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Netbooks are light, portable, and have become a great intermediary between smartphones and full-sized laptops.  While first generation netbooks offered weak hardware specifications, most modern netbooks come equipped with high-end hardware and batteries that can last a full day.

There are a few downsides to netbooks, though.  Their light weight and portability is mostly due to a very small display.  Just because you can run all of your favorite applications on your netbook doesn’t mean they will render correctly on an 8″ or 10″ screen.  Netbooks also typically lack some hardware (like an optical drive) that a normal computer would have.

In this article, I’ll show you some great Netbook optimization applications that will help fix these inherent downsides and allow you to make the best use of your netbook.

Winsupermaximize (Windows)

Winsupermaximize is a tiny application that allows you to put folders and applications into full screen mode just like your browser.  After launching the Netbook optimization application (no installation required) just press WIN + F11 to enter and exit full screen mode.

Winsupermaximize works by removing the title bar of your folders or applications and maximizing the window.  For ideal results, the program creator recommends setting the Windows taskbar to auto-hide.




Dropbox (Windows, Mac, and Linux)

Using a netbook means you’ll typically be separated from your files and documents on your main computer.  Maintaining your files on USB flash drives can be cumbersome (and I typically misplace them anyway), but Dropbox provides a free and easy way to keep your netbook optimized and synchronized with your other computers.

To use Dropbox, just register for a free 2GB account and install the client on any computers you want to synchronize.  Any files and folders you place in your Dropbox will immediately be synchronized across all folders.  A web interface is also available so you can access your files anywhere you have an internet connection.

If you like Dropbox, check out the many other ways you can use it.

VirtuaWin (Windows)

Managing multiple folders and applications on a netbook can be difficult because of their limited screen size.  VirtuaWin gives you multiple virtual desktops (Linux users will recognize these as workspaces) so you can spread your work out across multiple “screens”.

It can take a little time to get accustomed to using virtual desktops, but they can greatly increase your productivity and serve as yet another method of Netbook optimization.  VirtuaWin is highly customizable and allows you to use convenient hotkeys to switch between your workspaces.

Daemon Tools Lite (Windows)

Since most netbooks don’t include optical drives, many people are forced to purchase an external CD or DVD drive to install their favorite software.  Daemon Tools lets you ditch the external drives and mount disc images from CDs, DVDs, and Blu Rays instead.  When you mount a disc image you can use the software just as if the disc was inserted in your computer.

Another great perk of mounting discs from a file is that the access speeds are much faster than from an optical drive.  That means when you use software from a virtual CD it can install up to 50x faster.

Check out these articles for more information about ripping and mounting disc images.

Google Chrome (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Google’s web browser was created with netbooks in mind.  Besides being really fast, Chrome has a great user interface that maximizes web content and keeps the browser bits to a minimum.  Now that Chrome supports extensions How to Install Extensions in Google Chrome How to Install Extensions in Google Chrome Read More , Firefox users can install many of their favorite add-ons 5 Google Chrome Extensions That Could Finally Make Me Switch From Firefox 5 Google Chrome Extensions That Could Finally Make Me Switch From Firefox Read More so to get the same browsing experience.

With these applications, you should find that you can maximize your productivity and get a lot more out of your netbook.  Have any suggestions that would be a good addition to this list?  Share them with us in the comments.

Image credit: zieak / CC BY 2.0

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  1. Ravi Shankar
    March 2, 2010 at 2:03 am

    Try the new Opera 10.50 Beta 2. It looks like Chrome.

  2. Alex
    February 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    great article but chrome uses more screen real estate than Firefox. with addons like fission, hide caption title bar plus, and tiny menu. you can bring Firefox down to two toolbars (i wrote a home page in html with all of my links that would go in the bookmarks toolbar). now with a theme you can make the last two toolbars smaller. Stratini is a nice theme for Firefox 3.6. now you just right click on the lone toolbar, select customize, and click "use small icons. Firefox is now about 1/3 smaller than chrome.

  3. Tintent
    February 5, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I got a shiny new Netbook for Christmas and set out using the developers build of Chrome. It just didn't cut it. Although I'll admit the choice of extensions gets better by the day, I don't agree with the argument that Chrome gives more screen real estate.

    I've got FF down to 2 toolbars and the status bar. Using the Classic Compact theme and extensions like Hide Caption, Compact Menu 2 and Omnibar I have a fully loaded FF installation that takes up just half the screen space of Chrome.

    At the moment, there's still no competition!

    I do like a couple of the other ideas though. Plus, I was thinking about adding some portable apps to an NAS drive I have and then accessing them using PStart. My thought is that I will then have access to the apps from any box on my network. Thoughts?

  4. Pax
    January 5, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Excellent tips! I tried Winsupermaximize right away and it worked perfectly.

    fyi... The only minor issue with WinSuperMaximimize I noticed was that if you have an application with a flag set as 'always on top' (I had smplayer playing an mp3 but minimized to taskbar), it takes precedence over the current active window. Once I turned this option off, it worked with any issues. I may never need to press F11 again on my browser:-)

  5. Rick@Rickety
    January 4, 2010 at 4:11 am

    I am using Dropbox on my Eee PC running in Easy Peasy. Dropbox is awesome and easy to use. Ubuntu One does the same thing but is not cross platform like Dropbox. I only run Ubuntu so using Ubuntu One as well as Dropbox gives me another 2G of free storage.

  6. Alireza A
    January 3, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    BTW, Dexpot is an alternative for VirtuaWin, it's free and has many features & plugins.

    • Robert M
      January 4, 2010 at 6:10 am

      Dexpot is great but I believe it didn't work in Windows 7 the last time I tried. If you're on XP, it's perfect.

      • arahman36
        March 15, 2010 at 11:55 am

        I am using Dexpot in Windows 7 right now. You can use the Sevendex plugin in Windows 7- integrates Dexpot into the Windows 7 taskbar,

    • Evan Wondrasek
      March 17, 2010 at 12:01 pm

      Good call on Dexpot, it looks great!

  7. Robert M
    January 3, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    If you want to maximize your reading experience I suggest moving your taskbar to the right for more vertical space.

    Solid article BTW. With netbooks doing so well, it would be wise to make more articles like this.

  8. Jack Cola
    January 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Great tips. I have a 10inch Medion Akoya E1210, and the last two tips I have been using for a while are are much needed.

    You have so much extra web browsing space with Chrome then you do with the FF and IE toolbars.

    Daemon tools is great to install CD's on your laptop if you don't have a CD drive. I use Nero to burn the cd, but when its time to insert the CD, I cancel it, get the nrg file, and mount it with daemon tools.

    Just a tip, when installing daemon tools, they have a "Install a sponsor" part, so don''t keep clicking next if you don't want it installed.

  9. James
    January 3, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    most modern netbooks come equipped with high-end hardware and batteries that can last a full day.

    Let's make no boans about it; all netbooks nowadays come with practically the same hardware. 1GB of RAM, and a 1.6/1.66 GHz processor. I wouldn't call the hardware that my netbook, the Samsung NC10, "high-end." I'd call it pretty low-end to be honest. High-end compared to netbooks from 2 years ago, maybe. But not generally high-end.

    • Evan Wondrasek
      January 3, 2010 at 3:42 pm

      Absolutely. "High end" is in reference to netbooks from previous generations.

    • Heynow
      January 4, 2010 at 4:38 pm

      WTF is a boan? ;)