Fences 3.0 review

Martin Brinkmann
May 20, 2016

Fences 3.0 is the latest version of the popular commercial program for Windows that removes clutter from the desktop by adding manual and automated management options to it.

There are two types of computer users out there when it comes to the desktop of the PC: those who keep it in pristine condition and don't put any files or shortcuts on it, and those who use it as the main location for downloads, shortcuts, files and folders.

You have probably seen desktops in the past that overflow with icons, folders and files placed on them making it very hard to keep an overview of everything on it.

Fences helps the second group of computer users by improving manageability of all those shortcuts, files and folders that are on the desktop.

What's great about it is that it can do so automatically directly after installation, but that it gives users who want full control over the process manual options to do the same.

Fences 3.0

Fences are independent folders on your desktop that you can place shortcuts, files or folders in. If you use the automated option that Fences suggests after installation you will end up with the folders programs, folders and files & documents afterwards on your desktop.

The application has sorted all items found on the desktop into one of the folders automatically with the exception of the Recycle Bin.

All icons work exactly like before and you can move them around using drag and drop as you see fit. You can also rename them or delete them just like before, and may move them out of a fence as well.

The program takes care of screen resolution changes by preserving the desktop layout automatically, and will also move all fences to any new primary monitor that you connect to the computer. You may change both options though in the program settings.

A folder, or fence which is synonymous, can be moved around as well and when you do so, all icons in it move with it.

Additionally, you may configure rules that define how new files, folders or shortcuts are handled that land on the desktop.

Right-click on any fence and select organize from the menu. You find options to make that fence the default for all new icons, but can also set it as the default for specific types of items that are placed on the desktop.

For instance, you could make one folder the default for images, another for documents, and a third for program shortcuts.

The advantage of these rules is that you don't have to sort new items manually into fences when they are placed on the desktop.

Fences customization options

Fences lets you define the order in which items appear by right-clicking on a fence and selecting the sort fence by option.

You may select one of the preset sort orders, say by name, modification date or frequency of use, or use a custom sort order which gives you full control over the placement of icons in that fence.

Another option that you have is to change the opacity of individual fences. You can set it to 0% for instance which hides them on the desktop and displays them only when you hover the mouse cursor over them.

You may also click on the title of any fence to roll it up so that only its title is displayed. All icons of the fence are displayed when you move the mouse over its area though.

Another useful feature is called quick hide. Simply double-click on a blank spot on your desktop to toggle the visibility of all fences. Double-click anywhere and all fences are hidden, and when you do it again, they are displayed again.

Customization options don't end there though. If you open the settings of the program, you find additional options to customize fences.

One option that you have for instance is to set different background styles and colors for fences individually.

The customization screen lists other features that Fences supports. Here is a short overview of some of them:

  • Folder Portals display contents of a folder directly on the desktop. So, instead of just moving the root folder to a fence, you would have access to all files and folders of that root folder instead.
  • Desktop Pages allows you to access multiple screens of icons by grabbing and pulling the edge of the screen.
  • Layout Snapshots are created automatically but you can create a new snapshot at any time manually in the settings. Previews and restore options are provided.
  • Rules allow you to define rules for the automatic placement of icons on the desktop. Fences ships with several rules based on types, names, time or file attributes, and you may add your own set of rules to the selection.

Fences 3.0

The new version of Fences introduces several new features to the application.

Next to roll up and navigating the folder structure from within a fence, users get support for high DPI monitors and Windows 10, and an option to blur the wallpaper behind fences on the Windows 10 operating system.

Closing Words and verdict

Fences is an excellent program that helps users bring order into a cluttered desktop. It is specifically designed for situations where the desktop is overcrowding with icons, files and folders, but may be useful even to users who keep the desktop clean and tidy.

Obviously, it is of lesser use if you use the Windows Taskbar and Start Menu exclusively for launching programs and opening files/folders, and keep your desktop tidy.

Author Rating
4 based on 27 votes
Software Name
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USD 9.99
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  1. Peter Fry said on December 18, 2021 at 9:38 am

    In Windows 11, I have to keep re-activating Fences 3. Used it for years. Wouldn’t be without it. The malfunction needs attention.

  2. Peter Fry said on December 18, 2021 at 9:37 am

    Since moving on to Windows 11, I have to keep re-activating Fences 3. Used it for years. Wouldn’t be without it. But this malfunction needs attention.

