Chapter 7. Web Browsers

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6.7 Other Instant Messengers

Windows Messenger is just one of the many free instant messaging programs out there. This section tells you where to get the others and how to use them.

6.7.1 Downloading Other Instant Messengers

Windows Messenger suffers from the same problem as its competitors : You can pretty much only use it to communicate with other people who use the same instant messenger program (Windows Messenger does also let you chat with folks who use MSN Messenger). To communicate with the broadest range of people, one option is to download multiple instant messengers. You can run several IM programs simultaneously without worrying about technical conflicts. These are the ones with the biggest audiences; the last one runs across all the messenger programs:

  • AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) . Using AIM, you can communicate with America Online subscribers, as well as anyone who uses the standalone AOL Instant Messenger. There are more people who use AIM than any other instant messenger, and it works pretty much the same way as Windows Messenger. (AIM also lets you chat with any Apple-loving friends who use iChat.) Get AIM at

  • Yahoo! Instant Messenger . This popular instant messenger, which works similarly to Windows Messenger, is run by Yahoo!. Get it at

  • ICQ . This instant messenger is particularly popular internationally. It offers a wider range of features than other instant messengers, but tends to be more confusing to use (for tips, see Section 6.7.7). You can download ICQ at

  • Trillian . Another way to keep in touch with friends who use a different instant messaging program is by using a program called Trillian, which can communicate with ICQ, Windows Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and AOL Instant Messenger, making it the best choice for people with contacts on many systems.

    You don't need to run the other programs ‚ just Trillian, which is shown in Figure 6-23. In fact, you don't even need to have the other instant messenger programs; Trillian does all the communicating for you. It has most of the features the other programs offer and displays a buddy list identifying which contacts use each of the other services. You can download Trillian for free at

Figure 6-23. The universal messenger Trillian can communicate with all the major instant messenger programs. Trillian also lets you apply different themes to your messenger, and if you like transparent windows, you can make its windows various shades of "clear."

6.7.2 Turn Off the AIM Today Window

Every time you log into AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), an AIM Today window appears, filled with advertising and news stories. But if you're like most people, you use an instant messenger to have quick online conversations, not to read the news or click an ad.

To stop the AIM Today window from appearing when you sign on, click the Preferences icon in the Buddy List bar, select the Sign On/Off category in the pane on the left, and turn off "Show AIM Today window at sign on." The next time you open AIM, the AIM Today window is blessedly gone.

6.7.3 Stopping Online Harassment in AIM

The beauty of instant messengers is that anyone can send you a message instantly; the downside is that sometimes those messages are obnoxious or annoying. With AOL Instant Messenger, you can easily issue a warning to anyone who's hassling you.

Although this may sound a bit like blowing a whistle at a playground, it can still be rather effective. For example, other AIM users can see how many warnings someone has received (akin to a rating on a site like eBay), lending a certain amount of community shame to the offender. And when the offender accumulates too many warnings, he receives a "time out": AOL blocks him from the service for a certain time period.

Warning: Don't use this feature lightly. Warnings tend to beget other warnings, so if you overreact, you could find yourself in the penalty box, too.

To issue someone a warning, click Warn in the window displaying whatever message you found offensive.

6.7.4 Sending Text Messages with Yahoo! Messenger

You don't need to use a cellphone to send text messages ‚ also known as SMS, for short message service ‚ to friends' phones. You can just send them with Yahoo! Messenger. To send a text message, open Yahoo! Messenger and choose Tools Send Start a Mobile Conversation.

If you've never sent a text message to a particular phone, you first have to fill out a form with the recipient's phone number and any contact information you want to include, such as an address. As you're typing the message, Messenger alerts you to how many characters you have left. (Depending on the phone service, there may be a character limit per message.) After you send your note, a window opens that displays your friend's response ‚ if there is one.

6.7.5 Spicing up Yahoo! Messenger

Like quirky, colorful graphics? You don't have to stick with the dull screens and icons Yahoo! Messenger comes with. Instead, you can spice things up by downloading free add-ons for your messenger, including dancing characters, games , company logos, and more. Get them from /. After you've downloaded a picture, just click on the IMVironment button in Yahoo! Messenger to apply it to Yahoo! Messenger. Boom! Instant makeover.

6.7.6 ICQ on the Desktop

If you want fast access to ICQ and all of your ICQ contacts, you can "float" them so they sit as icons on your desktop. Then, when ICQ is running, you can double-click a contact to send a message. To float ICQ on your desktop, right-click the ICQ flower in the System Tray and highlight Status "Floating" On.

6.7.7 ICQ Shortcut Keys

ICQ is a complicated program, bristling with confusing menus and icons. Consequently, you sometimes have to navigate through scores of menus just to find the command you want. Luckily, you can speed up the process by using any of the ICQ keyboard shortcuts, as shown in Table 6-4.

Table 6-4. ICQ Keyboard Shortcuts

ICQ Function

Shortcut combination

Activate/Deactivate ICQ Window


Create an ICQ Note


Activate WebSearch


Copy Browser's URL to the Search function


Check for New Mail


Send Mail


Search Contact List


Advanced Find


Bring ICQ Notes to front


Create a new reminder


6.7.8 Protecting Yourself Against Instant Messaging Dangers

Increasingly, malicious hackers are using instant messengers to attack other people's computers, or to steal private information such as passwords and user names .

To protect yourself against this high-tech piracy, be sure to check out ZoneAlarm IM Secure, from ZoneLabs, the same company that makes the ZoneAlarm firewall (Section 6.3.3). This helpful safeguard protects your instant messaging programs by making sure no one can spy on your conversations, steal your passwords, or send malicious code to harm your PC. Download it for free from For even further protection, you can buy ZoneAlarm IM Secure Pro for $19.95.

Protecting Your Privacy Online

Logging onto the Internet doesn't have to mean that your life ‚ or at least your PC ‚ is an open book . There are lots of downloads you can get that protect your privacy online; here are a few worth checking out:

  • Anonymity 4 Proxy . This unique program uses anonymous public proxy servers to shield your identity from any Web site you visit. (Proxy servers sit between you and the sites you visit, so the publisher can't glean any information about you or your PC.) Anonymity 4 Proxy lets you choose from hundreds of public anonymous proxy servers available on the Internet. ($35 shareware;

  • SurfSecret Privacy Protector . This online safety tool cleans out your cached Internet files, destroys your history trail, and uses a variety of methods to wipe away all traces of where you've surfed. You can tell it to automatically clean your tracks at any interval you choose--every day, say, or every month. ($39.95 shareware;

    Window Washer. Like SurfSecret, Window Washer cleans up traces of your Internet activity so no one can spy on you or figure out where you've been online. It also includes a slew of extra features, like the ability to clean out instant messenger files. ($39.95 shareware;

    AT&T Privacy Bird. This clever little add-in examines the privacy policies of sites you visit, and like a little birdie, tells you whether they meet your privacy standards. (Freeware;

Windows XP Power Hound
Windows XP Power Hound: Teach Yourself New Tricks
ISBN: 0596006195
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 119

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