Use a Built-In Windows Utility to Create Self-Extracting Archives [Windows Tip]

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Most any savvy computer user is probably pretty handy with a free compression and archiving tool (like, say, 7-Zip), but not everyone they send files to will be. The Confessions of a Freeware Junkie blog points out that IExpress.exe, a built-in utility you simply type into the "Run" menu in Windows XP or "Start Search" in Vista, can create self-extracting archives to be emailed to anyone using Windows. Just choose "Extract files only" while clicking through the wizard interface, choose the files to be zipped up, and the end user only has to double-click to get them. IExpress also works as an easy way to convert batch files into executables. Need more info on IExpress? Check out Microsoft's help page on the tool.

Superior Alternatives to Crappy Windows Software [Crapware]

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It may be the year 2008, but a whole lot of sucktacular software still rears its ugly head on PC's everywhere, even when better-behaved options are freely available. Whether it's molasses-slow bloatware, shameless adware, anemic default apps, or "Your trial period has expired!" nagware, it's time to replace stinky Windows software with its superior (but lesser-known) alternative. Last week we asked what software you should never install on your PC, and over 200 comments later, you compiled quite a list. Today we're going to take a walk down the Crapware Hall of Shame, point and laugh at the worst offenders, and highlight some better choices. Photo by chelseagirl.

Application to Avoid: Adobe Reader
Indictment: Bloatware
Superior Alternative(s): FoxIt Reader or Sumatra PDF
Notes: There are much worse offenders on this list than Adobe Reader, which has gotten more performant over the years. Keep in mind that Adobe deals with some PDF's (like ones with editable form fields) better than FoxIt. If you don't want to ditch Adobe Reader entirely, here's how to tweak Adobe 8 for speed.

Application to Avoid: AOL Instant Messenger
Indictment: One-trick pony with ads included made by a company that holds its customers hostage. (Speaking of, here's how to cancel your AOL account.)
Superior Alternative(s): Digsby or Pidgin or Miranda or Trillian or Meebo
Notes: The moral of the story is you should avoid anything that comes on six zillion free CDs that swamp your apartment building's mailroom.

Application to Avoid: Browser Toolbars (that you didn't seek out yourself)
Indictment: Notorious for hijacking your browser, phoning home with your online activity, taking up precious real estate, and not offering any features you actually want.
Superior Alternative(s): Your browser's built-in search box and a few good bookmarklets
Notes: Don't get us wrong: Not all toolbars are bad, but do beware when they get tacked onto the end of a totally unrelated software installation and you have to opt OUT of them.

Application to Avoid: Internet Explorer (6 and 7)
Indictment: Lacks features any self-respecting modern web browser had two versions ago
Superior Alternative(s): Firefox
Notes: Because IE gloms onto the innards of your operating system so inextricably, you can't truly uninstall it. Just set your system's default browser to Firefox to avoid launching IE ever.

Application to Avoid: iTunes
Indictment: Too controlling, gleefully enforces DRM, can't monitor folders for new music
Superior Alternative(s): foobar200 (more on foobar2000), Songbird, or WinAmp
Notes: We—ok, I—actually like and use iTunes, ever since that time Steve Jobs waved that iPhone over my forehead and chanted. These recommendations only for those with particularly sensitive digital music sensibilities.

Application to Avoid: Java Runtime Environment
Indictment: You ugly and yo' Mama dresses you funny
Superior Alternative(s): None.
Notes: If you want to run a Java app, without the runtime you're SOL. Java, we love the idea of you. Just not the coffee cup staring at us from the system tray.

Application to Avoid: Limewire
Indictment: Where do we start? Haven't launched Limewire since our college days, and don't plan to ever look back
Superior Alternative(s): Frostwire
Notes: Bonus: Frostwire does BitTorrent, too.

Application to Avoid: MSN Messenger
Indictment: Little ugly non-faces with a red X over them plant themselves in your system tray with no obvious way to uninstall or quit it
Superior Alternative(s): Digsby or Pidgin or Miranda or Trillian or Meebo
Notes: Uninstall MSN Messenger by going to the "Add/Remove Windows Components" area in Control Panel's "Add/Remove Programs" area.

Application to Avoid: Nero Suite
Indictment: Costly
Superior Alternative(s): CDBurnerXP
Notes: The free CDBurnerXP may not do everything Nero does, but for the price it does a whole lot.

Application to Avoid: McAfee/Norton/Symantec Anti-Virus
Indictment: Naggy subscription costs after the free trial on your new PC runs out
Superior Alternative(s): AVG or Avast
Notes: See why many readers have ditched their AV software.

Application to Avoid: QuickTime
Indictment: Plants itself in your startup and system tray
Superior Alternative(s): QuickTime Alternative
Notes: While QuickTime doesn't annoy us THAT much, it still annoys us a little—especially since it comes with Apple's Software Update. (See Safari's Honorable Mention, below.)

Application to Avoid: RealPlayer
Indictment: We're still so traumatized about RealPlayer's repeated takeover of our PC back in 2004 we're seeing a special doctor that's killing that part of our memory
Superior Alternative(s): Real Alternative

Application to Avoid: Windows Media Player
Indictment: WTF interface, chokes on clips in common formats
Superior Alternative(s): VLC

Application to Avoid: WinZip
Indictment: Cost
Superior Alternative(s): 7-Zip or ALZip

Honorable mention: While Apple's Safari web browser for Windows itself is not crappy, Apple's Software Update trying to push it on you completely sucks. Here's how to opt out of installing Safari and stop the nag.

What crappy apps or better alternatives did we miss? Did we wrongly accuse one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.

Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, still hasn't forgiven RealPlayer. Her weekly feature, Geek to Live, appears every Monday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Geek to Live feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

How to Skip the Installation Delay for Firefox Extensions [How To]

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Weblog Daily Gyan points out a simple about:config tweak that disables the installation delay for new Firefox extensions. As you may know, Firefox tries to protect you from malicious attacks by setting up a delay before allowing you to install a new extension. But if you're confident in your browsing habits and you want to avoid the wait, just enter about:config in your address bar, then paste security.dialog_enable_delay into the filter box. Double-click that preference and change the value to 0. If you're aware of the risk but still don't feel like waiting every time you install a new extension, this is a nice time-saver.

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