required! You just need a valid email address or an existing Facebook, Yahoo, or Disqus account to post your answers.

And these are our 5 best questions of the week:

  1. How do I change my default font In Microsoft Word?
  2. How can I use my full internet bandwidth?
  3. Is shutting down many times a day dangerous for my system?
  4. What is the best laptop for a 12 year old girl?
  5. Why can I note delete anything from a full hard drive?

Want to learn something new each day and share your knowledge? Browse MakeUseOf Answers by Latest Questions, Unanswered Questions or Most Popular Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask us at MakeUseOf Answers!


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Join MakeUseOf On Twitter!

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 04:31 PM PDT

If you have discovered MakeUseOf just recently and are one of our 300,000+ subscribers, consider following us on Twitter as well.

You’ll be notified everytime there is a new post on the MakeUseOf Blog, a web app review on the MakeUseOf Directory or something new on Geeky Fun.

Plus, we would love it if you would re-tweet the posts and discuss them, so more people get to know about us and join our community.

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6 MORE Best Web Design Blogs You Haven’t Heard Of

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 02:31 PM PDT

Not that long ago I wrote a post entitled 6 Best Blogs To Follow If You Are A Web Designer. The premise behind the article was to try to narrow down what was otherwise an abundance of great web design information floating around in cyberspace. It featured some of the most prominent blogs in the industry.

By popular demand, I will be covering some of the lesser known web design blogs this time around. Without further ado, here are some of the web design blogs you may not have heard of.


The first website I feel obligated to mention in this post is TrueKolor. They do graphic design in the form of designing logos and banners, but their blog has a lot of great content that often goes unnoticed. Articles include lists of inspiring logos and font sets, Photoshop tips and tricks, and everything in between.

[Disclosure] They designed our logo. We think they’re awesome.


Designrfix is pretty popular numbers-wise, but I still don’t think they are getting the recognition that some of the other design blogs are getting, so I felt I should include them here too. They do a great job of giving examples of inspirational design in both online and real-world examples, as well as the usual stuff like cool icons and graphics.

Paper Leaf

Paper Leaf is a legitimate unknown, but a good blog nonetheless. The site has some well-written, informative articles centered around design and it’s a good place to go for ideas. New articles are posted every few days, which isn’t as frequent as some of the other blogs on this list, but perhaps we can change that by delivering some positive attention.


AEXT.NET stands for “An Extension of the Net”. While they cover some of the design aspects like the other blogs on this list, they do a good job of focusing on the development side of things, covering topics like server-side rendering and even SEO. They also have a good tutorial section you should check out.


I feel like I had to include this site on the list. I really like their design and layout, and if you are into design I think you will appreciate it too. They make great use of images as every post is just a large photo, and you can click on it to get to the underlying content.

You can spend a lot of time browsing for ideas and inspiration on this site. There is a little strong language used in some places on the site – apologies. Just look at the pictures!


Speaking of giant photos, idsgn rounds out this list.  I know I’ve mentioned inspiration and design ideas throughout this list, but if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for you have to check out this site. They provide monthly reviews and throw out a lot of design love to important people in the industry.


Like I’ve stated before, there are an insane amount of design blogs and resources out there. It’s great to have so much information readily available and it allows you to focus on any aspect of web design you choose to master.

My list might look completely different from what you could come up with. If this is the case, let’s help expose some of the best unknowns in the comments section!

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Hot Tech Deals [Sep 3rd]

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 01:15 PM PDT

If you’re in the market for a new computer, laptop, mobile phone, games and other accessories; don’t waste your time searching online. We’ve taken the liberty of locating the best tech deals and unifying them into a single post for your convenience.

For more fresh hot deals, visit our Hot Tech Deals page, which is constantly updated.

Keep reading to find out today’s Hot Tech Deals.

