Build the Desktop You Want
The furthest most people get in customizing their desktop is replacing the default Windows wallpaper with a picture of their kids. But there's a lot more that you can do to turn your Windows workspace into a nicer place to spend time. We took a typical, boring desktop and turned it into an attractive, efficient place to get things done.
We used Object Desktop a $50 collection of utilities that can help you organize your applications and data (the company offers limited free versions of many of the programs we used, and also sells them individually). WindowBlinds changes the look and feel of Windows, allowing you to alter the way open windows display, replace the icons on the toolbars, and adjust other Windows behaviors. DesktopX allows you to run small programs called widgets that display, for example, weather information, an analog clock, and other autoupdating information on your desktop.
The suite also lets you create desktop-based menus, such as the menu tabs at the top of our desktop that provide quick access to commonly used programs like Microsoft Office apps and graphics editors. Instead of being buried in the long Start menu, the programs are a click away at the edge of the screen. Many of these menus came with a DesktopX theme (which we downloaded from the Stardock site), but it's easy to customize them to open frequently used programs and files. The ObjectBar (the box in the lower-right corner) lets you read RSS feeds on your desktop--a big plus if you want to keep track of news from several Web sites without having to constantly revisit them.
You can also use the suite to create virtual desktops. This allows you to run a specific combination of programs on multiple desktops and switch between them with a couple of mouse clicks. Virtual desktops are particularly handy if you use several applications at once (such as a spreadsheet and a word processing program): You can have each application run full screen on its own virtual desktop and then flick between them quickly. It's kind of like having multiple monitors, but without the additional cost and hardware.