How do I ... organize my Windows desktop with Fences?

A cluttered desktop is an inefficient workspace. The Fences application allows you to create small workspaces for your icons where you can group them together in a titled, "fenced-in" space. Jack Wallen explains how it works.

A cluttered Microsoft Windows desktop is an inefficient workspace. If you have numerous icons littering your desktop, hunting for the one you need can often tick away priceless moments. And by the end of the day, how many of those moments have wasted away? Plenty.

However, there are applications like Fences that can help you to keep your workspace organized so that your workday isn't wasted with hunting and pecking icons.

The Fences application allows you to create small workspaces for your icons where you can group them together in a titled, "fenced-in" space. Fences also allows you to automatically hide your icons (and their fences) when you double-click an empty space on your desktop. But ultimately Fences makes your workspace more workable.

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Getting and installing

The first thing you need to do is go to the Fences download page and get the installer binary. Installation is quick and painless. The only step that might be out of the ordinary is at the end of the installation, where you will be asked if you want to choose a predefined layout or create your own fences. Either way is simple. If you click the predefined method, you will then be given a few possible layout choices. Choose the one that best suits your needs to complete the installation.

Once the application is installed, you will see some empty fences, although one fence most likely will have the Customize Fences icon. Figure A shows a predefined set of fences with nothing more than two fences and the Customize Fences icon.

Figure A

As you can see, there are two fences created in this layout.
One of the first things you can do is rename each fence. In my case, I want to name one fence "Productivity" and the other "Utilities." Right-click the name of the fence to open up the Fence properties menu (Figure B).

Figure B

This menu simply adds a few entries to regular desktop properties menu.
Now that you have named your fence, you can drag and drop the appropriate icons into that fence, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

All icons are in place.

Configuration options

To get to the configuration screen, you can either double-click the Customize Fences icon or right-click the desktop and select Edit Fences. From the configuration window (Figure D), there are three configuration tabs: Fences, Customize, and Tools.

Figure D

There isn't an incredible amount of configuration, but what options you do have really can help your productivity.

The first tab, Fences, allows you to change the layout of your current fences. From the dropdown menu you can select a number of layouts. You will notice in this tab you cannot create new fences, so you can choose only layouts that apply to the number of fences you have. To create a new fence on your desktop, you have to right-click and drag. Once you create the new fence, you will notice the dropdown menu reflects the new number of fences you have created.

In the Customized tab (Figure E), you can change when you show the labels, what the color/transparency of the fences and the label text are, whether to outline the fences, and whether to fade out scrollbars when active.

Figure E

If you don't want to categorize your fences, remove the label.
The final tab that actually contains configuration options is the Tools tab (Figure F). This tab is quite useful because it contains a backup/restore feature. This allows you to take snapshots of your fences desktop at any time. You can then restore from any of the saved backups. With this feature you can create numerous backups that apply to different jobs and apply that particular snapshot when needed.

Figure F

You can store as many backups as you like.
When you want to restore a snapshot, just click on the image of the snapshot to restore it. An image of that snapshot will open, as shown in Figure G. From that window you can restore, delete, or rename that particular snapshot. You can also retake a snapshot from this window. If you decide to restore the snapshot, a new window will open and ask if you want to take a new snapshot of the current desktop or if you just want to restore the snapshot you clicked on.

Figure G

Make sure you have a snapshot of your current desktop if you are planning on restoring.

Remember the trick of double-clicking the desktop to hide your fences? You can configure any or all of your fences to not hide when that event occurs. To configure a fence to not hide, simply right-click the fence and select Exclude This Fence from Quick-Hide.

Final thoughts

It's been a long time since I have felt the Windows desktop was very useful. But now, with the help of Fences, I have found the often-clunky Windows desktop can gain an element of efficiency and grace. I now use Fences with every Windows desktop I have. You should give it a try'll most likely feel the same way I do.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website