  1. Canon PowerShot D10 12.1 MP 3X Digital Camera (Waterproof/Shockproof/Cold Resistant) $238.50 via code EMCYXYP24
  2. Samsung SpinPoint M7E 640GB 5400RPM 2.5in Internal SATA Hard Drive $59.99 Free Shipping via code EMCYWPZ22
  3. TODAY ONLY Motorola H720 Over-the-Ear Wireless Bluetooth Headset $25.99 Free Shipping
  4. Newegg Coupon Code 10% off Samsung and LG HDTVs (LCD, LED, Plasma)
  5. Canon PowerShot G11 10MP 5x Digital Camera w/ Ariticulating LCD $386.10 via code EMCYXYP24
  6. Canon PowerShot S90 10MP 3.8X Digital Camera (Previous Gen, f/2.0) $302.40 via code EMCYXYP24
  7. Canon PowerShot S95 10MP 3.8x Digital Camera (f/2.0, 720p Video, Hybrid IS) $359.10 via code EMCYXYP24


  1. 25% off All Dell Laptops & Desktops on this landing pagevia code ?$QNC1?HSKNR9F
  2. 20% off all Dell Desktops & Laptops in this link via code 5TK?LC9VJ5F$33
  3. STACKABLE $50 off HP Orders $1000+ via code TECHBAR50

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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What Is Lorem Ipsum & Where Did It Come From? [In Case You Were Wondering]

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 12:31 PM PDT

lorem ipsumIf you have ever searched for a Wordpress theme before, you will have probably noticed that some theme designers use some weird text when showing off their themes which looks like Latin.  I have always wondered what it was, why designers choose to use it and where it came from.

After a bit of research I have some answers.

What Is Lorem Ipsum?

Lorem Ipsum is a group of text that people commonly use as filler text, or dummy text.  It’s basically a bunch of mumbo-jumbo (at least that’s what it looks like) that people use to show what a design layout will look like when the proper text has been inserted.

what is lorem ipsum

Why Do Designers Use Lorem Ipsum?

What I kept asking myself is why they would use this jumbled up mess of a foreign language and not some English text?  It all comes down to focus. It’s a known fact that if they were to use actual copy, someone trying to look at only the design would be distracted by what the text says.  That is one of the major reasons people choose to use Lorem Ipsum. With text that is unrecognizable, there’s nothing to read.

Where Did Lorem Ipsum Come From?

As it turns out, Lorem Ipsum did come from Latin.  It’s actually a modified version of it.  What does it actually say?  According to,

Lorem Ipsum comes from sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 of “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” (The Extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero, written in 45 BC.

Lorem Ipsum has been used since the 1500’s.  It was made popular in the 1960’s and has survived into the digital age with desktop publishing programs like Aldus PageMaker.  As we also know, it is still being widely used among web designers such as Wordpress theme designers to show different design elements.

what is lorem ipsum

Can I Use Lorem Ipsum For My Projects?

Sure, why not?  It is still widely used so join the proverbial club. In fact there are many tools out there that make using it so easy.  Here are a few of them.

I have already quoted from this site because it contains quite a bit of information on the subject.  It also contains a tool to generate a portion of the text.

lorem ipsum generator

MakeUseOf’s Directory contains a writeup about it.  Since that time they have released both a Firefox plugin and a Chrome plugin.

Lorem2: "Lorem Ipsum" Text Samples

This isn’t really a software program or tool per se.  It’s really a website containing different sample Lorem Ipsum texts.  It contains short paragraphs, long paragraphs, short list items and long list items.  Web designers should add this site to their tool belt.


This tool takes Lorem Ipsum usage to a whole different level for web developers.

lorem ipsum generator

They offer much of what the last tools offers but with the HTML tags included, making development that much easier.

Tell us, do you use Lorem Ipsum?  If so, in what way?  What tools do you use that we should know about?

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10 Environmental Games That Teach Kids About Earth, Ecology & Conservation

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 11:31 AM PDT

environmental gamesIt has often been said that the kids of today will inherit the Earth of tomorrow. It will surely be one where the challenges of climate change and environmental conservation will be stiffer.

With the right eco-education, we can hope they will hit the ground running. A lot of schools and educational institutions are doing their bit by including the environment as part of the curriculum. Words like 'carbon footprint' and global warming' comes to them as easily as the name of any present-day rock star.

That's cool. But who said that ecological or environmental education needs to be bookish or donnish?  Thanks to online games, it can be brought out from textbooks into the fun world. Online environmental games games that teach kids about animals and conservation make the task interactive.

Children can immediately learn that each action has a contributing effect. Plus, these interactive educational websites on the environment make both the teaching and learning enjoyable without losing out on the lessons.

Here are ten games and game websites that teach kids about the environment and the world around them.

