Iíll be honest upfront and say that my desktop was a real mess. During my off-time lately, Iíve been doing a lot of file maintenance over several different computers on the network and archiving backups to external drives. Then when it came time to work, I fell into the lazy habit of temporarily saving everything to my desktop with the intention of cleaning it all up later. I couldnít find the folders or files I needed when I needed them. I know Iím not the only one who faces this problem. Iíll also reveal that, going into this review, I didnít expect to find that Stardockís free desktop organizer, Fences, would be exactly what I wanted or precisely what I needed... boy, was I surprised!

Once installed, Fences gives the user the option of automatically doing its thing or to set things up manually themselves. Naturally, one can further customize the settings to their preference at any time, but I wondered how the software would manage to sort my mess out on its own. I have to hand it to Fences for getting all of my desktop files and shortcuts categorized quickly, and rather accurately I might add, divvied into groups. These virtual ďfencesĒ provide outlined or shaded boundaries around the organized icons to indicate different categories. The fences themselves are customizable in many ways, most notably color, transparency, location and size. I further customized my fences by renaming them and moving a few shortcut icons around to better suit my daily routine. The documentation says that users can create an unlimited number of fences, but I have found that six are plenty for me.

Now that Iíve been using the software for a few days, Iíve found that one of the features I appreciate more than I did initially is the scrollbar. When a fenced area contains more files than the viewable area reveals, a scrollbar appears. This can be fixed, or the user can choose to fade the scrollbar out of view entirely while that fence is inactive. This allows the user to resize fences to minimize clutter while keeping those vital files, folders and shortcuts close at hand.

Users will be pleased with the added ability to quickly hide all desktop icons by double-clicking the desktop. Revealing those hidden icons is as simple as giving it another double-click. Whatís more, users can quickly access their desktop and minimize all open windows by pressing the Windows key and the letter "D" together, and likewise, restore the windows they were working in by pressing that key combination a second time. All these features combined serve to enhance and reform the work-space into a functional, organized environment.

As I mentioned before, Fences is free for personal use so you donít really have anything to lose (except a bunch of chaotic clutter) by checking out their Tucows listing and giving it a whirl. In closing, Iíd also like to mention Stardock Fences Pro, which includes some neat additional features - like keeping your fences hidden until mouseover, automatically taking recovery snapshots of your custom layout, and the ability to sort icons within a fence by date, time, size, name, or the last time it was used - just to name a few. Though itís recommended for corporate and educational settings, Fences Pro is an inexpensive and effective tool even for personal use.