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Tired of closing pop-up windows on your desktop? Sunbelt Software, maker of iHateSpam, has entered the booming anti-pop-up app market with iHatePopups. This app does an adequate job of blocking pop-ups (advertisements that open a new active browser window on your desktop) and pop-unders (advertising that opens underneath your active browser), but that's about all it does--in other words, it's a decent app for an Internet newbie or someone who just wants to stop pop-ups without any fine-tuning. But while iHatePopups works with Internet Explorer 5.5 and above, it doesn't integrate with Internet Explorer's toolbar, nor does it work with AOL, Netscape, or Opera. At a mere $10, iHatePopups is affordable, but for 10 bucks more, you can get more options, plus additional security features with PopUpCop. iHatePopups installs easily via either a download from the Sunbelt site or from a CD. An installation wizard does the rest. You will, however, need to reboot before it will work. Unlike AdSubtract Pro, PopUpCop, and Guard-IE, iHatePopups does not fully integrate with Internet Explorer as an add-on toolbar. Rather, iHatePopups is accessible primarily from a system tray icon; just right-click the icon to launch the iHatePopups interface. You can also access the app through the tools menu within IE.
The iHatePopups interface is simple compared to its competitions' and takes up too much screenspace for its limited capabilities. For example, the Reports screen does not generate a report or a log file of recent activity; instead, it displays only a bar chart that graphically illustrates the number of pop-ups stopped over time, pop-ups stopped today, adware stopped over time, and adware stopped today. You can't, for example, click these bars to obtain details of the pop-ups or adware that was stopped. For that, you need to view the Blocked History screen, which shows most of the blocks ads' URLs, should you want to view any of them or add any of them to your allowed list. Unlike the other apps we've seen, the Allowed Sites tab in iHatePopups does not allow you to cut and paste URLs. To add sites, you must right-click in the site itself.
Like AdSubtract, PopUpCop, and Guard-IE, iHatePopups blocks advertising generated both from Web sites and ad-serving software that lives on your hard drive. (Such ad-serving software often accompanies free downloads.) It's important to note that no pop-up blocker removes ad-serving apps from your computer but only mitigates their effects. To remove ad-serving software from your hard drive, you'll need Ad-aware 6.0 or Spybot Search and Destroy.
All of the ad-stopping apps we've seen so far play a sound whenever they find a pop-up. iHatePopups offers 11 such preset sounds--the most we've seen in such an app--with an option to add your own custom WAV file. With or without sounds enabled, a tiny notification window rises out of the system tray whenever a pop-up is stopped. This can be disabled as well.
To display how well iHatePopups works, the app sports a counter to the right of the main interface that shows the total number of pop-ups stopped. The Reports tab shows the total number of pop-ups stopped, how many pop-ups generated by ad-serving apps were stopped, and the total number of each stopped during the current day.
The Blocks History tab displays the individual URLs stopped. We found that this feature did not work in the trial software. However, even after we registered the product, iHatePopups displayed only a few of the total URLs it had blocked. Several were identified only as "dynamic pop-up--no URL." According to Sunbelt's technical support, dynamic pop-ups are "embedded in a Web page and are called upon from a remote location" and, therefore, change constantly. In comparison, we found that PopUpCop captured a list of these embedded URLs for the same sites.
One thing iHatePopups does that its competitors do not is block Windows Messengers. These are operating system-generated pop-ups that appear to be from network administrators. Designed originally to warn users that the server is about to be rebooted, some individuals have found ways to code these messages with advertising, enabling them to broadcast ads across large corporate networks.
The iHatePopups user manual covers basic descriptions of the features, with very little troubleshooting information. The iHatePopups program's help file is also minimal, providing general answers to general questions. For more extensive help, try the vendor's online technical support forum, which contains several topics specifically for iHatePopups users.
Sunbelt offers toll-free phone support at 877/673-1153, as well as e-mail technical support. When we posed a question, we received an immediate confirmation e-mail and waited less than 24 hours for a thorough response.