  3. Anonymous said on April 4, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    do not buy fence as of mar2020

    it still lacks one of the most important feature

    when it has focus on the desktop, instead of opening on top of any other opened app
    it opens behind any of them, if i want to open fence, of course, i want to see its contents
    now, you have to close or minimize any app on the desktop or else you cannot even see the fence content

    it is a fatal flaw and render fence useless totally
    it took more mouse clicks to do this, especially with a lot of opened app on desktop
    then to just open file explorer and look at the location directly

    this has been reported for some time and the devs dont seems to be bothered
    you have been warned

  4. sumit said on June 5, 2019 at 4:09 am


    SEE SCREENSHOT OF MY DESKTOP = hxxp://prntscr.com/nxq6dn

  5. Lennart said on July 28, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    Nice product but don’t expect to get any response from the company if you have issues. And you cannot move the license to a new computer even though it says so on their website. Stay away!

    1. Anonymous said on April 4, 2020 at 2:00 pm


      it still lacks one of the most important feature

      when it has focus on the desktop, instead of opening on top of any other opened app
      it opens behind any of them, if i want to open fence, of course, i want to see its contents
      now, you have to close or minimize any app on the desktop or else you cannot even see the fence content

      it is a fatal flaw and render fence useless totally
      it took more mouse clicks to do this, especially with a lot of opened app on desktop
      then to just open file explorer and look at the location directly

      this has been reported for some time and the devs dont seems to be bothered
      you have been warned

  6. Anonymous said on September 4, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Stardock, fix your s***. Fences still causes laggy desktop for many users.
    I love fences and am a paying customer of Start10 and Fences, but the laggy response is terrible.
    – double-clicking icons on desktop produces several second delay for some users (initial highlight takes 1/2 second, actual launch of double-clicked icon takes 5+ seconds, even just opening “This PC”).
    – moving fences is laggy/choppy

    Again nice product, but debating removing it since the laggy behavior started.

  7. George said on November 4, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Interesting, I will take a look. Is it system-friendly though? Light on system resources? I mean, do Fences users experience crashes, weird behaviour, File Explorer issues etc?

    I’m already using the mighty Directory Opus. Fences is different of course but I have to think twice before installing another program that “overrides” Windows File Explorer.

  8. Shane Moore said on October 20, 2016 at 7:09 am

    When using Fences 3.0 on Windows 10. How can I set my fence window to stay on top when I open it. I have mine set at the top of my monitor of course hidden out of the way so when i roll my mouse cursor over one of them they open up, but if I have another window open on the desktop my fence I just rolled down is behind it. How can i set this fence to stay on top of everything so I can use this easier. Love the program but this little problem is driving me crazy. I may have missed some option but ive looked the settings over and over and cant find a stay on top for anything. Please help. Hope i explained the issue where it is understandable.

  9. S2015 said on May 24, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Personally, disabling the install of Start10 will speed up the install of Fences 3.01; and would also help avoid potential software conflict. See the following imgs for future references:

    * http://i.imgur.com/FXUU711.png
    * http://i.imgur.com/Yixjfk9.png

    Learn more how to perform a custom installation of a 3rd-party download@ https://removeunwantedprograms.wordpress.com/2016/05/21/how-to-uninstall-origin-mac-win-10/ and this will also help maintain Windows performance and, keep foistware at bay.

    Just slow down your mouse and enjoy the web. Take care. :)

  10. Reggie said on May 24, 2016 at 7:04 am

    I’ve been using the freeware 1.0.1 version of Fences for years now (http://www.oldversion.com/windows/fences-1-0-1). It’s one of the first things I install on my comp. Years later and it still works well. Worth a try if you don’t want to, or are unable to, shell out for the latest version.

  11. tek said on May 21, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    I found fences an interesting program while it was in Beta and then purchased it. I’m not one to upgrade versions for the sake of it but some of the new features in version 2 were definitely going to be useful in the way I worked. Version 3 was offered to me the other day but this is mainly enhanced for Windows 10 users but I still decided to upgrade it and I am not disappointed.
    Sure it isn’t a necessary program for all as it does depend on how you wish to access your programs etc. Personally I have never much cared for the start menu and have used explorer taskbar toolbars for years which has proved pretty reliable.
    I hate an empty desktop after all what is the point of having an empty folder. Remember the desktop is merely a folder and window to where you want to get to and in truth I need quick access to my programs so Fences is an ideal companion for the way I work. Incidentally, re Richard’s comment – “If a Desktop is overloaded with icons system performance can be negatively affected. ummm I don’t entirely agree with you sir. If the desktop is used as I believe it was intended to be, then even a few hundred shortcuts wouldn’t have much impact as they are 1 to 3 kb each. Sure, the less you have the less the cpu and gpu has to work so it makes sense to be prudent regarding how the desktop is arranged. I know people drop large files and entire folders on their desktops because they either don’t know any better or simply don’t care, it is this that can and does degrade system performance. I see this kind of thing all the time as I fix Pc’s for a living.
    Anyway I digress, Fences is a useful piece of software for those who want to organize the way they work from the desktop…Period.

