Please note: this article was updated in 2011.
1. Refrigerator — Yes, we’re putting this in with the gadgets. A tiny fridge is great for the office because you can keep water and soda cool, but you can also keep various low-calorie, healthy items cold — cheese sticks, lemon juice (good for adding flavor to water or as a salad dressing), low-calorie cheese for sandwiches, et cetera. We recommend one that looks classic, can fit on a shelf, and can run off just one plug, such as this Coldmate MR-128 Mini Cooler/Warmer Deluxe Mini Refrigerator, available at Amazon for $130.
2. USB Flash Drive. These little guys are great for moving documents back and forth between your office and your home computer — they’re natural carriers for, say, the latest Word and PDF versions of your resume. Available widely for anywhere from $10 to $40, we like brightly colored ones like this Kingston DTI 4 GB USB Flash Drive, available at Amazon.com for $12. We also recommend using the “Briefcase” function on most PCs to help keep your documents in sync. (Have the “real” copies reside on your USB flash drive, and the “sync” copies in the briefcase — if you set it up on both your work and home computer you’ll always have a copy of your document handy.)
3. Extra chargers for your phone and any personal gadgets (iPod, Palm Pilot, etc).
4. Speakers for your iPod. There’s a wide range in speakers you can use for your iPod (they can double as computer speakers, if your company doesn’t provide those.) The latest recommendations we saw were for these Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 2.0 PC Speaker System- Black, available at Amazon for $99. N.B.: We do not recommend putting iTunes on your comptuer — trust us, you’ll have enough to distract you without being tempted to organize and sort all your music. If you’re working late, are without your iPod, and need tunes, we recommend Pandora.com — you name a song you like and it streams similar music for free.
5. Phone headset. If you log lots of time on the phone — on conference calls or in meetings — a good headset might be worth an investment.
6. USB-heated gloves. If you have poor circulation and are always freezing, you may want to prepare for those long stretches in front of the computer by purchasing these USB-heated gloves. They plug into your computer and warm your hands as you type and click your way through the day. Available at Perpetual Kid for $24.99.
7. Leechblock. We’ve written before of our affection for Leechblock to help keep you focused — note that you’ll need to be using Firefox. (We prefer Firefox anyway as a browser.) Once you’re using Firefox you can use other fun add-ons, such as the ones for RememberTheMilk as well as RetailMeNot.
Most businesses supply you with all the software you need. Still, we’ve had great success with a few programs and had to recommend them.
8. PDF Factory. This program is hugely helpful if you sit far from the printer, if you want more control over picking up your printouts, or if you email a lot of PDF’d documents. (For the lawyers out there, it’s very helpful if you frequently review documents in .tif format, as well as if you print cases from Lexis or Westlaw.) Basically, when you click “print” you can choose to print to PDF Factory. The program opens a new window on your comptuer, and begins to compile a PDF. When you’ve finished printing, you can save the PDF to your hard drive, e-mail it to a coworker, and/or print it to your local printer.
9. Microsoft OneNote 2007. This is similar to PDF Factory, but allows you to create “notebooks” that will be word searchable, printable, e-mailable, and so forth. We primarily find OneNote helpful in working on a project — planning a vacation or a wedding, decorating an apartment — but it’s also helpful in keeping track of restaurant reviews, recipes, articles full of gift ideas, and more. (We also find it useful on an organizational and environmental standpoint, because we now have a single place to put all those articles we used to just print out and leave in various places in our apartments.) Available at Amazon.com for $70.49. (OneNote is frequently included in Microsoft Office bundles — you may find it cheaper to buy such a bundle and upgrade Word, Excel, and other programs.)
10. Dragon NaturallySpeaking. This is pricier than the others, but this software is extremely helpful for those of you who practice the lost art of dictation. Dictating is a great skill to pick up for a variety of reasons — it’s much easier to summarize notes from all-day meetings via dictation, or to make sense of documents as you review them without constantly toggling between screens to be sure you’ve gotten the numbers and quotations exactly correct. (We’ve been using this one for about a month — seriously, it’s a great dictating program.) Available at Amazon for $127.49.