Get more done with these five upgrades

Add any of these hardware beauties to your home office, and I predict that you'll enjoy a nice productivity boost

I'm constantly seeking out new hardware that can help me spend less time at my desk. Here are my top five recommendations.

Many tech-savvy people spend top dollar for a new processor while continuing to live with a frustratingly inefficient (and ancient) roller-ball mouse and old-school keyboard. This is just silly.

They should consider upgrading to my longtime favourite: Microsoft's Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. The $US60 corded keyboard offers solid tactile feedback and numerous programmable keys, but its real draw is its ultracomfy raised-edge, V-split keyboard, which keeps my wrists feeling good during long bouts of typing. Alongside the 4000, I use Logitech's ugly but awesome G5 corded gaming mouse. The rodent's plethora of programmable buttons, customisable weight and sensitivity, and oh-so-sweet tilting scroll wheel make it possibly the perfect Excel tool.

Years ago I wrote a column about the massive productivity benefits I gained by adding a second 17-inch LCD monitor to my PC. That seems quaint now that I have two 22-inch units on my desk, but the argument remains the same (just writ larger).

I lived with a mismatched pair of 22-inch monitors for some time, but recently sprang for a second Acer display and an Ergotron dual-monitor stand. The $230 Acer AL2216W, a no-frills DVI-equipped monitor, is excellent for typical office chores. Initially the $209 Ergotron DS100 was harder to justify, but besides allowing me to align my two monitors precisely, its single base freed up valuable desk space.

Consolidating valuable contact data from business cards into one file can be a real time saver. Instead of typing card content into my files, I use the CardScan Personal Package to digitise the content. The $160 bundle consists of a CardScan 60 USB-based scanner and CardScan software. The software is adept at sorting each card's text details, and the online backup service allows me to access my contacts from any Internet-connected computer.

When working at home, I rely on my speedy home-office desk-top for actual work and use my sluggish company laptop to deal with my dreaded Lotus Notes e-mail and calendar. For ages, I kept my laptop open on my desk for Notes access — an inefficient use of space and effort. Today I use Belkin's $150 Flip DVI switch to share my secondary monitor, as well as my keyboard and mouse, between my desktop and my docked laptop. To switch between the two PCs, I push the wired Flip pod, wait a second for the transition (preceded by the familiar "doink" of a PC recognising a USB peripheral), and start typing.

Today's MFPs work better than ever. My aging HP PSC 2110 is invaluable when I need a paper copy of an insurance form or rebate receipt, because I no longer have to wait until I'm back in the office or passing a Kinko's. And when I run across a hard-copy document or photo I'd like to save and file for future reference, I digitise it on the scanner bed. Oh, and it's darn handy for printing Mapquest directions, too. Since my HP unit is long out of production, I refer you to S current favourite among multifunction inkjets: the $200 Canon Pixma MX700.

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Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

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Tom Mainelli

PC World
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