Simple, small, and free, Google Desktop for Windows, Mac and, Linux indexes your hard drive the way the company's own servers index the Web. Your search results are returned in a Web-page format that's similar to the Google Web site, and the app's sidebar shows regular updates to your favorite programs, from e-mail to your My Pictures folder to RSS feeds and weather.
Although the initial indexing process can take a long time--especially if you have a lot of e-mail, contacts, chat transcripts, and documents for it to parse through--it's well worth the wait to be able to search any of them from a text entry box that lives next to the Quick Launch bar. You'll still find the same basic gadget content: a music player, sports and stock tickers, a file shredder, and even some "wacky" items like an interactive plant. Along with e-mail updates, the weather, and current chats, the Desktop sidebar has a built-in to-do list, notepad, and the ability to integrate other gadgets with ease.
Among the more impressive features are cross-indexing for multiple machines, sharing panel items directly with friends, and a preview window for search results, which saves your index finger from the repetitive motion injury of clicking, opening, and closing until you find what you want.