When most of us think about technology, we tend to think about the desktop computer. But what about the desktop itself? Not the virtual one on your monitor that you stare at all day, but the physical one that your monitor rests on. Chances are you spend a lot of time at your desk. Have you given thought to sprucing it up lately? If you spend much of your life on a chair, at the desk, on the phone, looking at a screen (and these days, that describes most of us), a few key items can make the experience more pleasant, your workspace more stylish, and you more productive. Plus, it's always nice to buy yourself a new toy. Here are a few small things that can make a big difference.
Best for... More flexible navigating
What it is: A new kind of navigational tool that transforms your hand into a computer mouse.
Why it's cool: Designed to fit on, rather than in, your hand, Perific's mouse requires neither cables nor a mousepad. In other words, it's a mouse that frees you from your desktop, allowing you to lean back, put your feet on your desk, and click away. It also works as a standard mouse with trackball on your desktop. If you use the Windows Media Center, the mouse can function as a remote control for your television.
Drawbacks: By now, operating a mouse is second nature to most of us. Using the Perific mouse requires some readjusting. It's also more expensive than standard-issue computer mouses.
Best for... Cutting the cables
What it is: A USB adapter that lets you connect your computer wirelessly to peripherals such as printers, cell phones, and MP3 players using the Bluetooth short-range wireless protocol.
Why it's cool: Imagine what your desk would look like without that tangle of cables and wires running to the printer, the mouse, the scanner, etc. Belkin's device makes that possible. It supports up to seven external devices.
Drawbacks: Those devices have to be Bluetooth-capable, which could mean that you need to buy new versions of all your peripherals to get the full benefit. Adding any wireless technology brings with it security questions.
Best for... Storing your data
What it is: A digital storage device that's also a pretty nice pen. It allows you to take notes, record your thoughts, store your computer files, and play music.
Why it's cool: It can store at least 32 hours of dictation or other spoken audio, or can play back more than seven hours worth of MP3s. Or use it to take files home from the office without lugging around your laptop. It weighs about an ounce and a half (slightly more than an iPod Nano).
Drawbacks: Many all-in-one devices exist to lure in gimmick-lovers. Same with this pen--there are better music players, bigger portable storage devices and voice recorders, with more features. But then, have you tried writing with your iPod lately?
Price: $48 (512 megabytes); $68 (1 gigabyte)
Best for... Improving your view
What it is: A monitor arm that lets you move your computer screen around without having to clear off your desk.
Why it's cool: The FYI makes it easy to fine-tune your workspace. If you're collaborating on something, for example, you can move your monitor to let your colleagues get the same view you have. The arm also makes it easy to move your monitor out of the sun during the day. Plus, it looks sleek. Steelcase (NYSE:SCS) also offers a model that will support two displays.
Drawbacks: Steelcase's high design is not cheap. The FYI only works with flat-panel monitors, so those with CRTs are out of luck. It does not come in a version that mounts on the wall, either.
Best for... Taking the call
What it is: A telephone headset that also functions as a cordless phone, allowing you to wander around, or even leave, your office while talking.
Why it's cool: It's not quite a fashion accessory, but the sleek, over-the-ear design is more attractive than most. Weighing in at just under seven ounces, it's lightweight and comfortable. Plantronics (NYSE:PLT) ' "lifter" technology allows you to take calls when you're as far as 300 feet from your phone. And it's equipped with encryption technology to protect against eavesdropping.
Drawbacks: Its battery life is only six hours. And it's not compatible with mobile phones.
Best for... Saving your fingers
What it is: An ergonomic keyboard that also looks great.
Why it's cool: The recessed keys and split keyboard automatically force users to adopt better typing posture, easing tension on wrists and forearms. Spreadsheet jockeys and other power users will appreciate the ability to reprogram keys to perform specific functions. Works with Macs and PCs.
Drawbacks: At almost three inches high, it's hard to fit onto many keyboard trays. The contoured design can take some getting used to.