Featured Freeware: Google Desktop

Simple, small, and free, Google Desktop makes your hard drive just as easy to search as the Web, and includes plenty of widget-action for everything from e-mail to planners to keeping track of the phases of the moon.

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.