Simple Instant Messaging With a Universal ClientUse a universal client for instant messaging, crumble cookies selectively, de-brand Outlook Express.
As if e-mail, the Web, and streaming media weren't reason enough to stay glued to your PC, another hot Internet application--instant messaging--would like to construct a little birdhouse in what is left of your soul. Experts who follow the technology agree that IM is on its way to ubiquity, thanks in part to growing support for wireless phones and handheld PCs.
If you're about to test the IM waters, you'll need an account with one or more popular services, and client software that lets you start yakking. Unfortunately, each of the major IM client programs--AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger--is chauvinistic and can't communicate with the other systems' users. Who wants to run four separate IM apps at one time?
Fortunately, third-party IM clients, such as Odigo Messenger, Jabber Instant Messenger, and Imici Messenger let you connect with users of multiple IM systems. These clients have features that may not be offered by an IM system's own client, including support for other operating systems and device types (see Figure 1). And like the native IM clients, all are freeware.
The promise of a single IM client that works with all four major services is enticing, but don't delete your service's native client program. Only Imici Messenger of all third-party clients currently emulates AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger; another client (one that's still in the beta stage), Cerulean Studios' Trillian, aims to do the same thing. Furthermore, no developer can guarantee that its universal client will always work with AIM.
America Online actively thwarts third-party access to AIM servers by changing the IM protocol frequently, though the company claims to work with AIM licensees. Third-party clients will require an update (usually a downloadable patch) to continue working after AOL makes a change. And until the vendor deciphers the new protocol and updates its client, you'll need your copy of AIM handy. You'll also want an emergency backup client handy in case your third-party client's vendor goes belly up--as happened to Tribal Voice, maker of one of last year's most promising universal IM clients, PowWow.
The Secret Life of Cookies
In Internet Explorer's Tools, Internet Options box, whether I click the General tab's Delete Files button or check the Advanced tab's 'Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed' security setting, I still find that cookies aren't deleted from the folder. However, if I simply delete the content of the Temporary Internet Files folder, I also delete the cookies I want to keep. Any suggestions?
Dave Alfano, New Castle, Colorado
First, I'd recommend that you employ a cookie management utility, such as The Limit Software's Cookie Crusher (available at The Limit Software or PCWorld.com's Downloads). These utilities let you specify in advance the cookies you'll accept and those you'll reject. The Security tab in IE's Internet Options lets you specify one of only three options: to accept all cookies, to accept none, or to be prompted about each one. The last choice is interesting for a few minutes--the number of cookies Web sites write to your hard disk is shocking--but it's ultimately too time-consuming for most users.
As to where the cookies are stored, that's a complex issue. In addition to the Temporary Internet Files folder you'll find a Cookies folder, and both folders' locations vary depending on your version of Windows. Each folder also has some special attributes--if you attempt to make them read-only, for example (an old cookie-busting trick), Windows automatically removes the read-only attribute for you. And as you discovered, the Delete Files button doesn't delete all files.
If you would rather not use a cookie buster, I suggest that you disable cookies instead. Go back to IE's Internet Options, and on the Security tab, select the Internet zone. Click the Custom Level button, scroll down to the Cookies settings, set both stored and per-session cookies to Disable, and then click OK twice. The next time you want to use a site that requires you to allow it to set a cookie before permitting you to access its content, simply go back to the Security tab and set your cookie security to Prompt. After you've browsed the site, reinstate the Disable setting.
De-Brand Outlook Express
Dozens of readers wrote to say that they appreciated May's tip for removing ISP branding from Internet Explorer (see " De-Brand, Re-Brand Internet Explorer"), but they didn't think it went far enough. If your copy of Outlook Express says that it's provided by AT&T WorldNet or America Online, the iedkcs32.dll utility mentioned in May's column won't do much about it. Lucky for us, Savannah, Georgia, reader Bill Miller has a solution: Search the Windows Registry for the string-value key that sets the title bar text, and either edit the text it specifies or remove the key altogether.
To open the Registry Editor, choose Start, Run, enter regedit in the Open field, and click OK. You can find the WindowTitle key by pressing Ctrl-F, entering WindowTitle (no space between the two words) in the 'Find what' field, and clicking OK. After some disk crunching, you should see a key called WindowTitle at the end of a Registry path that contains the words 'Outlook Express'. The exact path you see will vary, depending on the versions of Windows and Outlook Express you use.
To edit the WindowTitle key, double-click it, replace the text in the 'Value data' field with whatever you want, and click OK. The change takes effect when you launch Outlook Express (see Figure 2). To delete the brand text and restore the default OE title bar message ("Outlook Express"), right-click the WindowTitle key and choose Delete.
If you have multiple Outlook Express identities, you're still not done yet. Each OE identity has a similar WindowTitle key. Press F3 to locate the next one, and edit or delete it in the manner just described.
Scott Spanbauer is a contributing editor for PC World. Send your Internet-related questions and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. We pay $50 for published items.
Google Groups: DejaNews All Over Again
Once upon a time, there was a wonderful Web site called DejaNews, where you could search for anything anyone had ever posted to the thousands of public newsgroups called Usenet. Then one day the proprietors of DejaNews realized that the only way they could make money from the site was to sell it to the folks at Google, who promptly removed much of the archived material and quashed users' ability to post their own messages through the Web site. At last, the archive is back, and you can once again find that embarrassing flame you posted in 1996 (the archive goes back to 1995). Google says it plans to reenable the ability to post messages soon.
Download of the Month: Revision Control
Starting with this issue, Internet Tips will occasionally list key updates to some popular Net-related freeware. You'll probably recognize most of them, so we'll just identify the version number, how big it is, where to find it, and what's new. Write in if you think we're forgetting something.
Internet Explorer 5.01 Service Pack 2; 6MB to 17MB
Internet Explorer 5.5 Service Pack 1; (size unknown)
Both updates shower your browser with bug and security fixes, and upgrade you to 128-bit security if you're not there already. To find your current IE version, choose Help, About Internet Explorer.
Netscape Communicator 4.77; 22.3MB
Bitten by bugs in 4.76? Version 4.77 contains bug fixes and the latest version of AOL Instant Messenger. Choose Help, Software Updates in your current version of Netscape for the smallest possible download, or visit the links above.
Musicmatch Jukebox Basic 6 ; 9.4MB
The new version of this MP3 player has a better interface and MP3 streaming.
Winamp 2.76; 2.2MB (full version)
Lots of fit-and-finish bug fixes--dozens if you haven't updated recently.
Adobe Acrobat Reader 5; 10MB
Adds user interface improvements, clearer type, and the ability to save PDF files downloaded to your browser.
Opera 5.11; 9.5MB
Skins, Flash support, new privacy controls, and bug fixes significantly improve this ad-supported browser from Norway.