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WinPatrol (tested v16.0.2009.0) System startup security monitor Developer: BillP Studios OS: Windows Price: Free, $29.95 USD for Plus version Site:

Every time you install a new program, there's a slim chance it'll try to get into places it's not supposed to go. Rogue programs can install other pieces of unwanted software, schedule tasks that drag down your system needlessly, or - most obviously - set itself to load on startup without your say-so. This applies not only to obvious malware, but also many legitimate programs.

Most people don't even bother keeping track of how a new program insinuates itself into the nooks and crannies of your system, preferring to deal with annoyances after the fact. WinPatrol offers another option: it will alert you to changes to your system almost as soon as they happen, giving you the option to approve or deny the modifications. The watchdog utility keeps an eye on your list of programs that load at startup, and is most useful for weeding out unnecessary startup processes.

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But WinPatrol can also monitor your list of scheduled tasks, check to see if a program has set itself as the default opener for file types, discover newly installed Windows services, and even detect new ActiveX and Internet Explorer plugins. The Plus version adds access to a comprehensive file database detailing the origins and threat level of a file, as well as true real-time scanning (the free version can only check every few minutes for changes). Either version will serve as a handy additional layer of security for your system.

Amnesty Generator (tested v1.5 Windows) Web widget converter for Vista Sidebar/OS X Dashboard Developer: Mesa Dynamics OS: Windows (Vista/7), OS X (10.3.9+) Price: Free Site:

Several years ago, the concept of desktop widgets - bite-sized applications that would display various types of information, like weather forecasts or stock prices - became popular thanks in large part to Konfabulator, an application that pinned widgets to the desktop. That application eventually became Yahoo! Widgets after the Web giant acquired Konfabulator. Around the same time, Apple put their own widget platform, Dashboard, into OS X. Microsoft followed suit with Vista's Sidebar.

Though both Dashboard and Sidebar have their fair share of official and third-party widgets, you can never have too many options. That's where Amnesty Generator comes in. The widget converter takes Web-based widgets and applets - if you've ever seen a YouTube video embedded in someone's blog or website, you've seen a Web widget - and turns them into widgets for use with Sidebar or Dashboard. Amnesty Generator offers a wide variety of widgets for easy conversion, including the entire Google Gadgets library.

Though Mesa Dynamics doesn't reveal this in the documentation, Amnesty Generator can actually convert any Web widget, whether you found it in the utility's list of available gadgets or not. You have to do a bit more legwork to find the widget and fill in the name and dimensions in pixels, but otherwise the widget utility has no trouble converting pretty much any Web widget into a desktop one. So no matter what the widget's origins, you're only a few steps away from sticking it to your desktop with Amnesty Generator.

Save File To (tested v1.2.1) Firefox download target extension Developer: Atte Kemppilä OS: Windows/Mac/Linux (via Firefox) Price: Free Site:

Some people just save all their downloads to the desktop and attempt to sort it all out later. These are the sorts of people who end up with a desktop full of icons organized in a grid that implies order but really represents chaos. And then there are the people who have folders for everything - new programs, MP3s, zip files, e-mail attachments and so on. For these people, every file has its place, making it easy to find those files again when you need them.

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The downside, of course, is that organizing your downloads frontloads the work, and sometimes you simply can't be bothered to dig through your folder tree to find the right download folder. Save File To is a simple and elegant solution to the problem: when you right-click on an image, link or webpage, the extension adds a menu containing a set of folders of your own choosing. Selecting one of those folders drops the file into the folder without ever once touching the Save dialog.

The extension's extreme simplicity means it doesn't cover every possible use. One obvious example is downloading a file directly by left-clicking a link, which avoids the right-click context menu and skips straight to the standard download dialog. But Save File To is smart enough to save different sets of folders for images versus links versus pages, and it can also remember what folders you've used recently as save locations. All in all, this Firefox extension is a must-have for anyone who downloads a lot of files and likes to sort them meticulously.

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