Planet Science

environmental games

The Planet Science games cupboard is a collection of online interactive games and other fun activities like quizzes. Try your hand on Planet 10 and see if you can create a perfect world. It's not that easy because you have to mix and match the building blocks to create a perfect world.

Or you could learn a bit about energy and its conservation from the lighter games like Energize.

BBC Climate Change

ecology games

Here's your chance to see if you can do better in the hot seat. The game tests your decision making skills while holding the top job of President of the European Nations. You must tackle climate change and stay popular enough with the voters to remain in office.


ecology games

The Clim'way game is again about helping the larger community reach some specific climate goals. You have to create a climate plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a certain percentage in a certain time frame. Your plans can include setting up alternative energy sources, reducing human consumption etc.

Web Earth Online

ecology games

How would you cope in the environment of today if you were an animal or bird? Use this multi player online game to find out. Pitted against you will be species which may be friend or foe. Then you have the natural world to deal with too.

You will get to play through the entire life cycle of the animal you choose. Like all animal species, the objective is to survive and thrive. The basic game is free.

Earth Day Games

ecology games

Earth Day has passed us by, but the games that were set up to promote it endure on many sites around the web. has a small collection of simple Flash based environmental games like Clean Up Your World. The games are simple enough to introduce the youngest of the lot to the need for environmental cleanliness.

Recycle City

green games

Continuing in the same spirit of cleaning up the litter around you, head for Recycle City. In the Dumptown Game, as the Dumptown Manager, you can create your own scavenger hunt and learn what it takes to help protect the environment.

World Wildlife Fund

green games

As WWF says, these are games with a message. Nine games listed on one page and a tenth one on Facebook (that's about looking after a polar bear). My picks are the blaster games. For instance, in the Toxic Blaster, I am piloting a jet-sub into the insides of a polar bear, a whale, and a man to blast away toxic molecules. But be warned, those contaminants can destroy the sub too.


green games

The Canadian website Ecokids has quite a list of little environmental games arranged in categories like Wildlife, Climate Change, Energy, Water, Waste, Land Use etc. The learning based environmental games are also bunched up according to age levels. For instance, in The Journey of a Wildlife Photographer you have to become a wildlife photographer and check out how animals and birds have adapted to the environment.

The Adventures Of Vermi The Worm

Go along with Vermi the worm and learn the basics of vermicomposting and its benefits, plus other waste management strategies like recycling. Along the way you will meet other characters like Bubba the Worm, Hugh Hammer, Sunny Flower, and Trashcan. While learning you have to help your buddies too as they reduce, reuse, recycle what's waste.

Environmental Education On The Internet

environmental games

This huge list of environmental games and related learning activities is thanks to the North American Association For Environmental Education. From the Second Life based NOAA Virtual World to the educational Astro-Venture from NASA where you have to design a habitable planet, the web resources cover quite a lot of environmental ground.

Thanks to online games of various hues, learning need not be a chore anymore. So finish all that homework fast. There's lot of interactive fun to be had on the World Wide Web. And tell us if you have a favorite environmental game that you would like the world to know about.

Image Credit : woodleywonderworks

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Easily & Quickly Clean Up Web Text With CleanHaven [Cross-Platform]

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 10:31 AM PDT

clean web textIf you work with lots of text-based documents, including emails, web content, lists, phone numbers and HTML code, you might occasionally need to clean up randomly ordered text, convert the case of titles, or strip away extra spaces and word duplications. When it comes to cleaning up longer pieces of text, it can be tedious and time consuming.

If cleaning up text has been a problem for you, Hoy Mackerel's CleanHaven application may be the solution. This free program performs dozens of text conversions and corrections. However, although it works pretty well, it can't read your mind. You will need to figure out which settings and attributes are needed to make the changes you want.

How CleanHaven Works

After you download the application, you're presented with sample texts to help you learn the various conversion attributes. My suggestion is to cut and paste this tutorial text into a word processing document, and then start working through each individual sample.

Let's start with an easy one. Say you have a list of words and you want to quickly get rid of any duplicates in the list. Here's an example: paste the following list in the main window of CleanHaven.









Now simply click the Clean button. CleanHaven cleans up the text and delivers it in a new window. Thankfully it doesn’t delete or change the original/source text.

clean web text

In the Cleaned Results window, you have the option to copy the converted or corrected text to your computer's clipboard. If you click the Source button, it corrects the original text in the main window. This Remove Duplicates attribute is very useful if you want to brainstorm a list of items and not fret over repeating yourself.