  12. Steve said on May 21, 2016 at 12:18 am

    Used this product awhile ago on XP, always was calling home.
    Starting using True Launch Bar on Windows7 , and never looked back.
    But people using Windows 10 don’t really care about privacy, so this might just be the right program.

  13. DMCA said on May 20, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    This article has been COPIED in two other places.

  14. Romek said on May 20, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    Long, long time ago, in Windows XP era I’ve got a small folder (directory) on desktop with a lot of program shortcuts in it. I moved icon of this folder to edge of screen and it magically converted into panel (bar). I set it to autohide, changed icon size, set “always on top” and this way I had easy access to my files and desktop was in perfect order. I could have even three such bars, on each screen edge (one for software links, one for documents and one for files I was currently working on…
    I wish I could do this same now, on W10. I’m using old Rocket Launcher to achieve this but why use extra software if this was native to OS?

    1. Jojo said on May 22, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Exactly what I’ve been doing on my WIN XP till a week ago… Then I’ve installed Win 8.1 and guess what?
      One of the 1st things I’ve done was move my old shortcuts folder on to the start bar, for quick reference …
      It’s actually the folder from my old WIn XP drive… Some still usable and some I update manually, and I’m using RocketDock as well!!! [took a bit but customized it too :) ]
      Hmm…. as for using a shortcut folder on another OS other than XP version – NO PROBLEM :)
      The very 1st thing i did was install ClassicShell – and then Kaboom ;)
      My familiar looking environment, benefits of new OS installed with advantages of previous OS good long old customization FTW :)
      Hope it works out for u :)

      Few things that haven’t got fixed well – some progs won’t load on startup, even though i set it to, even by adding it manually to a startup folder… [might has to do with the fact I have some portable versions on some…]
      Sometimes some progs won’t actually show it’s window when I click em…. not sure why… might be same reason, but it’s disturbing….
      And another thing I forgot… Anyhow, GLHF

  15. Yuliya said on May 20, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    I always saw those on other people’s screenshots. Always wondered what they were using, but never bothered to ask. Nice.

    I will still continue in using the Start menu and taskbar to launch my programs though, as I have no icons on Desktop and I usually use it as temporary workspace and downloads folder. Also I usually have many windows open and rarely get to see the desktop.

  16. Ann said on May 20, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    Just was looking for a fenses replacement, as this is now payed and the last time i’ve used it, it came with a launcer (which i hate)
    and installed nimi places. allmost does the same, but you can’t drag drop :( and in so need to make a special folder where you can drop the files and shortcuts in. but it does the trick.

  17. Norbert Lars said on May 20, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    i`ve used fences 1.0 for a long time ( free version) , after this dont remember why i needed for w10 fences 2.0 which covers all i need…

    i see no reason for 3.0 :)

    1. warrinj said on May 20, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Agreed, in spades. Only problem is losing the executable from a disk failure or new PC and then trying to find a copy of the 1.0 installer.

  18. Moreman said on May 20, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    wow look at all the “elite” kiddie with “clean” desktops. must fell special eh fellas?
    it’s easy when all you do on pc is watching pr0n and playing vidja gaemz.

    try doing some actual work, and let me know how your pc looks afterwards.

    1. wrongsideofbed said on May 21, 2016 at 4:14 am

      Yeah those elitists and their clean desktops are just too much aren’t they? My desktop is messy because i do important stuff on my important computer in my important house,actual work! I’m with you Moreman,you are doing actual stuff because your desktop is messy,not masturbating over japanese game porn like these clean desktop elites. Messy deskop workers are awesome

    2. Dave said on May 20, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      This is exactly it. The desktop is a convenient dumping ground for things you need temporarily, or for things that aren’t filed yet.

      Practically all applications – regardless of age – provide a link to open and save files on the desktop. That isn’t true for other folders.

      Having zero items on the desktop is no big deal. There’s an option to turn off desktop icons, making the desktop nothing more than a quickly accessible folder.

      There does have to be something a bit wrong with someone to go to a review about Fences, jump to the comments and add a new one proclaiming with superiority “I don’t use desktop icons”.

      1. RichInIowa said on May 21, 2016 at 3:02 pm

        So right. Astounding how often the comments section of an article here is hijacked by those who have no interest in the subject but feel compelled to tell us all about what’s going on in their lives.
        My husband loves Fences so I’ll be sure to pass this on. Thanks for the review.

    3. richard said on May 20, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      Chacun à son goût.

  19. oz said on May 20, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks for the review, Martin! :)

    I’m like “micro”, who posted above, and can’t stand clutter, so I maintain a computer desktop with zero icons. All files and folders are kept orderly through manual maintenance, which is my preferred way of handling them. My spouse, on the other hand, is just the opposite and has countless icons, shortcuts, files, and folders all over the desktop and in every other conceivable computer location.

