I use XFCE for my desktop – it's a nice, clean, advanced desktop environment. It even comes with some cool features, like transparency or shadows – but not an overkill like Beryl or Compiz.
But there are those small little programs that can enhance your desktop at a small cost:
- Skippy – a window-switching program, similar to the famed expose thing – it displays you miniatures of all your windows and allows to choose from them.
- 3D Desktop – "cool" workplace switching, similar to Compiz/Beryl cube, but with a lot more options.
- Backstep – minimized application windows will appear as desktop icons. It's handy for me because I don't use any task list.
- XStroke – draw letter-like gestures on the screen using your mouse or tablet, and this program will translate them into keystrokes.
- MPD – a music player daemon. Handles your music in the background, you don't have to keep a music player running on your desktop anymore. There is a number of front ends that allow you to control MPD in variety of ways – even remotely or using a WWW page.
- ZIM – a desktop wiki. Very useful note-taking application, somewhat similar to Tomboy, but much faster and lighter.
- Comix – an image viewer, optimized for reading scanned comic books and mangas, but also great for photo collections or images. Support for zip and rar archives, double pages, zoom, caching, bookmarks.