The 7 Best Free Alternatives to Fences for Windows Desktop Management
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In the same way that you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their physical desktop, you can also deduce a similar amount of information from a person’s Windows desktop.

If you’re living in a world of virtual clutter, it might be sensible to turn to a third-party desktop management app for help. The most well-known is Fences, but there are plenty of other options out there too.

Here are the best free alternatives to Fences for managing and organizing your Windows desktop.

1. Fences

fences version 1

Wait, how can Stardock’s Fences be an alternative to Fences? Hear me out.

These days, Fences is a paid app. You can enjoy a 30-day free trial, but thereafter you’ll need to pay $10 for the app. If you want the full app, including Object Desktop, it will cost you $50.

However, Fences hasn’t always been a paid app. Back when it was first making a name for itself, the app was free.

And the good news? You can still download that old, free version of Fences. Sure, it doesn’t have quite as many bells and whistles as the newest releases, but it still works well.

Download: Fences v1.01 (Free)

2. Nimi Places

nimi setup

Nimi Places is a desktop organizer software that lets users organize their desktop into customizable containers. Each container can hold files and folders from multiple locations, and each file or folder can be displayed as an icon or a thumbnail.

From an organizational standpoint, you can add colored labels and create rules for containers so specific actions will be performed at pre-defined times. Each container can use an individual theme, and you can use different size icons within each container to aid onscreen visuals. The containers also have a built-in media previewer.

The thumbnails are also worth looking at in more detail. Nimi Places doesn’t only have the ability to create thumbnails of images and videos—it can also work with Photoshop files, web page shortcuts, folder directories, and an assortment of productivity files.

Download: Nimi Places (Free)

3. XLaunchpad

If you’re an Apple user, you will be familiar with Launchpad on macOS. Yes, you can customize the Start Menu in Windows 10 to partially replicate it, but having all your installed apps neatly displayed with a single click is super convenient and a true time saver.

If you’re the type of person who has hundreds of app shortcuts on your desktop, give XLaunchpad a try. It brings the Mac Launchpad experience to Windows. Once installed, you’ll see a Rocket icon on your desktop. Click the icon, and you’ll see all your apps. You can finally delete all those app shortcuts from your desktop.

Download: XLaunchpad (Free)

4. SideSlide

sideshare app

People who’ve used Fences for Windows will like SideSlide. It is the Windows equivalent of shoving all the clutter on your physical desktop into your office drawers. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

The program centers around a Workspace. Within the Workspace, you can add containers, shortcuts, commands, URLs, RSS news feeds, pictures, reminders, notes, and a whole lot more.

All the content in your Workspace is readily available with just a single click. Just dock the app to the side of the screen, and it stays out of sight when not in use; hover your mouse over the dock and it will instantly expand.

Customization is SideShare’s priority. With a bit of tweaking, you can get the app working exactly the way you want. Check out the video above for a glimpse into what it’s capable of.

Download: SideSlide (Free)

5. ViPad

vipad app

Another computer desktop organizer for Windows 10, ViPad, also takes a container-based approach to organizing your desktop. However, it just uses one single container, with tabs along the top of the container’s window allowing you to jump between the different groups of content.

Tabs can hold apps and documents, web links, social media contacts, and even music. The tabs are fully searchable (just start typing to start looking), and can be rearranged to suit your needs using drag-and-drop.

Best of all, you can customize your tabs by downloading free Windows 10 icons 7 Icon Packs for Windows 10 for Every Taste 7 Icon Packs for Windows 10 for Every Taste Custom icon packs will give your Windows 10 system a unique feel. You can choose from hundreds of styles. We have picked several beautiful and unusual icon packs to customize Windows. Which one do you... Read More from the ViPad website.

Download: ViPad (Free)

6. TAGO Fences

tago fences

TAGO Fences is the most lightweight app on this list. If you just want a few core features without all the added extras you’ll probably never use, check it out.

It’s also arguably the most Fences-like experience, with the aforementioned Nimi Places coming in a close second.

The app lets you store multiple shortcuts and apps within each fence, and has a scroll bar in case the list of icons becomes too big for the container.

For each container, you can change the background and tile colors, show or hide individual icons, and drag and drop your content into your preferred order.

Download: TAGO Fences (Free)

7. Virtual Desktops

windows virtual desktops create new

We know some of you try to avoid third-party apps wherever possible, so we’ll conclude with the native Windows 10 Virtual Desktops feature 3 Virtual Desktop Tips You Need to Know in Windows 10 3 Virtual Desktop Tips You Need to Know in Windows 10 Here are three nifty tricks to keep in mind when using Windows 10 virtual desktops. Read More .

Windows 10 marks the first time multiple virtual desktops have become a mainstream feature. Used correctly, they can massively reduce the amount of clutter on your desktop. For example, if your desktop is a jumble of Steam shortcuts, college assignments, and fresh memes you found on Reddit, why not give each category its own desktop space?

To create a new desktop, click on the Task View icon on the taskbar, or press Windows + Tab. On the new window, click + New Desktop in the upper left-hand corner. To cycle between desktops, press Windows + Ctrl + Left Arrow (or Right Arrow), and to close a desktop, press Windows + Ctrl + F4.

The Best Fences Alternative for Windows 10

As we briefly alluded to earlier in the article, Windows 10 is potentially on the way to making all these apps redundant. You can now use the Start Menu to group shortcuts and apps into expandable folders (just drag one icon over the top of another to get started). If you pair the Start Menu with virtual desktops, you can argue apps like Fences are reaching the end of their life cycle.

If you’re looking for the most Fences-like experience, we recommend TAGO or Nimi.

