Desktop Enhancements

Care to cure your dock envy?

One of the best features in Windows 7 is its revamped taskbar and its program-pinning. Combining the utility of customization, big and legible icons, and stylish preview windows, it radically changes the Windows interface. Until it's released, Windows XP users will have to get by with third-party docking programs.

One of the most popular Windows dock replacements, ObjectDock, replaces the taskbar with a colorful, animated dock similar to the taskbar in Mac OS X. It displays icons for currently running programs and hosts quick-launch icons for your favorite programs. As you pass the cursor over each icon, ObjectDock magnifies … Read more

Free alternatives to freeware utilities

Many of my favorite freeware tools have more-than-adequate competitors out there, but you can never have too much of a good thing. Here are four utilities that you may not have heard of to help you back up your files, take screen captures, uninstall programs, and test your download speeds.

MyUninstaller replaces the default Windows Add/Remove Programs utility, and is a strong alternative to Revo Uninstaller. They both uninstall programs, and that's just about where their similarities end.

MyUninstaller feels extremely lightweight compared to Revo and contains none of the system tools extras like Autorun Manager that Revo … Read more

CrossLoop now offers Mac version

CrossLoop is a smooth, free, and lightweight screen- and file-sharing program, formerly available only for Windows users. Earlier this month, a Mac beta version debuted offering the same features. Besides extending the feature set to Macs, the PC and Mac versions can talk to each other and share across platforms.

For those unfamiliar with the program, which uses 128-bit encryption, you're given a unique and random 12-digit access code each time you start the program. You can then share your username and code to allow somebody else to access your computer, or input another user's info to access … Read more

See how the new Ubuntu stays competitive

The latest Ubuntu release--code named Jaunty Jackalope--boots faster, shuts down faster, and includes numerous improvements that help it become even easier to use than before. If you like open-source software like Firefox, you owe it to yourself to see what an open-source operating system can do.

New features include Exchange-server support for e-mail client Evolution, a revamped program for disc burning, improved multiple-monitor support, a new notification pop-up style, and the ability to create customized hot keys. You can read the full list of changes here.

Windows Mobile eye-candy: Spb Mobile Shell 3.0

I'm no cheerleader for most Windows Mobile interfaces, and that goes double for phones like the Samsung Omnia, with its widgety sidebar of management tools that rubs me the wrong way. A decently designed theme is typically an improvement.

Swooping to the rescue, the recently released (and awkwardly named) Spb Mobile Shell 3.0 lays out a heap of good-looking screens, shortcuts, and widgets onto the mobile dashboard without ever deleting the default Today screen. There's a professional layout, casual themes, room for customization, and an extended mobile desktop that triples the real estate when you swipe left … Read more

The Top 5 worst downloads of Spring 2009

The end of the aughts is nigh, and the first few months of 2009 have brought us new corporate bailouts, new unemployment figures, and a new batch of download disasters. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to get to 2020. Until then, here are five of the worst downloads from the beginning of '09--maybe we can just laugh ourselves into the future.

Be sure to check out CNET TV Editor Tom Merritt's hilarious video (on the left) on these five gems and just what happened to Peter Butler, my "Worst Downloads" predecessor. … Read more

Hawkscope gets the drop on your files

Hawkscope is a cross-platform, open-source project that provides alternative navigation through your files for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Still in beta, it's also extensible, so not only can you jump folders in a zippy, context menu-style tree, but you can search Google, check your Gmail, and post to your Twitter account from the Hawkscope interface.

Hawkscope appears as a hawk icon just next to your clock, so that's the system tray for Windows and the menu bar for Macs. For users with dark themes, the icon might be hard to see--look for an empty spot in between other … Read more

BumpTop: Software toy or useful desktop replacement?

Nearly three years ago, a video demo of a new desktop user interface, the BumpTop, captivated YouTube viewers. A year later the creator, Anand Agarawala, was called to the august TED conference to present. Now the BumpTop software is here, ready for you and your Windows PC. I gave it a spin.

It's certainly very cool. In many ways it is a better desktop than the one that comes with Windows (even Windows 7) or OS X. But as cool as it is, it feels like a toy. That's because the locus of modern personal computing is not … Read more

Three small tools create useful features

This collection of free utilities for Windows will energize your corners, introduce tagging for files, and allow you to move and resize program windows in a Windows 7 style via your Alt key.

TaggedFrog tags your files, but keeps the tags to itself--there's little cross-over with Windows Explorer. You can drag and drop from Explorer, though, and that makes adding tags significantly easier. It does nothing automatically, which means there's little chance of a file getting mistagged and lost in the tag cloud. You can batch tag files from the Scan and Tag option under File, and batch … Read more

Free up items in the Taskbar

I use both Windows and Mac machines at my desk for testing and reviewing software for each platform. While both platforms have their advantages and disadvantages, I recently found a simple program that fixes one of my pet peeves about Windows.

One small Windows XP and Vista interface quirk that has always bothered me is the inability to move items in the taskbar. Though it might not bother other people, I always like having my programs set up in a certain way--Outlook on the left, my browser after that, my chat program, and then other programs to the right of … Read more