The free Windows software SmartClose solves one of the most annoying problems with Windows XP: If you're used to working with a lot of applications running in the background, it's a long, tedious process to shut them all down, and another long, tedious process to start them all up again. SmartClose automatically shuts down running programs and services with a few mouse clicks. It also saves the list of running programs to a "snapshot." And then you can start up all your running programs and services, and resume working where you left off before, with just a few more mouse clicks.
I just gave it a try, and it works great, although it's got a couple of bugs in it. I tried out SmartClose with about 14 programs running, which is a typical load for me. SmartClose was a little slow to shut them all down. It took about two minutes, which is a long time to be staring at your computer monitor with hands folded while nothing much is happening.
Re-starting everything went much faster, in less than a minute, and mostly everything ran flawlessly, with one or two minor problems. For example: Lotus Notes showed up with an all-gray work area, without any documents or icons visible, but clicking on the mail button brought my e-mail right up. GAIM, my instant-message client, ended up running as an invisible background process; I couldn't use it or even see that it was running (until I looked for it with Task Manager). My solution there was just to run Task Manager, kill the GAIM.exe process, and re-start the application.
I like to re-boot Windows XP once a day, just to keep things running at maximum efficiency. I hope SmartClose will let me do that, and get right back to work where I left off with minimum hassle, fuss, or distraction. SmartClose is also useful when installing new Windows software; when doing that you should shut down all your running Windows programs first. And it's useful for programs that are resource hogs, and run badly or even crash if anything else is running, such as burning CDs, defragmenting your hard drive, editing and producing video or audio files, or playing some processor-intensive games.