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Juice (tested v0.1.2)
Sidebar search assistant for Firefox
Developer: Linkool Labs
OS: Windows/Mac/Linux (via Firefox)
Price: Free

The Internet makes it relatively easy to find out about pretty much anything you want. Search for something in Google, or look up its Wikipedia entry, and you'll usually have enough information to point you in the right direction. It doesn't sound like a lot of work, but it is possible to make the process even easier. Sorting through Google results, for example, can be tedious – especially if you're just looking for the answer to a quick question, or the basic information about a topic or person.

Juice does the work of sorting and aggregating the wealth of information available for whatever you're looking for. You select and drag the keywords you want to search for, and Juice puts together a dossier about your search term in the Firefox sidebar, built from information pulled from major Internet sources. Select and drag the text “Stephen Harper” in a website, for example, and Juice presents his Wikipedia entry, several YouTube videos, and the latest headlines culled from Google News.

Another one of Juice's tricks is its secondary function as a media clipboard. It can create playlists of images and video found around the web for easy reference and archival. What's especially neat is that while Juice's video playlist is mainly for YouTube videos, it also works with nearly any Flash applet – even non-video content like Flash games.

Juice is one of the best uses for the Firefox sidebar conceived to date. Even if you're a power user who's got Google and Wikipedia keyword searches at their fingertips, you'll find something to like here.

Open IT Online (tested v1.5)
Online file viewing/editing utility
Developer: Denis Remondini
OS: Windows/Mac/Linux (via Firefox)
Price: Free

Whether it's a friend who doesn't have the right version of Excel, a public system at a library or internet café that's locked down, or just a slow system that takes ages to load Excel, there may be plenty of reasons why you might wish for an option for opening a file without the proper software. In the past, if you didn't have the right program, you were simply out of luck.

Open IT Online is a Firefox extension that adds the option to open files using online services like Google Apps, Zoho and Picnik, instead of desktop-based applications like Office and Photoshop. It integrates seamlessly with the Firefox download dialog; right between the option to open a file with an application or save the file, you'll spot an “Open IT Online” option with a dropdown to select the online service of your choice. The services Open IT Online supports can open a wide variety of files, including word processing documents, spreadsheets, presentation files and images. Multiple formats are supported, including Microsoft Office and OpenOffice formats. The best part is that these online services can edit and save files as well as view them, so you'll never have to worry about making changes to an important document.

While applications like Office aren't likely to disappear any time soon, Open IT Online is yet another tool to add to your arsenal if you'd rather take all your work online, or if you don't want to be tied to a specific desktop application.

Can You Run It?
Gaming system requirements tester
Developer: Husdawg, LLC
OS: Web-based, for Windows only (via Firefox/Internet Explorer)
Price: Free

With sales of gaming consoles like the Nintendo Wii and big-budget games rising even as economic doom and gloom reigns elsewhere, console gaming is now an accepted part of mainstream culture. This success, however, has come partially at the cost of the gaming market on computers; aside from blockbusters like World of Warcraft and the Sims, blockbuster PC-only games are few and far between.

Part of the reason may be the bewildering array of hardware system requirements that can confuse and frustrate people who aren't familiar with the insides of their systems. Can You Run It? is an attempt to make deciphering hardware requirements easier. The process is straightforward—after installing an ActiveX or Java applet, Can You Run It? scans your system's hardware and compares those specs to the hardware requirements of a game you've chosen from its database. The service tells you whether you meet the minimum and recommended requirements, and lets you know what parts to upgrade if you don't.

The service isn't perfect—its video card analysis should rely less on the amount of memory as a performance indicator, for example—but its database of games and hardware are reasonably up to date and the site does a decent job of determining your computer's abilities. If you're a gamer who doesn't keep up with the bleeding edge of computer technology, Can You Run It? is a handy site to bookmark.

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