Decluttering my Desktop

computer desktop cluttered? I recommend Fences desktop organization software
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When it comes to techie tips, I’m a junkie. Hopefully there is something new for everyone in this weekly series or at least one special “Ah ha, so that is how you do it” when it for Outlook, Excel, Word, Acrobat, etc.

Thanks in advance to Google, my colleagues, and the exasperated IT guys over the years who have all contributed to expanding my geeky knowledgebase.


Piles of Files. My computer desktop is a cluttered disaster

Considerations when storing oodles of files on the desktop

Performance Concerns
There used to be a noticeable lag for system booting and overall operation when I stored lots of files on my desktop, but the last several laptops I have worked with have Windows 7 and enough on-board memory plus fast enough processing that I no longer notice this as an issue.

Visible Space is limited
With lots of icons on the desktop, things can become chaotic and it can be hard to quickly find a specific file. I typically just avoid scanning with my eyes and I launch most programs and files form the search in start menu or from pins on my taskbar instead.

I’m not backing up items on the desktop
My backup program is set to sweep ‘My Documents’ and my network share drive so I’ve been training myself to store files there instead. If I want to access the file from the desktop I just pin it to the programs taskbar or create a shortcut to place on my desktop instead.

Having a disorderly desktop is a privacy issue
If I am projecting my desktop for a presentation, files which may be confidential are in plain view to others.  If I show my disorganized desktop, others may perceive that I am not efficient or prepared.

Fences is my favorite solution to tidy up my jumbled desktop

My Cluttered Desktop

BEFORE – This was a jumbled mess. 🙁

AFTER - The files are all there but in tidy boxes with scrollbars to access all icons

AFTER – 30 seconds later I ran the Fences program. The files are all still there but in tidy boxes with scrollbars to access all icons.

The limited edition of Fences Software by Stardock is free but I paid for the full version so I could access all the features.  I’ve been using it for years and my co-workers (and the IT guys) often comment on how clean and tidy my desktop looks; I paid less than $10, I am sure.  Basically, it just corrals your icons into groups and places them in little square and rectangle containers.  It does this auto-magically but also gives you the ability to tweak the rules and behavior.  These are some of the features I love about this nifty little software program:

Quick hide
I just double click the desktop to make the icons hide (except fences I designate to never hide).

The program handily offers to auto-organize at installation.  Plus you can establish rules for new icon placement and avoid piling up orphan icons moving forward.

Easily lasso up a group of icons
I just use my mouse to draw a rectangle in order to create a new fence.  I have a fence for my daily To Dos, a fence for my frequently accessed folders, a fence for recent files, etc.

Desktop Pages
I can extend my desktop onto extra pages.  This nifty feature allows me to put fences of icons I access less frequently one swipe away just like on my mobile phone.

I recommend the Fences software all the time

This is a folder portal which is like having a Windows Explorer window open at all times right on the desktop.

This is a folder portal which is like having a Windows Explorer window open at all times right on the desktop.

I purchased the Fences software specifically for the folder portals and auto-organization features but I ended up not using those features at all. For sure, it is time I revisit both.

I was tipped off to the Fences application by the Lifehacker blog. Here is another article they posted last year that is specifically about organizing the desktop:

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About The Author


Nadia Bracken, lead contributor to the Lead CRA blog and the ClinOps Toolkit blog, is a Clinical Program Manager in the San Francisco Bay Area.

1 Comment

  • Lorraine Gaultois

    June 3, 2013

    I like it! I hate a messy desktop because I can never find what I want. I need to have several files open so I can quickly find things. Thanks for the suggestion.

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