From the Tips Box: Simple IE-to-Firefox Syncing, Easy Windows Toolbars, and Identifying USB Cables

By Jason Fitzpatrick on April 14th, 2011

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Every week we tip into our mail bag and share great tips from your fellow readers. This week we’re looking at an easy way to sync your bookmarks between IE and Firefox, using simple Windows toolbars, and a clever way to ID USB cables.

Simple IE-to-Firefox Syncing with Plain Old Favorites

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Tracie writes in to share a Firefox add-on that saves her lots of time and headaches when it comes to accessing her Internet Explorer bookmarks in Firefox:

Just thought I’d send in this tip for people like me that flip back and forth between IE and FF but constantly need access to a fully updated list of “favorites”.  FF now has an add-on called “Plain Old Favorites” that, unlike importing favorites into FF bookmarks, keeps all your favorites from IE fully sync’d and current with FF in the order you have them in IE!  It also updates anything you save in favorites on FF in your IE favorites in the spot where you put them.   Like I said, fully sync’d!  For me, this is fabulous as it now allows me to use FF so much more, since so much of what I do involves using the (literally) thousands of links saved in my favorites.  This was the one thing that kept me chained to IE in the past.  Happy Dance!

Plain Old Favorites circumvents the import/export model by directly tapping into both Internet Explorer’s favorites list as well as the Windows’ favorites list in real time. If you’re in a similar situation to Tracie, where you use both browsers but want to keep IE as a bookmark manager, it’s a clever solution.

Stash Frequently Used Shortcuts in Simple Toolbars

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Rich writes in with a tip on using simple taskbar toolbars:

Has your desktop screen gotten cluttered, or has your quick launch bar too long to view? Here is a suggestion that I stumbled upon one day. Right click your taskbar and go to toolbars, that will drop down and show at the bottom “New Toolbar” select that option. This will open an Explorer window where you can select a folder that will be the name of your new toolbar—which can be anything you want.

I created a folder called shorts, in it I created sub-folders for Apps, Games, and Utilities. In the folder I put the most used shortcuts from the desktop and in the sub-folders I put the less used items. I then right clicked the task bar and selected the folder name I had put everything in which allowed it to be showing on the right side of the taskbar.
Each time I want to access these apps or shortcuts I simple click on my Shorts and up pops the window in which I can quickly select what I want to run. I now have a clean screen desktop and easy (organized my way) access to my programs.

These days we’re all enamored with the new features in Windows like pinning apps to the taskbar and creating customized jumplists that it’s easy to overlook the simplicity of the basic toolbar. If you have a handful of shortcuts you use all the time you’ll be hard pressed to find a more simple and efficient way to have them at hand than a basic taskbar toolbar.

Marking the Right-Side-Up of USB Cables with Dimensional Paint

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We shared a tip with you regarding using little dots of felt to mark the right-side-up on USB cables in order to make in-the-dark charging easier. Betsy writes in with her own, felt-less, solution:

I am so glad that other people want/need this too! I use “dimensional fabric paint” from a craft store – and make small dots in what ever color I choose (geek opportunity here).  You have to let it dry for an hour or so, but it holds tight and lasts.

Since the paint is intended to stand up to the moisture and heat of the wash-dry cycle we’d imagine it is more than permanent enough for casual handling. You can find the dimensional paint in every color from hot pink to metallic gray, which makes marking cables, as Betsy notes, in your favorite color or in colors that distinguish the function, quite simple.


Have a great tip to share? Shoot us an email at tips@howtogeek.com and we’ll do our best to get it on the front page.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/14/11
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