I've been playing around with a program called KlipFolio for a few weeks now. Not to long ago they released a new version, 2.6, and added a Hotmail Klip! This is a really cool way to keep on top of your Hotmail, w/o having to run a mail client. It allows you to view a preview of the message body, as well as delete messages. At work I keep KlipFolio running on my second monitor, along with a few other small utility windows (more about those later).

I also like to use the Stock, Weather, C|Net and FeedViewer (for RSS feeds). The product is free to download.