A similar attribute can put an assorted list of items in alphabetical or numerical order. If you don't know the technical lingo, you might be a little confused about which attribute you need to get the job done. Use the Ascending attribute for this.

clean web text

Another useful attribute is cleaning up line-wrapped text that has been truncated, such as the type of forwarded text you might receive in an email. Checking and selecting the Personal>Combine Paragraph attribute will get the results you need.

clean text

Converting the title case of names is another clean up job that CleanHaven can perform.

clean text

This works great for first and last names that are not typed correctly, and for long lists of incorrectly typed titles.

The CleanHaven website lists all the conversions and corrections the application can make, including removing excess characters (excess returns, excess spaces, linefeeds, linefeeds to returns, non-ASCII, non-letters, non-numbers, periods, punctuation, returns, returns to linefeeds, spaces, tabs), combining paragraphs, adding salutations to names, converting phone numbers to standard formats, sorting numerical lists, etc.

CleanHaven, in its second version, is a useful (free!) program, but it does lack features that might be incorporated into future versions. For example, it would be useful if you could save complex conversion settings for repeated use. Another issue is that when you get “cleaned results”, you can't add or change conversions settings to the results. You have to close the window and start over again.

And finally, although there’s lots information about the updates made to the application, it could use a well thought manual so that users don't have to click on various attributes to figure which ones do what.

CleanHaven might not be an application you use on a daily basis, but it's certainly handy to have, saving you time from performing tedious text conversions and corrections. Let us know how you like it.

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How RSS Bandit Can Feed You Everything You Need Online

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 09:30 AM PDT

rss readerRecently, I’ve been suffering from major “app” overload. At one point in the past month, I had Digsby alerting me with Facebook and Twitter updates, Firefox plugins alerting me with Gmail updates, and I used Google Reader to check for updates from my favorite blogs.

Between social networks, email and blogs, that pretty much sums up the streams of incoming “data” that I check every day, and to do so I was running at least three applications, plus a few other Firefox plugins.

At one point, I looked at all of the apps that I had running and started thinking that there has to be a far simpler way to collect all of the data that I check on a daily basis into one place that is well organized and simple to configure.

I’ve tried the online portals, like Netvibes and ZooLoo, which have some pretty cool plugins you can use to access feeds, email and social networks. The problem with online portals is that you are forced to have your browser open to monitor all of your incoming information. I needed a solution that didn’t depend on having a browser open. A desktop application that would collect all incoming feeds, but also present a method to sync that data over the Internet.

I was surprised to discover the solution in a powerful little open source desktop application called RSS Bandit. Adam briefly mentioned RSS Bandit and many readers have mentioned the app in various comments, but the power of this little data-collection fiend deserves a full review.

RSS Bandit Collects Social Network Feeds

While most RSS readers are awesome tools for organizing all of the sites that you like to visit online, there are very few that can also incorporate new information or posts from your favorite social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook. RSS Bandit has now added the ability to directly poll your Facebook account for new updates – turning it from a simple RSS Reader into an online life aggregator. So delete all of those other applications you’ve got running in the background, open up RSS Bandit, and let’s roll.

  • First, go to your Twitter account, scroll down and copy the URL for the “RSS feed” link in your right menu.

    rss reader

  • In RSS Bandit, you add the Twitter feed just as you would any other blog or website RSS feed. Click on the “New…” button, and the “Add Subscription Wizard” opens up.

    rss reader

  • Paste your Twitter RSS feed link into the new subscription URL, click Autodiscover and and RSS Bandit will recognize your feed and add it to your “My Feeds” menu.

    rss content

  • Adding Facebook is just as easy. Select File -> Synchronize Feeds… from the menu system and a special “Synchronize Feeds” wizards opens up that offers you several unique options where RSS Bandit can collect data from a number of outside sources.

    rss content

  • These include Google Reader, NewsGator Online, Windows Feedlist and of course Facebook. Select Facebook and click next. You’ll have to verify your Facebook credentials just as you do any time you give an application access to your Facebook account. Once you authenticate, RSS Bandit will start polling updates straight out of your Facebook account.

    rss content

  • When you click on your Facebook news feed, you’ll see a display just like a regular blog feed where you can select the item (a friend status update) and view the text in the content panel below.

