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5 desktop apps that'll make swift work of FaceVille -- er, Facebook!

I originally intended this to be a guide on Facebook gaming. Then I realized that if I inducted you all into the bottomless and eternal pit that is social and casual multiplayer online games, you'd never have time or the willpower to come back to Download Squad.

So first I'm going to show you some neat desktop apps that might make your Facebook experience more streamlined, and certainly more enjoyable. The Facebook website is pretty slow at the best of times, so moving to desktop apps can significantly speed things up. In some cases -- such as uploading lots of photos -- a desktop app might also be the only decent solution.

Let's get going!

1. Fishbowl -- Facebook Desktop Browser

Fishbowl is about as close as it gets to an 'all-in-one' Facebook tool. It's also a rare example of what can be pulled off with Microsoft's Silverlight technology (it's even developed by Microsoft and it'sopen-source).

Fishbowl is basically like visiting Facebook in your web browser... but cooler and faster. For browsing photo albums there probably isn't a better choice -- at least on Windows. Mac users could install Silverlight and give it a go -- or if you just want to browse photos, Jay reviewed a great Mac app called PhotoBook.

If you're not already sold (ooh Silverlight!), check out Lee's full review of Fishbowl.

2. Bloom -- Facebook Photo Uploader, Tagger, Viewer

I assume I'm not the only one who hates Facebook's photo uploader. Sure it works, but it's not great -- and it's in Java; it's slow. Bloom is great at uploading large numbers of photos, tagging (I'm the tree in the above photo) and even a very competent album browser for looking at your friends' photos.

If you do a lot of photo uploading -- yes, I'm talking to the teenage girls that travel everywhere with a damn camera and take photos of every damn thing... in triplicate -- Bloom lets you create albums on the fly, along with all the usual privacy settings that everyone should be setting to 'private'!

It's fully cross-platform, Windows, Mac and Linux -- there's even a Java Web Start version in case you can't (or don't want to) install Bloom.

3. Desktop (System Tray) Notifications

In some cases you don't want more involvement with Facebook: you want less. There's a couple of neat apps -- fbquick for PC and Desktop Notifications or Mac -- that provide non-invasive feedback. Both apps give you notifications via your system tray -- and the notifications you receive are fully customizable. Perhaps you only want notifications of drunken photo tags, or new mail in your inbox.

These apps are for those of you that have trouble closing their Facebook browser tab. Sometimes you just gotta let it go. The notifications will let you know that life is going on without you.

4. For the Aspiring Social Networker... Seesmic!

Let's face it, for some of us, Facebook isn't merely a tool for interacting with friends, family and cute under age teenagers -- for some it's just one Interconnected Node in their Conglomerated Social Network. Facebook, with its 350 million users and vast per-day page views, is a great framework for marketing.

Seesmic basically turns everything on the Internet into Twitter. If the idea of pumping out the same status updates to 50+ social networks (once they integrate their purchase of Ping.fm) at the same time appeals to you, Seesmic's the tool for you. It's worth noting that you can also read your friend's status updates using Seesmic -- but if you're the kind of person that thinks your actions are important enough to spam across half the Internet, do you really care what other people are up to...?

5. Facebook Chat -- Standalone Desktop Apps

After FarmVille and looking at photos, Facebook Chat (or 'shitty fbchat' as it is affectionately known by most) is the next largest timesink. Even if you don't find yourself instigating the chats, it's not uncommon for some ancient associate or childhood friend to appear out of the woodwork.

These two apps let you chat without the awful web interface. This doesn't mean that your connection will be any more stable (Facebook Chat is simply a bit shit in that regard) but it does mean that you can tab between work and chat like regular MSN or AIM windows. These apps might even re-send your messages when the network dies, as opposed to making you type it out again... and again...

If you're using a Mac you probably have Adium installed already -- it's a great all-in-one chat client and I'm told it integrates Facebook Chat very tidily.

If you're using a PC the pickings are slimmer. There's a plug-in for Pidgin, which is again a great multi-network client, but other than that there isn't much (at least not Download Squad-approved!)

Facebook Chat is actually due to be moved over to the Jabber/XMPP protocol which means you'll be able to sign into it from anywhere (Gtalk, for example). Hopefully that will happen this year -- it's been in the pipe for almost two years now...

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If I've missed any 'killer' desktop Facebook apps, don't hesitate to leave a comment!
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Tags: app, chat, desktop, facebook, features, list, notifications, photo, social networking, SocialNetworking, tagging

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