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Boost your System Tray

System Tray tools let you access information, services and tasks easily from the corner of your screen. Lets picks 12 of the most useful free programs.

Get alerts when you receive new email

POP Peeper (www.poppeeper.com) is a handy email-notification tool that saves you having to visit your webmail provider to check for new messages. When an email arrives in your Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo Mail inbox, and the program displays an alert in your System Tray. From here, you can read, reply to and forward the message, and delete unwanted mail without downloading it from the server. POP Peeper lets you add as many accounts as you want and assign different colors to each one.

Minimize any program to the System Tray

Shrinking open windows to the System Tray rather than the Taskbar means you can instantly hide what you've been viewing and doing on your PC. 4 t Tray Minimizer (www.4t-niagara.com) lets you minimize any program to the bot tom-right corner of your screen by using a keyboard shortcut or by right-clicking its Minimize button. You can re-size the window by clicking or double-clicking its System Tray icon, or right-click to close the program. If you're really paranoid, there's even an option to hide the entire System Tray.

Minimize all programs to a single icon

Minime (bit.ly/minime285) goes even further than 4t Tray Minimizer by letting you shrink all open windows to a single System Tray icon. With the program running, simply press Ctrl+Shift+Z to minimize the window you're currently viewing to Minime, and repeat the keyboard shortcut as many times as you like. You can then right click the icon and choose individual windows to restore, or select Show All to maximize the whole lot.

Share content online via your System Tray

FluffyApp (fluffyapp.com) is a brilliant free tool that lets you easily share files, images and web links via your System Tray. To use this simple app, you'll first need to sign up for a free CloudApp account (my.cl.ly/login). Once registered, anything you drag onto the FluffyApp icon in your System Tray will be uploaded to CloudApp, including URLs from your browser's address bar (if you use Firefox or Chrome). The service then generates a short URL so you can share the item on social networks and by email.

Check your available hard-disk space

If you're worried about running out of room on your PC or laptop, add the tiny (29KB) tool Tray Disk Free (traydiskfree.sourceforge.net) to your System Tray. This program tells you how much hard-disk space you have remaining. Just hover your mouse over its icon for a precise figure and a percentage of the total amount of space available. You can check the free space on different drives, including removable devices, by right-clicking and choosing Menu.

Monitor your hard-disk's temperature

The system-information tool CrystalDisklnfo (bit.ly/crystal285) monitors your hard disk's health, providing details of its temperature, the number of hours it’s been on, error rates and much more. You can access this data from your System Tray by clicking the Function menu within the program and selecting Resident. This will add two icons to the tray: one that opens CrystalDisklnfo and another that permanently displays your PC's temperature (which should be around 30-40 C). Alerts will also appear in the System Tray when problems are detected with your hard disk.

Check the status of your 'lock' keys

Some keyboards, especially those on netbooks and laptops don't feature indicator lights that tell you when Caps Lock and Net Lock are turned on. The handy free program TrayStatus (bit.ly/tray285) fixes this problem by showing information about these features in your System Tray. As soon as either key is pressed, the relevant icon in the tray will turn green, and there are additional options for Scroll Lock, the Ctrl, Alt and Shift keys, and displaying your hard d rive speed.

Perform calculations from the System Tray

CalcuTray (www.calcutray.co.uk) is a simple but useful calculator that sits in your System Tray. As well as working out basic sums, you can use keyboard shortcuts to perform more complex calculations, such as pressing Ctrl+F to convert decimals into fractions and Ctrl+S for the square root of a number. The results are automatically copied to the clipboard to paste into other programs, and all your calculations are saved for future reference. 

Check how much memory you're using

If your PC seems slow, you can find out if the problem is to do with its memory by installing the System Tray tool Memlnfo (bit.ly/meminfo285). Hover your cursor over the program's icon to see how much physical and virtual memory you're using from the total amounts available. You can also right-click the icon to see which programs are consuming the most memory, and reclaim some RAM by running the defragmenter. Double-clicking Memlnfo launches the Task Manager so that you can end memory-hogging processes.

Add the Recycle Bin to your System Tray

Mini Bin (www.e-sushi.net/minibin) adds a Recycle Bin icon to your System Tray. Just drag and drop items here to erase them instantly. The program is linked to the real Recycle Bin on you r Desktop, which you can open and empty from its right-click menu. You can customize the appearance of the icon with a range of designs.

View Google Docs updates instantly

If you use Google Docs to share and work on documents, spreadsheets and other projects with other people, Google Docs Notifier (bit.ly/docs285) will help make your life easier. This System Tray tool alerts you when new documents are uploaded and added to the service, and when existing files are edited by other users. Just double-click the icon to view a list of unread items and then double-click an entry to open it in Google Docs.

Remove clutter from your System Tray

Although Windows 7 keeps your System Tray tidy by displaying program icons in a sub-menu, it can still become crowded over time. To organize all the items in the tray, right-click the Taskbar, select Properties and click the Customize button next to Notification Area. Use the drop-down menu next to each item to choose whether to show or hide the icon and notifications, or only show notifications.

For Windows XP and Vista, the free tool System Tray Cleaner (bit.ly/cleaner285) will help you identify and remove unnecessary and unwanted icons.