Organize the Windows Desktop

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BubbaMac, whose "messy Windows Desktop [has] all sorts of icons scattered all over the place," asked the Answer Line forum for help.

An out-of-control desktop is not a pretty sight. Nor is it a practical one. The document, folder, or shortcut you need is inevitably hidden behind an open window. And when you hold down the WINDOWS key and press d to minimize the windows and make the desktop visible, you still have trouble finding it amongst all the other icons.

I can recommend two remedies if your desktop is getting out of control: Either don't keep stuff there, or download and install Stardock's Fences. Both solutions are free.

The best way to keep your desktop clean is to not leave a lot of stuff on it. I tend to use it as sort of an extra temporary folder for files I will need handy in the very short term. Because the files are right there, in my face, I remember to either delete them or move them to someplace less annoying when I'm done with them. Most of the time, the desktop is near empty.

If you don't want to take that advice, go with Fences. This free program allows you to organize the stuff on your desktop by "fencing" off sections of it. For instance, you can have one section (the program calls them fences even though they're more like boxes) for application shortcuts, another for utilities, and another for documents.

You can name the fences, resize them, drag them across your desktop, and drag items into them. If you put more items into a fence than can be displayed, a scrollbar appears. If you double-click a blank spot on your desktop, all of your fences and everything else on the desktop--except open windows--disappear. Double-click again and they reappear.

Read the original forum discussion.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

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