This is more of a PC system question versus Photoshop, but the problem only occurs when I open Photoshop...
Not every time, but most of the time, when I open Photoshop (CS3 on a PC running XP), my other open applications, such as Word or PowerPoint, disappear. They disappear from my task bar, and do not show under Application under Task Manager. However, they are still running under Processes.
In some cases, I can command line run the app and it magically reappears. For others, that doesn't work. With Microsoft Word, if I open up another copy of the program, it opens right away to a new blank document, and I can switch windows to the other open documents.
Anyway, I am updated on all my apps and OS and am out of ideas. Any thoughts on what is causing this and/or how to fix it?
I experience this, but only on one of the Windows XP machines I work on (at work). What I've observed seems to indicate some sort of conflict between Adobe and either Office 2003 or the Firefox web browser, both or some combinations thereof since I have all the same on my XP machine at home and don't have the problem. There's nothing I can do about it in my work environment so I just work around it as you've described ... hopefully a new machine and fresh start soon.