If you would like to learn more about staying organized while using Windows, check out our articles on whether you should use Windows Mail or Outlook Mail vs. Outlook: Which Email App Is Right for You on Windows 10? Mail vs. Outlook: Which Email App Is Right for You on Windows 10? Microsoft offers two email clients on Windows 10: Mail and Outlook. What are the differences and which one should you choose? Read More and how to quickly share a file from Microsoft Explorer 4 Ways to Quickly Share a File From Windows Explorer 4 Ways to Quickly Share a File From Windows Explorer There are lots of ways to share files and folders with other people. Have you considered Windows Explorer as a file sharing tool? Read More .

Explore more about: Computer Maintenance, Organization Software, Virtual Desktop, Windows 10.

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  1. Steven
    May 10, 2019 at 12:38 am

    What's Windows?

  2. Disgusting
    December 31, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    This list perfectly indicates what is wrong with makeuseof.com Even in 2017 this list was out of date. Today, in the last day of 2018 it is equally bad.

    1. Yeah, let's recommend people use the original free Fences, it's not like the OS it was designed for is unsafe and insecure because it no longer recievess security updates, or the fact that this program will cause errors on anything newer.

    2. Ah, good 'ol Nimi, Fences added it's particular file explorer abilities rather late, namely because that's not what fances is used for. You like traveling by motorcycle? how about this stationary cycle, same thing right?

    3. Can't get enough of that great Gnome 3.0 desktop everybody is criticizing on Linux? how about that great windwow 8/10 start screen? Want more? why not install an older insecure copy of windows 7 and try Xlaunchpad? What, it even works on win 8 and 10, great.

    4 & 5. Again, made for versions of windows that weren't being actively supported even when this article was made.

    6. Hey, look, a program that hasn't received an update since 2013 and which can no longer be found on the developers own website.

    7. Because the author has never actually used Stardock Fences in his entire life.

    • Bob
      February 21, 2019 at 7:17 pm

      You are one angry elf!

  3. dragonmouth
    September 25, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    To clean up your messy Windows desktop, DON'T save everything (bookmarks, apps, shortcuts, documents, downloads, etc.) to the Desktop. Save them to their appropriate folders.

    "Windows 10 marks the first time multiple virtual desktops have become a mainstream feature."
    You mean mainstream feature in Windows because Linux has had virtual desktops for many years.

    • Magnus
      August 17, 2018 at 7:55 am

      Dragonmouth,

      The trouble is that there is merely just:

      Desktop
      Documents
      Downloads
      Music
      Pictures
      Videos

      For some inexplicable reason, MS has yet to ever permit us the ability to create and manage our own main file directories (e.g. folders under "This PC"). Forcing us to dump the odds that don't quite actually fit anywhere, into any one or more of these, creating an absolute chaotic mess. And with no real solution in sight.

      Devs do it to, just look at your not-actually-just Documents folder. And that's because of MICROSOFT'S oversight, their not even just giving them their own main folder to dump whatever in (so our ACTUAL Documents weren't lumped in with their stuff).

      And, you can also nip in the bud the thought of simply just adding new folders into Local Disc (C:) outright, because there are a fair few things that CANNOT be put there, at least not without your then having to deal with constantly furnishing Admin privileges, and other prompts, to add or modify or remove contents from within this directory (which is why we have the others in the first place, however woefully inadequate they now are). Who wants to deal with that?

      And, so, we resort to Desktop. And, so, Desktop is a chaotic mess.

      Frankly, Windows needed a legitimate overhaul (it also sorely needs to clean up its Registry, push for a break away from it outright by app/game devs even, going forward, and to finally embrace fully PORTABLE applications. But I've digressed). Instead, we got Vista, 7, 8.8.1 and now 10, with all of the same old problems (and a great many new ones besides). Because... Microsoft really doesn't care about anything but market share and shareholder profit. End-user experience can and routinely does hang. And it's a damn shame.

      It's also a shame that we're FORCED to resort it its use in the first place, for a myriad of reasons and causes (in my case: PC Gaming. Linux emulation is getting better but it's still not adequate for a simple, smooth, "just play!" experience yet. Salient point being, if there hadn't been a slew of shady backroom dealings to FORCE gamers onto just Windows and to a lesser extent OSX, I wouldn't still be on Windows. Because I otherwise have absolutely no need at all, for Windows).

      • dragonmouth
        August 17, 2018 at 10:11 pm

        "there are a fair few things that CANNOT be put there, at least not without your then having to deal with constantly furnishing Admin privileges"
        Back in the Dark Ages, when I was still using MS products (Win 3.1-WinXP), one had no problems with creating a new folder and its maintenance. I guess MS has decided to be more restrictive since then.

        "push for a break away from it outright by app/game devs even"
        The Registry is too ingrained in the Windows world for it to be gotten rid off. It would require the re-write of ALL software running under Windows. There was good justification for the implementation of the Registry, no matter how misguided it was. What existed prior to Registry was far worse. It was called "DLL Hell" and it was. Every third party software developer got to choose which DLLs he would use for his program. Even when two programs used the same DLL, there was no guarantee that it was the same version of that DLL. And it was the end user who had to reconcile the differences.

        "in my case: PC Gaming. Linux emulation is getting better but it's still not adequate"
        I am a Linux user but I am not a gamer so I wouldn't know the problem first hand. However, in the last couple of years some steps were taken to remedy this. First and foremost, Steam OS, a Linux distro, was developed specifically for gaming. Also, quite a few Windows games have been ported to Linux. How effective those efforts were/are, I am not in a position to evaluate. Some say they were good, some say not good enough.

        I assume you googled "gaming on Linux".