Stardock Fences: organize your icons into floating areas on your desktop


Fences is a free windows enhancement that allows you to create folder-like, semitransparent groups that float on the desktop and allow you to organize your desktop icons within them. It also offers the option to hide all or some of your desktop icons by double clicking on an empty area.

Are your desktop icons strewn about your screen in a jumble? Wouldn’t it be great if you could arrange them into hovering, semitransparent “receptacles” that you could move about the screen at will? That’s exactly what this software allows you to do.

Is there any design or theme to how your desktop icons are arranged? For myself I notice that I arrange my desktop into topic clusters: work icons on the bottom left, freeware-related icons on the top right, and so on. This is also the concept behind “Fences”.

Fences Screenshot

This is beta software: before going any further please note that this is in beta and you are very likely to encounter bugs (I have had to negotiate one specific error when testing this program, which I describe below). Also note that this beta software is set to expire in Aug 2009, when presumably the non beta will replace it. Here are more notes on this software:

  • Behavior: the floating areas (or “areas” as I will call them from this point onward) can be moved, resized, and renamed at will (which includes all the icons within them, of course). They snap to grid too, which is nice.
  • Fences Screenshot - side navbarIcons: to add icons to an area simply drag and drop. Icons magnetically float to the top until they encounter other icons, but other than that you can arrange them at will. You can add more icons than can fit the visible area, whereby a navigation bar will appear to help you scroll down (see image to the right). You do not need to place all of your desktop icons inside areas.
  • Quick-hide icons: double click on an empty area of your desktop and all icons (and floating areas) will disappear; doing it again afterwards will make them reappear. If you need to you can set exceptions for some icons so that they will always be visible even as the others are hidden (which can be done straight from the context menu). Just think, you could set it so that all clutter is instantly hidden except for core set of icons that you always want to see.
  • Context menu integration: all of this software’s functions are accessible throught the right click menu, which is nice.
  • Bugs: testing on Windows XP SP3, I found, unfortunately, that every time I would add a new “area” my system would create it for me and then would crash (this also happened when I first installed since the first thing the program does is create a bunch of areas). At first this issue seemed like a deal breaker, but once I had created my requisite 5 areas that I needed, the program worked fine provided that I did not add more areas. This sort of dedication is exactly why you should immediately click the “buy me a beer” icon in this site’s sidebar and donate money to Freewaregenius. (I hope they fix this bug sooner rather than later).
  • Freeware?: free for personal use, although as mentioned this alpha version will expire in Aug 2009. It looks like there will be some sort of addon or professional version that allows for advanced customizations and skins, so I am hopeful that the basic functionality will remain free post-alpha.

The verdict: I simply love this. Another one of those ideas that should have been a built in feature in Windows (what the he*l are they paid to do over there in Redmond, Washington?)

Despite it’s beta status this is an extremely mature and well-designed product. I am confident/hopeful that the bugs and errors previously mentioned will be ironed out in coming versions.

[Via Ghacks. Thanks also to user Brockman for letting me know about this].

A video of the program in action:

Version Tested: 0.96.1533 Beta

Compatibility: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. On Vista and Windows 7, both 32bit and 64bit versions are supported.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 6.34K).