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Despite its quirks and sometimes irritating flaws, we're unabashed PC users, and prefer the Windows OS to the "fruity" alternative. But we'll admit to having dabbled in Mac OS X on occasion, whether on MacBook Pros (in which we've installed Windows 7 already) or when we built a hackintosh for kicks. We won't deny that Apple's newest OS has some attractive features, most notably in its Aqua GUI. Here, we'll show you two free apps that capture Aqua's most well-known functions for use in Windows.
While this is less applicable for Windows 7 - which has seriously overhauled the taskbar - Vista and XP's quicklaunch toolbars are pretty inadequate for launching and managing open applications. Enter Rocketdock, a taskbar complement (or replacement) that latches to any side of your Windows desktop and stores any configuration of application shortcuts and custom widgets.
Rocketdock's stock settings already give you OS X's Dock-like functionality like movable icons, mouse-over effects, and even the ability to minimize programs to its shortcut. But its real power comes when you start browsing through the vast library of Rocketdock addons, called docklets. Our favorite docket is Stacks, which emulates the "stack" feature of OS X.
Just download the docklet, double-click it, and it'll automatically be installed into Rocketdock. Enable it by right-clicking Rocketdock, and open its docklet settings to direct it to any document folder. Clicking on the docklet icon (which itself is customizable) pops open a stack that shows you its entire contents, represented by their thumbnails.
The other half of our Mac OS emulation is a program called Switcher, which gives Vista users an Expose-like way of switching between open program windows. Just bind the app to any keyboard command or mouse activity -- we recommend hitting the top left corner of the screen -- and Switcher tiles all open windows in an graphical overlay that's easier to parse than Windows' alt-tab or even Aero Flip 3D (which seriously, have you ever used?)
Like Expose, Switcher tiles the windows while retaining their aspect ratio, and shows all windows, even if they're minimized. With the combination of Switcher and Rocketdock, you can stick it to Mac fanboys to love to gloat over OS X's intuitive GUI features.
We absolutely adore Gmail and Google's other free web services, but the one thing that bothers us is how all these services are tied to one Gmail account. This becomes inconvenient when you're using a Gmail account for personal use, but also using or sharing a separate one for business. Luckily, there are a few Firefox plug-ins, that when combined, will not only let you manage multiple Gmail accounts at the same time, but also improve Gmail's overall functionality with some of the best user-made Greasemonkey scripts.
We've given praise to Gmail Manager before as a great way to monitor multiple Gmail accounts. This Firefox plug-in lets you add as many accounts to its database and alerts you when you receive new mail to any of those accounts. The number of new messages is displayed on the bottom right corner of the Firefox window, and you can click the account to log-in and check your inbox.
The problem with Gmail Manager, however, is that it doesn't let you actually use all your accounts simultaneously. While it monitors incoming mail, you have to sign out of one account to use another.
To tackle the issue of running multiple accounts at once, we're going to use an awesome plug-in called CookiePie, which was created by Nektra software to solve their own problems of managing multiple web services with different accounts.
CookiePie hacks and handles Firefox's cooke management to fool Firefox into letting you log into multiple accounts with the same service. This actually works for more than just Gmail -- we've had success using CookiePie with Flickr and Yahoo mail as well.
Install the plug-in, restart Firefox, and open a new browser window. Then, log into what you would consider your primary Gmail account. After you're logged in, right-click the Firefox tab and select the "Turn on/off CookiePie" option. A small cookie icon should appear next to the name of the tab. This effectively locks this tab to the existing set of Firefox cookies.
Now you can open new tabs and log into a new Gmail acocunt or Google Service, locking into that account with the same right-click tab action.
CookiePie is a bit hit and miss for some users, which is why we only enable it one one tab, and use Gmail Manager to manage our secondary accounts on "unlocked" tabs.
The only thing better than running multiple Gmail accounts is to run multiple Gmail accounts that have been optimized with Better Gmail 2. This is a plug-in created and maintained by Lifehacker that compiles the best GreaseMonkey scripts for Gmail.
When installed, little features like Inbox row highlighting and keyboard macros are at your disposal to customize Gmail in ways that Google neglected.
For example, we use Better Gmail to hide the Chat block in Gmail's left sidebar, hide the Spam Count listing, and automatically position the cursor after quoted text in our reply-emails (saving us many mouse clicks in the long term).
Lifehacker does a great job explaining all the features of Better Gmail 2, so head over to their version changelog to get the full scoop.