Just as you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their physical desktop, you can infer a similar amount of information from a person's Windows desktop.
If you live in a world full of virtual clutter, it might make sense to turn to a third-party desktop management app for help. The best known are fences, but there are many other options as well.
Here are the best free alternatives to fences for managing and organizing your Windows desktop.
Wait, how can Stardock's fences be an alternative to fences? Listen to us
These days, Fences is a paid app. You can enjoy a 30-day free trial, but after that you'll have to pay $ 13 for the app. If you want the full app including the Object Desktop, it costs $ 36.
Fences wasn't always a paid app, however. When it first made a name for itself, the app was free.
And the good news? You can still download this old, free version of Fences. Sure, it doesn't have quite as many bells and whistles as the latest releases, but it still works well.
Download: Fences v1.01 (free)
2. Nimi places
Nimi Places is a desktop organizer app that allows users to organize their desktops in customizable containers. Each container can hold files and folders from multiple locations, and each file or folder can be displayed as an icon or thumbnail.
From an organizational point of view, you can add colored labels and create rules for containers so that certain actions are carried out at predefined times. Each container can have a different theme, and you can use icons of different sizes in each container to make it easier to see on the screen. The containers also have an integrated media preview.
The thumbnails are also worth a closer look. In addition to the ability to create thumbnails of pictures and videos, Nimi Places can be used with Photoshop files, web page links, folder directories, and a range of productivity files.
Download: Nimi Places (Free)
If you're an Apple user, you're familiar with Launchpad on macOS. Yes, you can try customizing the Start menu in Windows 10 to be partially replicated. However, it is very practical and time-saving when all installed apps are clearly arranged and available with a single click.
If you're the type who has hundreds of app shortcuts on your desktop, give XLaunchpad a try. It brings the Mac Launchpad experience to Windows. Once installed, a rocket icon will appear on your desktop. Click the icon to see all of your apps. You can finally delete all of these app shortcuts from your desktop.
Download: XLaunchpad (free)
People who have used Fences for Windows will like SideSlide. It's the Windows equivalent of shoving all of the clutter on your physical desktop into your office drawers. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
The program focuses on one work area. In the work area, you can add containers, shortcuts, commands, URLs, RSS news feeds, pictures, reminders, notes and much more.
The entire content of your workspace is available with just one click. Simply dock the app to the side of the screen and it will stay out of sight when not in use. Move your mouse over the dock and it will expand instantly.
The adjustment has priority for SideShare. With a little tweaking, you can get the app to work exactly the way you want it to.
Download: SideSlide (free)
Another computer desktop organizer for Windows 10, ViPad, also takes a container-based approach to organizing your desktop. However, it only uses a single container with tabs at the top of the container window that you can use to switch between the different groups of content.
Tabs can be used to store apps and documents, web links, social media contacts, and even music. The tabs are fully searchable (just start typing to start searching) and can be drag and drop to customize to suit your needs.
Best of all, you can customize your tabs by downloading free Windows 10 icons from the ViPad website.
Download: ViPad (free)
6. TAGO fences
TAGO Fences is the lightest app on this list. If you just want a few core features without all of the added extras that you will likely never use, give it a try.
It is arguably the most fence-like experience as well, as the Nimi locations mentioned above come in a close second place.
The app allows you to save multiple shortcuts and apps in each fence. It has a scroll bar if the list of icons for the container becomes too large.
You can change the background and tile colors, show or hide individual symbols and drag and drop your content into the order you prefer for each container.
Download: TAGO fences (free)
7. Virtual desktops
We know some of you try to avoid third-party apps whenever possible. So we close with the native Windows 10 Virtual Desktops feature.
Windows 10 marks the first time multiple virtual desktops are becoming a mainstream feature. When used correctly, they can massively reduce the clutter on your desktop. For example, if your desktop is made up of Steam shortcuts, college assignments, and new memes you found on Reddit, give each category their own desktop space.
Press to create a new desktop Windows + Tab. Click in the new window + New desktop in the upper left corner. Press to switch between desktops Windows + Ctrl + Left Arrow (or Right arrow) and press to close a desktop Windows + Ctrl + F4.
Do you need a fence alternative for Windows 10?
Windows 10 may be on its way to eliminating the need for all of these apps. You can now use the Start menu to group shortcuts and apps into expandable folders (just drag one icon over another to get started). When you pair the Start menu with virtual desktops, you can argue that apps like Fences are reaching the end of their lifecycle.
However, some users will still love the extra features they bring with them. People will be able to get the most benefit from messy desktops.
If you're looking for the experience most similar to fences, we recommend Nimi – although all of the apps on this list are viable alternatives to stardock fences.
Credit: Scanrail / Depositphotos
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About the author
(1552 articles published)
Dan joined MakeUseOf in 2014 and has been Partnerships Director since July 2020. Contact him for information on sponsored content, affiliate agreements, promotions, and other forms of partnership. You can also see him walking around the exhibit space at CES in Las Vegas every year. Say hello when you leave. Prior to his writing career, he was a financial advisor.
By Dan Price
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