We all spend some of our time at work doing things that have nothing to do with our job. We surf the Web. We play games. Sure, we all need our downtime, and the enlightened manager knows that. But still, we'd rather just surf in private than deal with the raised eyebrows.
That's why we need ways to ensure that when our boss surprises us or sneaks up behind us, she'll think that we're actually working. Here's a list of apps and services that help.
Camouflaged Web services
SpreadTweet If you're a Twitter fanatic, try SpreadTweet. The software hides your Twitter stream in what looks like an Excel window. It displays everything in plain text to make it look like a real spreadsheet. It's sure to fool any boss.
1cup1coffee 1cup1coffee looks like a Windows Explorer pane (so don't use it on a Mac), but all those Word documents and Powerpoint presentations are actually a collection of Flash games. Simply click on one of the "files" and you can play a game in what looks like your Windows Explorer window. If you hear your boss, you can hit the back button and you'll be brought back to the file listing.
Anonymizer If you don't want the IT folks to know what you're up to, spend $30 and get Anonymizer. The software redirects your Web traffic through its servers to not only safeguard your IP from outside sources, but also to get your employer's IT people off your trail.
C.H.I.M.P. Rearview Monitor Mirror While playing a game or doing something you shouldn't, just glance up at the C.H.I.M.P. Rearview Monitor Mirror to see if your boss is approaching from behind. The mirror won't hide what you're doing, but it will give you some time to switch to something more appropriate. And in case you're wondering, C.H.I.M.P. stands for Chimp Has Invincible Monkey Powers. Yeah, I don't get it either. But it is worth the $6.99 price tag.
Don's Boss Page Don's Boss Page (no relation) is full of great boss trickery. If you want to aimlessly browse the Web, but make it sound like you're working, you can keep clicking the site's audio clips to make others think you're typing.
Quick tip: Resize your windows When I was an accountant, I used Outlook. To make everyone think I was so engrossed in my e-mail, I resized Firefox to fit perfectly in the Outlook preview pane. Anyone who walked by thought I was just reading an e-mail. If they ever got too close, I'd switch to another message. It worked beautifully.
Don't Panic 1.2 If you don't want to get busted by the boss, try installing Don't Panic 1.2 onto your Windows machine. The software will allow you to minimize multiple windows at the same time. You can also maximize multiple windows simultaneously to ensure your boss will be happy when they walk by.
Or just use keyboard shortcuts Brush up on your knowledge of keyboard shortcuts. Whenever you hear someone coming, you can quickly drop a few keys and you'll immediately look like you're working.
StealthSwitch You'll have to pay $40 to get it, but StealthSwitch is worth the price -- until your boss finds it. Once connected to your computer via USB, StealthSwitch sits on the floor. While playing a game or doing something you shouldn't at work, you can quickly tap the StealthSwitch when you hear your boss approaching. It immediately makes the current window invisible and brings you back to a window that's related to your work. Once your boss walks away, you can tap the StealthSwitch again to get back to your game. The $25 USB Panic Button is similar, if you're quicker with your hands than your mouse and don't mind a garish missile-launch control button sitting on your desk. Simply push the plastic covering up, press the red button, and the tool will automatically change the screen on your computer to a spreadsheet, your favorite picture, your company's Web site, or anything else you set it to switch to.