The Download Blog

Opera 9.6 focuses on neglected features

UPDATED: Corrected Opera's country of origin.

E-mail and RSS feed improvements top the list of changes for Opera 9.60, moved out of beta today for Windows and Mac. As noted when the 9.60 beta came out last month, this version of the free browser offers up a multifaceted ''low-bandwidth mode'' for Opera Mail and tweaks to the RSS reader.

The feed preview rolls into Opera's RSS management a standalone RSS app feature so that users can preview feeds before subscribing to them. The low bandwidth option for Opera Mail, also called M2, does different things for … Read more

Featured Freeware: CustomizeGoogle

Google has long been one of the most useful tools on the Net, but frequent search engine users may find that they can make it even more efficient. CustomizeGoogle is a Firefox extension that adds options to an ordinary Google search, providing additional links to sources such as Yahoo, Wikipedia, or MSN. Depending on the specifics of the search, results might also include links to movie, music, or book search engines.

It's hard not to like the link to the Wayback Machine, which enables users to see pages that have vanished from the Net. The software filters out advertisements, … Read more

OpenOffice 3 almost ready for business

Open-source freeware alternative to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org, has released the third release candidate of its next major-point upgrade for Windows and Mac. The full version of OpenOffice.org 3 is due next week, so it's extremely doubtful there will be any major changes from this point on.

While Sun Microsystems is making sure that all its T's are crossed and I's are dotted, OpenOffice 3 Release Candidate 3 offers quite a few new features, including much-needed support for Office 2007 file types, Microsoft Access database support, a multipage view in MS Word-analog Writer, nearly unlimited character … Read more

Adobe offers Elements with Photoshop.com promo

Adobe Systems has begun shipping its enthusiast-oriented Photoshop Elements 7 image-editing software and Premiere Elements 7 video-editing software--and is offering a promotion to try to lure users to its online Photoshop.com site as well.

The Elements software costs $99.99 each or $149.99 as a bundle. New with this version, Adobe also is offering a $179.99 price that includes a one-year Photoshop.com Plus membership. Ordinarily, a Photoshop.com Plus subscription costs $49.99 a year, so you're basically getting a $20 price break, at least until the time comes to renew for another year.

Photoshop.com offers tutorials, online albums for backing up and sharing your shots, and access to the Photoshop Express online editing tool. The free basic version comes with 2GB of storage, and the Plus level comes with 20GB of storage.

Pricing isn't the only promotion. CNET reviewer Lori Grunin found it annoying how prominently Elements touts the online option in the software itself. … Read more

iPhone apps of the week

It appears that sometimes wishes really do come true. Last week I talked about iGolf, hoping that Version 2.0 would include some sort of course to play through. Apparently this was already in the works. With Version 2.0 you can now play through three holes in addition to hitting for distance at the driving range. It still needs some work (putting requires you to perform a full swing making it less-than-ideal), but adding the three playable holes is a nice touch. I should point out that if you don't have a good grip while playing you may … Read more

Video: Make iPhone ringtones with iTunes 8.0

Here's a thought: instead of wading through dozens of ringtone-making apps to find one suited to your iPhone, why not try--what else?--iTunes for Windows and Mac?

In this Insider Secrets video, CNET Editor Brian Tong gives you the lowdown on producing ringtones for your Apple phone using nothing but Apple's own free music library and player.

PrintWhatYouLike makes any site printer friendly

There's nothing worse than trying to print a two-page article from the Web and have it print out in a half-inch column across 37 sheets of paper. It happens all the time, and if the site you're on doesn't have a special printer friendly option, your only other method was to use special software, or attempt to save the page as a PDF then print it out later.

A service called PrintWhatYouLike takes all the work out of this, and does you one better by letting you select only the parts of the page you want to … Read more

Featured Freeware: Books

Books is a free tool that can help you organize your book collection, acting as a sort of iTunes for physical books. This virtual card catalog lets you classify all the books you own using predefined fields like title, author, and publication date. You can also create your own.

Books lets you track and store summaries, cover images, personal reviews and ratings, notes on multiple copies of a single book, and more--and it even helps you track a books lending history. Smart Lists, much like iTunes' Smart Playlists, let you group books by criteria--for example, by author, genre, or publication … Read more

Boxee Media Center hacks its way onto AppleTV

AppleTV has a rich history of getting hacked for the sake of adding extra utility. Contained within its small confines is a reasonably powerful computer that's capable of running Mac OS X (albeit slowly). The problem is that despite this power, the system software is tied to iTunes and its sister store for movies, music, and TV shows. This hinders it from competing with devices like mini-PCs and game machines that offer a huge variety of media playback, including DVDs and Blu-ray movies.

To help solve this, Boxee founder and CEO Avner Ronen has published instructions on how to … Read more

StumbleUpon 2.0: Good-bye, software toolbar

On Tuesday night StumbleUpon is changing the way users interact with the service, ditching the need for a software-based browser toolbar in place of a small frame that loads on top of the Web site you're on. Users with the toolbar installed will still be getting the same experience, but the idea is that anyone can begin stumbling without having to install anything.

To get the Web toolbar to show up in the first place, users must now begin their stumbling experience from the StumbleUpon home page. The site is now broken up into categories. Once you've clicked on a link the experience begins, with the persistent toolbar following you from site to site and keeping track of your ratings to provide you with new stumbles.

Earlier this week, StumbleUpon founder Garrett Camp told me this was an idea that had been kicked around the office for years--six in fact, and the only reason it hadn't happened sooner is that Camp and others felt it would diminish the number of people who were populating the service with rated content. That number is still staggering, with more than 35,000 new URLs submitted every day by 6 million registered users. Camp hopes this new install and registration-free solution will make those numbers even larger, and improve some of the uptake as people get to try the service without that first hurdle.

In addition to its exploratory angle, StumbleUpon is introducing a new partner program. Sites that have StumbleUpon installed will be able to offer their users a new "Stumble This" button with a counter on it. When a user clicks this it adds to the number, which can help promote it for other StumbleUpon members. It's also got an option right underneath the counter that lets users jump to another piece of related content, something Camp says should drive traffic to other existing posts. It's worth noting this is different from the previously existing StumbleThru feature, which would do this randomly.

The partner program is launching on four sites Tuesday night, including political blogging network The Huffington Post, HowStuffWorks, Rolling Stone online, and National Geographic. Of the four, Rolling Stone and National Geographic are the most interesting, as users will be able to explore the photo archives with the service's recommendation engine. Like service Photoree, which we checked out back in August, this can be a fun and engaging experience.

Camp says there are 10 other partnerships in the works, including several for video and music content. Eventually the system will be open for anyone to place it on their blog, although Camp says the system needs to be fine-tuned before it's ready for that.

The future of StumbleUpon

When I asked Camp for comment on the rumored sale of StumbleUpon from parent company eBay, he said he "couldn't talk about any rumors." However, what's interesting is that this new system could be ported over to eBay, or any other product site, which is something many were expecting when the company was acquired last year. "This does open us up," he said. "We're a lot more media focused, and this would allow us to do product discovery."

Presumably with such a system in place you could jump around the site and discover new products while rating them at the same time--something the auction site does not currently provide. Camp says StumbleUpon might one day provide that, but for now he says that realm has already been covered pretty well by search. "(We're) more interested in doing media stuff. There's a greater need for discovery than products right now."

The new StumbleUpon.com should be available right now. Camp says user profiles, reviews, and friends lists will get updated to match the new style in the coming weeks.… Read more