Living with a Netbook: Battery Life to Screen Resize: Page 3

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Firefox has still more tricks up its sleeve. To see them, right click on any of the buttons and select "Customize..." to display the window shown above. If you haven't seen this before, blame Mozilla. This should be an option off the View menu.

There are three "show" options: icons, icons and text and text.

I find that "text" is a great option on netbooks as plain text isn't very tall. It's also more self-explanatory than icons. If you're an icon person, then using small icons saves some vertical pixels.

But there's more. Jkmobile did a short video, How-to: Get most out of small screens on netbooks. Tip 1 shows how to remove the search box and move the navigation buttons onto the same horizontal row as the menu bar to really save space.

resizing Firefox for a netbook screen
Firefox's resize tool is useful for netbooks

Netbook Text Editing

The first time I ever left the house with a netbook was to attend a computer user group meeting where I used it to take notes. While netbooks are fine at word processing, sometimes all you need is a text editor.

For text editing, I like Notepad++.There are many fine text editors but a few things stand out about Notepad++.

One is that, just like a web browser, it supports F11 as a toggle with full screen mode. When writing, I often need to see as many lines as possible, especially on a netbook, and this is a great way to get a full screen view.

Notepad++ also can do automatic backups of your text files. Every time you save the file, a backup is written to a subfolder of the current folder called nppBackup. The file name of the backup is the same as the original file with the date/time appended on the end, followed by ".bak.”

I also like setting the background color to one that's easy on my eyes. Notepad++ lets you set a global background color that's used by every file. Like many text editors, Notepad++ also highlights the current line, again using a color of my choice that is consistent for all files.

Notepad++ does not include spell checking out of the box, but it wasn't hard to add a dictionary. And it's free.

Finally, there is a portable version of Notepad++ available at, so that after it's tweaked it’s just right, it can be copied to multiple computers.

Notepad++ runs on Windows XP, Vista and 2000 as well as Windows 95/98/Me.

More Netbook Apps

Any computer you travel with may get lost or stolen. To me, the big fear is someone having access to all my files. I encrypt the most sensitive ones, but for many files that's too much work. Then too, there's always the chance that something sensitive doesn't get encrypted due to a plain old oversight.

To deal with this, I'm a big fan of hard disk passwords.

Although similar to power-on passwords, hard disk passwords are more secure. They're also more secure than any operating system password. If you forget the hard disk password, there is no easy or cheap way around it.

I've yet to see any netbook review that mentioned hard disk passwords.

The Acer Aspire One supports a hard disk password, but there’s a bug in the BIOS forcing you to always enter it in upper case. The MSI Wind U100 does not support hard disk passwords. The Asus 1000HE does, as does the Samsung NC10 (however I had a very hard time with it on the NC10).

Netbooks can also be useful when you're not traveling. Their inherent limitations fall by the wayside when connected to a normal mouse, keyboard and monitor. Using a netbook as a desktop replacement is worth considering, the big drawback being the lack of an optical drive.

Bigger Future

I recently spent a few days working with an IBM/Lenovo X series Thinkpad. It was great – far better than any netbook. The machine had a 12-inch screen, significantly larger than the 10-inch screen on netbooks. The keyboard was excellent, one that you could write a book on. The only downside is the price.

But netbooks may be moving up to larger screens and bringing their low price with them.

For example, the upcoming Acer Aspire One 751 has an 11.6 inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768.

The upcoming Samsung NC20 has 12.1-inch screen with a resolution of 1280 x 800.

So far, Samsung seems to be the company that gets netbooks the best. Their combination of quality, design and price seems to lead the pack. The NC20 may well change things in a big way.

ALSO SEE: Netbook Smackdown: Compare the Six Top Netbooks

AND: Netbook Market Challenges Windows

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Tags: Firefox, Internet Explorer, netbooks, battery, policy

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