what is rss feed

The same thing is true for the Twitter feed, although in this case you’ll probably find yourself just scrolling slowly down the headline list since most of the Twitter updates fit in the Headline field.

what is rss feed

Using RSS Bandit to Get New Email

Tired of opening up a new app or your browser to check for new email? Why not let RSS Bandit do that too? Now that Gmail offers an atom feed for your email account, it’s easy. All you have to do when you click on the new subscription link is paste either “” into the URL field. You’ll need to authenticate (RSS Bandit allows for authentication). With non-authenticating RSS Readers, you’d have to use “”. This is what your Gmail feed will look like when you’re done.

what is rss feed

Of course RSS Bandit can aggregate blog and website feeds from any source, including news sites and podcast RSS feeds just as well as the best RSS Readers out there.

And the sweetest thing about RSS Bandit is that in the Options menu, you can enable Remote Storage of your feeds so that you can remotely access them from anywhere. Just set up an FTP account to your own web hosting or file storage folder and you’re good to go!

RSS Bandit can organize your online life unlike many other apps out there. Have you ever given RSS Bandit a try? Do you know of any other RSS Readers with these kind of features? Share your insight in the comments section below!

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Vimperator – A Hardcore Firefox Add-On For Minimalists

Posted: 03 Sep 2010 08:31 AM PDT

firefox minimalistFirefox used to be considered the fastest of web browsers. It is still very well respected, and used by millions of people. However, the release of Chrome has made Firefox feel a little bulky. The browser doesn’t navigate pages as quickly and the stock interface takes up noticeably more display space.

If you’re thinking of switching to Chrome, wait. Don’t jump ship just yet. If you value minimalism in a web browser you may be interested in a Firefox add-on known as Vimperator. This add-on is just a bit insane, but that’s what makes it great.

An Introduction To Vimperator

The goal of Vimperator is to emulate the look and feel of the Vim text editor, a now obscure editor that was released in 1991 for the Amiga. Over the last 19 years Vim has been developed as an open-source editor for Windows, Linux and Unix. The interface of Vim, along with the large number of keyboard commands the program accepts, makes it possible to edit text without using the mouse.

This hatred of the mouse (or love of the keyboard) continues in Vimperator. The add-on places two new bars at the bottom of the Firefox browser. The black bar provides information about the page that you currently have open, while the white bar is a text field into which you can enter commands. That’s right – this add-on gives Firefox a text-based user interface.

Vimperator also enables a large number of simple keyboard commands that can be used to perform tasks like reloading a page, moving through browser history and even scrolling.

Obey The Text

firefox minimalist

The focus on text and keyboard commands is confusing at first, but it has its advantages. Vimperator gets rid of all the toolbars at the top of the typical Firefox window because you no longer need them to navigate the web. The result is a significant increase in the usable display space provided by the browser. This also makes Firefox more responsive. Webpages that previously felt sluggish now load in a flash.

Learning to use Vimperator could be a huge mess if the support documentation was poor. There are literally hundreds of commands and keyboard shortcuts available for use. Thankfully, Vimperator comes with a very helpful manual that is broken up into sections and provides detailed information about Vimperator’s interface. It can be accessed at any time using the :help command.

 firefox minimal interface

Since Vimperator offers such an excellent help document I’m not going to go over the basic commands here. Instead, I’m going to highlight some specific commands that I found interesting.

Buffers & Macros

Some of the best Vimperator commands can be found under the Buffer heading. These commands don’t necessarily do anything that was previously impossible, but the speed at which they operate is extremely impressive.

firefox minimalist

For example, pressing the keys “gf” while viewing a webpage will instantly switch the page to source view. This can be done on any webpage, and the transition takes less than a second. Vimperator also lets users open a page in an external editor with the keyboard command “gF.” A brief summary of a webpage’s information can be brought up using the “:pa” command.

Macro support is included in Vimperator, and becomes very handy considering the heavy reliance on keyboard commands. Macros can be recorded by pressing “q” and then a number or letter key. The recording status will be shown in the bottom text menu. Pressing the “q” key again will stop recording. Further macro support makes it possible to replay macros a set number of time and use scripting.


Prepare yourself, brave Firefox user. Vimperator can be a bit bewildering at first, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. It offers a unique experience however, and it absolutely does make Firefox feel like a quicker, more streamlined web browser.

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