My heartfelt thanks to Andy Ihnatko, who provided me with my latest time-saving computer tweek. Andy was writing about the iPad, but along the way he provided this gem:
As a user, your perspective on Flash will change if you install Flash-blocker installed on your browser. If you’re using Firefox, download Flashblock. If you’re using Safari, get ClickToFlash. If you’re using Internet Explorer or Chrome ... download Firefox or Safari. With the plugin running, a placeholder appears where any Flash content should have loaded. If you really want to see it, give the placeholder a click, and the missing content will load and run.Well, sure enough. I use Safari as my primary browser, so I installed ClickToFlash. And now pages with Flash load much more quickly - and yes, my browser is more stable. And unless I specifically want to watch a video (on YouTube, for example), I find I rarely click to load the Flash content. The Rubbermaid site, for example, works just fine without the Flash.
You’ll notice two things pretty quickly. First, that websites rarely include Flash content that’s actually worth loading. But primarily you’ll notice that your PC or Mac has magically become much faster and way more stable. ...
Now? My browsers almost never lock up. My PCs and Macs spend far less time whistling nonchalantly behind a Spinning Cursor Of Infinite Impatience.
Although Andy doesn't mention it, Lifehacker wrote about a similar tool for Internet Explorer 7:
Windows/IE7 only: Nothing's better than heading to a web page to find some information and being greeted with a slow-loading, over-the-top Flash intro, right? For distracting, crash-causing, or otherwise troublesome animated pages, Toggle Flash, a free Internet Explorer 7 add-on, soothes the pain pretty quickly.
Want to see something funny? With ClickToFlash installed, follow the link to Andy's excellent article and you'll see something like the site above. Lots of Flash, successfully blocked.
I haven't tried either Flashblock or Toggle Flash, so I can't vouch for them from personal experience. If anyone else has, please add a comment and tell us how it worked for you.