Unruly Windows Icons - Fence Them In

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Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
Hi all. Whenever I learn something new that I find useful, I try to share it with others where possible. For years, I've had a problem with my Windows 7 computer where all my icons will get scrambled on the desktop. This usually happens if I plug in an external monitor or projector. I've tried a few times to solve it without success. Well, it happened to me today right after I'd spent an hour cleaning up old icons and arranging what was left. I decided to do some more research and I think I've found a solution. It's a program called Fences by Stardock. Version 3 is available for Windows 7, 8, and 10. And version 4 is available for Windows 10, and 11. It's trialware, and version 3 costs $ 10 if you keep it past 30 days. After tinkering with the download for a few minutes, I went ahead and bought the license. I've replaced my icons and background with generic sample ones so I could show you what this does. Then I put them back to normal. See the following picture.

icon fences.png

The dark blue areas are my fenced in zones, with transparency reduced. The light blue areas are where I usually don't want icons. In this case, this blue is the background. When I have my background image turned on, certain parts of the image will be visible where the light blue is here. Also, I normally keep the fences almost completely transparent. So, I've defined 11 zones where I put different types of icons. Even if I plug in the TV, those icons don't leave their fence. They may get rearranged a bit within the fence, but they stay put. The program has several other advanced features for auto hiding things, auto fading things, and multi desktop page flipping which I keep turned off.

I had to play with the settings a bit to get it to stay the same with and without the TV. I ended up setting a setting not to preserve my layout when screen resolution changes. I then saved a snapshot and restored it both with and without the TV. It seems to be working. If you get this program, and then copy icons into a fence, especially in bulk, they may appear to disappear. They may be actually appearing on the general desktop behind the fence. If you copied from Windows Explorer, you can do edit undo (or maybe file undo) from the menu. When I restored my icons after producing this mockup picture, I had to drag each icon from the temporary folder where I'd stashed them back into the fence. Not sure why. But, otherwise the program seems to be working fine.

Version 4 (at this time) - Windows 10, 11

Version 3 - Windows 7, 8, 10

Good luck if you're trying to solve this problem. Hope this helps.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
I just made a folder marked Desktop, and dropped them all in there. One extra click, and i typically leave that folder open either minimised or windowed all the time. Actually makes a difference in performance, as you do not have Windows sitting there on every screen refresh cycle redrawing all those icons again and again, meaning your programs get more foreground time. Minimised no extra redraw time at all, and with minimal icon clutter on the desktop you gain a fair bit of performance boost.
I have Recycle Bin and that's it. It's terrible practice, if I am honest, to have a billion icons, especially not .lnk files, on the desktop - it impacts performance, especially if the profile is roaming. I remember one person I spoke to who travelled a lot and had a desktop with 4Gb of files.......and a roaming profile. Experience (performance) was disappointing, especially at login/logout.
I have a copy of this app because I have a license for their whole set of apps ("Object Desktop") but I have never once even considered using it. I think a cluttered desktop is a bad idea. (Akin to the old saying that "a cluttered room is a sign of a cluttered mind.") It's too easy to forget whats there and why you put it there. IMHO You need to do some file management and put things away at the end of the project. If you've forgotten what's there, is it being backed up? And as @Lob mentioned, having too many files in the wrong places can definitely lead to performance issues at some point.

Instead, make a folder in your C drive called something like "WIP" (work in progress) or "Projects" or whatever, and make a link to that folder on the desktop. Put everything you keep on your desktop in that folder, and work over time to eliminate anything from there that goes somewhere else. Since you will then have a clean desktop, whenever anything lands on it, put it away asap. Treat it like inbox zero... it's a goal to deal with the stuff that is there before it has the chance to go stale and become forgotten.
Dont make a random folder in your c drive. Use your user folder and put them there. it will make backing up your data much easier.
Use your user folder
That depends, because as @Lob mentioned, that folder and anything else under your username, will be syncronized depending on how you log in. I don't like Windows features that "help" me out this way... I wish to stay firmly in control of what syncs to where.
I will freely acknowledge that everybody's workflow is different and that everyone has to find a strategy that works for them. I just realized that the mockup picture I provided does not exactly represent my desktop. I almost never keep data files on the desktop. They're usually in their own folder on the HDD / SSD and I may use a topic, subtopic format.

For example, energy - tesla, energy - solar, energy - wind, health - vitamins, health - immunity, health - food, etc. They may be further sorted by filename as date, like 20220104 in yyyymmdd format. If you sort by file name, this also sorts by date.

For the most part, all I keep on the desktop is links to application programs. Having said that, the clean desk scenario has never worked for me either digitally or physically. I'm more of a "I want to see everything I might need in 6 months" type of person. I also HATE it when the PC hides things from me, like scroll bars and menus. To each his own. Right now, I probably have about 75 icons on the desktop after cleaning a bunch off. At least, with the fences, the icons stay somewhat under control. I also have about 40 browser windows open encompassing about 500 tabs including research on about 15 different topics. I focus on different topics at different times as I get the time. Maybe @Steve can relate. I could probably eliminate 100 tabs if I took the time to copy every URL from every tab and put it in an email or something. :rolleyes:

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
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