CLEAN UP YOUR DESK Struggling to manage a cluttered computer? You can use free software like Google's Desktop Search or Apple's Spotlight to find all the stuff you have misplaced. But a simpler, more effective strategy is to file things so you don't lose them in the first place. A new breed of organizing software programs can help you cope with information overload, acting as digital baskets for managing files, notes, lists and other random bits of data. Ready for some fall cleaning? Here are the top tools. --By Jeremy Caplan
ONENOTE Microsoft's program is set up like a digital three-ring binder for taking notes and managing research. Use it not just for business or homework projects but also for handling plans for your next vacation. You can even use Onenote to clip and annotate bits of Web pages or organize your online receipts; $100.
Pros: Can incorporate voice, video and pictures; new version planned for 2006; free 60-day trial.
Cons: Like other massive programs from the software giant, this one has so many menus and functions that it can be overwhelming at first.
STICKYBRAIN In addition to storing notes and research like a digital filing cabinet, this Mac-only program lets you highlight something on a Web page, such as a phone number or an online discount, and export it into a note for easy access later. Have a sudden thought? Create a new note with a quick keystroke. Need to look something up in your notes? StickyBrain searches speedily for any word; $40.
Pros: Has a clean, simple interface and lets you export notes to a Palm PDA or an iPod for reading on the go. StickyBrain 4, due out by early November, will store even more formats, including PDF files and old Web pages.
Cons: Won't work with Windows; can't manage e-mail.
EVERNOTE Unlike most other organizing programs, which are modeled on a binder or file cabinet, Evernote mimics a long paper scroll. It's easy to learn and can replace the random scraps of paper distributed around your desk with digital notes that are searchable by date, keyword, category, etc.
Pros: Free at evernote.com
Cons: Limited features; no Mac version.