Fences logoI have always thought that the Windows desktop (and the Mac one, as well) could be much better designed

I would really like to be able to do several things with the desktop that we can’t, such as:

  • Group shortcuts according to my own needs (eg by client, or by type, or by importance)
  • Change the size of individual icons according to my needs (eg to reflect their importance)
  • Have text-based menus of options instead of icons (much better for shortcuts to specific documents)
  • Have different background colours and/or images for different parts of the desktop
  • Automatically back up a desktop layout on a regular basis

I don’t know if there is some huge technical reason why this part of Windows and Mac OSX has never had much attention – or maybe it’s just me that thinks this is a glaring omission.

I’ve been on the lookout for a third-party program for a long time now. Every now and again the thought occurs to me to look again and I do another google search. The only program I’ve ever come across that seems to come anywhere near doing what I want (and which actually works) is called Fences. I installed it three months ago and have resisted the temptation to blog about it in case I decided subsequently that it wasn’t up to snuff. However, I think I can now say that Fences is probably going to stay on my computers – even though it only fulfils the first and last items on my wish list.

Desktop showing Fences

Fences is not freeware. We’ve become used to getting so much of our software free that a lot of people won’t pay for anything any more. Fences is free to try for 30 days and then costs £9.99. As far as I am concerned that is a perfectly reasonable price for a solid program that performs what is – for me at least – an important job. I should also mention that it is only available for Windows (7,8, and 10). As far as price goes, I would maintain that most so-called “free” programs are not free: we pay for them in terms of the data they steal from us.

I won’t go into un-necessary detail about how Fences works as this link to Fences takes you to their web page, where they clearly explain what it does. In brief, you create “fences” (or “boxes”) into which you place icons and shortcuts that make sense to you, rather than the somewhat arbitrary way that Windows normally orders them. This means that if you add new shortcuts, they won’t be buried in the middle of all your icons, and your other icons won’t move to accommodate the new icon/shortcut (except for those icons in the “Fence” in which you place the new shortcut). So you might have a fence for important programs, a fence for documents relating to a specific client, a fence with shortcuts to important pdf files, etc.

Settings in Fences

Automatic and manual backups of desktop layouts (called “snapshots”) are also built in. Very handy. And, finally, there is a bonus for people who switch between using a single screen and multiple screens. Those people will know that Windows has the endearing habit of messing up your desktop layout when you plug external monitors in and out if the resolution is different between different monitors. I often (but not by default) use three screens. Fences seamlessly adjusts when I connect and disconnect the external monitors.

Fences has proven rock solid during the 13 or so weeks that I have been using it. It hasn’t misbehaved in any way. The one very very tiny downside is that the machine definitely takes a few seconds longer to boot up and get the desktop sorted out than it used to without Fences – a price I’m prepared to pay.

(Last updated 09/07/2021)