tinySpell – spell check for Windows

One of the most important features Windows still needs is system-wide spell check. There’s no reason I shouldn’t have access to spell check in every single document window if I want it. Microsoft builds one of the best spell checkers available into Word, yet fails to provide anything for the operating system. tinySpell helps solve this problem by offering spell check to any application you want to use it with. The 110,000 word American-English language dictionary goes a long way toward solving most common spelling problems both as-you-type or on any block of text. The only downside is the free version does not include a way to add new words to the dictionary, which is, of course, resolved by purchasing tinySpell+. If you do most of your typing in Firefox, which does include spell check, you may not need tinySpell, but for many of us, an app like this goes a long way to avoiding mistakes. [Windows 2k/XP/Vista $0.00]

CleanAfterMe – Desktop Cleanup and Privacy Tool

Daily computer use creates a bunch of extra stuff on your system. As you use applications, browse Web sites, open documents, and generally go through your daily routine, you leave bread crumbs about your habits everywhere. If you use a computer on a corporate network, in a public location, or even share with family members, you may have reasons for not broadcasting every little thing you do to anyone who sits down at the computer. You may also not want a bunch of extra junk building up on your system even if you don’t care whether people know where you’ve been. Enter CleanAfterMe, a simple utility designed to remove temporary files, clear the recent documents list, flush the Windows Event Logs, remove the list of installed USB devices, disable auto-complete information, and eliminate cookies. My biggest complaint is the software doesn’t allow you to choose which cookies to keep, since there are some that come in handy for saving specific types of preferences. CleanAfterMe runs without an installer, making it a great solution for use on public networks where an admin may have control over what you can and can’t do with your computer. [Windows 2k/XP/Vista $0.00]

TweetDeck – Twitter Desktop Client

I’ve been actively encouraging people to sign up for Twitter because I think it’s a great way to keep up with sound bytes from lots of people. It’s a decent way to quickly find help with a problem if you are engaged with enough other people. And if selectively used, Twitter is a great way to filter some of the information that flows through your life. For an excellent (and more detailed) explanation of Twitter, watch Twitter in Plain English. After experimenting with only reading other people’s Tweets on my phone, only reading in a browser, and using a couple different desktop apps, TweetDeck comes out as the clear winner for organizing information in a way I can quickly digest, showing me the tweets from everyone, the tweets directed at me, and direct messages only I can see in separate panes. TweetDeck is built on the Adobe AIR platform, which feels like a slightly reinvented version of Flash, making it a cross-platform solution out of the gate. [Windows XP/Vista | Mac OS X | Linux $0.00]

Desktops – Virtual Desktop Manager

When Sysinternals first became part of Microsoft, I was concerned their regular release of free apps would cease. Fortunately Microsoft continues to let them thrive. The recent release of Desktops is a perfect example. The app is a simple solution for creating up to 4 virtual desktops for Windows. Virtual desktops come in handy because it can get confusing when you have many application windows open simultaneously. With a virtual desktop, you can give each application function its own space. Put your email client on one desktop, your Web browser on another desktop, your photo editor on a third desktop and your favorite game on the fourth. I find it really handy for keeping interruptive instant messenger windows from getting in the way of whatever I’m doing. Desktops also separates taskbar items by desktop, making it easier to get to the screen you want. Clicking the icon in the system tray provides a visual of all four desktops (shown below) or you can simply use Win+1,2,3 ,or 4 to switch between them. Desktops isn’t a replacement for having two monitors but it goes a long way to reducing clutter on your desktop. [Windows XP/Vista $0.00]
Desktop virtualization