A lot is happening on Facebook. Not only are your friends telling the world what's going on in their lives, but the social network itself is changing. It's more open now than before, thanks to the Facebook Connect program, and there are several good products that let you see Facebook data in new ways. You don't have to use Facebook.com to use Facebook anymore. Here are some of the best desktop applications.
The newbies: AIR apps
Seesmic for Facebook
An Adobe AIR app, Seesmic for Facebook (news) uses Facebook Connect to let you update your status and view friend status updates without surfing to the Facebook site. It's in beta testing, but it works as advertised: updating status is quick and easy, and whenever a friend updates their own status, it's there for me to see. It's a little buggy, but it was just released.
TweetDeck is one of the most popular Twitter desktop clients, and now the app's developers are vying for Facebook dominance too. The upcoming version of TweetDeck lets you send a message just to Twitter, just to Facebook, or to both simultaneously. Once installed, the new version also includes a column displaying friends' status updates, and it offers the ability to chat with them via Facebook chat directly. The app isn't available to everyone just yet, but its public release is right around the corner.
A Windows-only app, Facebook Desktop provides real-time updates, lets you see wall posts, view messages, and read friend requests. It's one of the best-looking apps, too.
Facebook Photo Uploader
The folks at the Google Code Base have a neat little desktop app for Windows users that allows them to upload photos directly to Facebook and tag them before they get to the service. It's not the best-looking app, and it's a little buggy, but I'm impressed by its ease of use.
Facebook Tray Notify
Sometimes, a desktop client just gets in the way. If you feel that way, turn to Facebook TrayNotify. It's a lightweight app that sits in your taskbar awaiting Facebook notifications. Once it receives them, alerts pop up, letting you know about the updates. If you want to act on them, you'll need to go to the Facebook site to do so.
FBLook is useful, if you're an Outlook user. Besides filling you in on friends' status updates, you can update your own Facebook status, and see notifications and requests without going to the Facebook Web site--it all works within Outlook on your desktop. Although I'm running a Mac every day, I still use FBLook whenever I run my Windows machine. In fact, it's one of the first apps I fire up.
If you're looking for a nicely designed app that will work on your Windows PC and give you some of the best functionality around, look at FBQuick. The app sends you profile notifications, including tagged photos, pokes, and messages, but it doesn't allow you to update anything while on your desktop.
If you're an Outlook user, and you have a mobile phone that supports Outlook, check out the Fonebook app. Once installed on your desktop, the app will transfer your contacts and photos from Facebook to Outlook. The app copies a contact's photo, Facebook profile URL, the "About me" details, and status. That can then be synced with an Outlook-compatible phone so whenever someone calls, the person's picture and information will pop up on your mobile-phone screen.
Dashboard Widget gives you Facebook on your OS X Dashboard. It will display messages, pokes, friend requests, group invites, and other notifications. It updates whenever new notifications filter in.
Facebook Exporter for iPhoto
If you want to upload photos into Facebook, and you don't want to waste your time firing up Safari, use the Facebook Exporter for iPhoto. It's the best photo-uploading service for Macs. It allows you to find photos in iPhoto, tag them with your friends' names, add captions, and upload them as an album to your profile. It's incredibly easy to use.
If you're an Address Book user, FacebookSync will automatically sync information from Facebook into your Apple Address Book. The service finds matches in your friends list and adds all their information, including name, address, phone number, and other data to your Address Book. It even adds their photos to the app.
If you simply want to update your status update or view all your friends' status updates, Facile for the Mac is a nice way to do it. It provides a simple interface showing your friends' profile pictures and latest status updates, and allows you to input your own updates above the list (it's a lot like Seesmic for Facebook).
This is a Facebook screensaver. It finds your friends tagged in photos and starts displaying those in succession while your Mac is dormant. And if you want to take some friends out of the queue, you can filter them out with a simple click. Or just display your male or female friends.
A Facebook photo browser for your Mac, PhotoBook allows you to manage, share, and view your friends' Facebook photos without ever going to their profile pages. All the photos are available on a single page, and they can be viewed by tags or in a slideshow. Every photo or album can be downloaded into iPhoto.
Bloom, available for Mac, Windows, and Linux, allows you to upload photos, download other albums, and view your friends' photos without surfing to Facebook pages. A recent update allows you to add captions to images, rotate them before you upload, and tag different people. It has a simple drag-and-drop interface.
If you don't want all the extras that Bloom provides, Drag-and-Drop Uploader (for Windows) makes it simple to add images to your Facebook profile. The service is lightweight, and in a matter of seconds, you can drag photos from your desktop and add them to the app, which will then be uploaded into albums in your profile.
The Windows app DeskBook allows you to access Facebook features and information without accessing your profile page. Regardless of whether you want to see how many notes you've received, how many friend requests you've ignored, or if you want to just search for friends, DeskBook does it all. It even lets you accept or reject group and event invitations, as well as friend requests. It's my go-to app when I want to get the full Facebook experience without going to my profile page.
There's not much to Facedesk, but that is its appeal. The app can be downloaded to your desktop, and it runs Facebook directly in the app instead of your browser. Yes, it acts like a browser, but it runs only Facebook, so you won't be able to open any other sites. It's Facebook for people who care about nothing else in the world.
Flair's functionality won't blow you away--it's a notification app that lets you know when a friend wants to add you, or you receive a poke--but it does that in a lightweight bundle that doesn't hog resources, and it offers one of the best designs of any app in this roundup. It's not unique, but it sure is pretty.
AIR app Zebr allows you to update your status without going to your profile page, and it keeps track of your friends' status automatically.