  20. Montague Brench said on May 20, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Can’t understand why this is required; I use ‘AutoHideDesktopIcons’ which shows icons for a user set period and then hides them. The Icons may be brought back by one click and re-hidden by a middle click. Simple and works for me.

  21. Richard said on May 20, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Many if not most users are confused by computer file systems. They often lose files they save via an application. If they put files on the Desktop they might locate them in the future. Additionally users like having application shortcuts in an easy to find location, hence we see additional Desktop clutter.

    I agree with your method leaving the Desktop unencumbered by any icon, but we are in a tiny minority.

    If a Desktop is overloaded with icons system performance can be negatively affected.

  22. micro said on May 20, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    my desktop has zero items. I even hide the recycle bin.
    I’m always wondering why people have tons of things on the desktop..

    1. Daleos said on April 27, 2017 at 1:34 am


      My laptop’s desktop has nothing on it because all I use it for is Word, Excel, Outlook and the Internet. There’s lots of files on it but they’re all in nice, tidy folders.

      My Desktop on the other hand has Fences on it because I work on many different projects concurrently. Each project might use a range of applications and/or need to pull information from a variety of on-disk, on-network or online sources. Fences makes it easy for me to logically create spaces where associated things can sit next to each other. Sure you can do this with special folders full of shortcuts but Fences is neater. Also help that Fences can display folders directly on the desktop. Easier to drag/drop between two folders when both are permanently on the desktop at all times.

      I’m not saying Fences is the solution for everyone’s needs. In fact it doesn’t suit mine in my low application use case but for my high use device it’s been very useful indeed.

    2. Kin said on May 20, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      I use the desktop, and fences, to quickly group together apps I use regularly for certain tasks. I.e. A fence for images editing/optimization softwares, a fence for games, a fence for internet(includes vpn, browsers, ftp program and such) etc.

      It is way quicker than doing the equivalent in the start menu, that becomes so cluttered with time that finding anything in there is impossible, and many times you even forget you had already installed an app for doing task X. And using the windows search box to start a program is useless when you don’t actually remember the name of that image optimization software you’d like to start :P

      Not using the desktop is like having this huge playground and not doing anything with it. Yes, having big documents there could reduce performance because it’s loaded in memory, but 20-30 or even 50 shortcuts? Sorry to burst the urban myth, but it does nothing bad performance wise. This ain’t the Win95 era anymore.

      Loooooove fences.

      1. richard said on May 20, 2016 at 5:09 pm

        Many Windows systems are cheap, underpowered systems with inadequate video resources. So…

        You are incorrect about size of the files being the determinant for icons on the desktop negatively affecting system performance. It is the actual number because each one has to be drawn independently. I have seen systems with no available space on the desktop that are terribly slow. Once the icons are dropped into a few desktop folders the system perks up.

      2. Pants said on May 20, 2016 at 4:15 pm

        “Horses for courses”, Kin. Everyone has what works for them. I’m like micro – my desktop is empty (but I do have one clickable rainmeter item. I will ignore the garbage that spewed from Moreman below (yes I watch goat porn, no I do not play games, yes I do a tonne of work). I actually always have four or five programs open and displayed. I often have ten. Depends what I am doing. Dual screen, btw, and I use UltraMon so each monitor has its own taskbar, so the main monitor doesn’t get too cluttered with open apps.

        My taskbar is dragged taller, to fit two icons. The “quick launch” folder, and the icons are tiny, and currently holds 42 icons for instant launch. My system tray has 20 items in it also for instant launch, plus the clock of course. The task bar area left can hold 10 items for open windows (the other monitor’s task bar only holds open windows). One of the items in my system tray is SyMenu, which holds 350+ programs (all my portable software, including ones in my quick launch/system tray) and they are all three clicks away – click 1 to pop up SyMenu, click 2 to select the folder, click 3 to launch – its very organized and virtually committed to memory, no need to search. Another item in my system tray is “Everything”. I find I can use that to locate files/folders/programs within split seconds. The monitors, btw, are matching 1680×1050 – the next monitors I buy will be even higher res. Between the instantly always in my view (taskbar’s quick launch and system tray), I do not often need to go to SyMenu or the very few programs in my Start Menus – you can’t get much faster than no other actions required besides a single click – for over 60 programs. I also use “Clover” to add tabs to Windows Explorer – and I always have this open on my second monitor (usually at the forefront). On the clover taskbar I have pinned some shortcuts for programs, so again, even more space for single click access.

        Of course, the desktop can be handy, and at times I have pinned a few shortcuts to files I am working on. I never have windows maximized, so I find it easy to stick them on the very edge so I can see part of them to launch them. But I am a staunch believer in keeping the desktop clear of files and folders, and I “train” all my clients to do this. It’s pretty easy to show them the basic folders (downloads, documents, pictures, videos, and custom folders I may set up) and tell them to stick to those folders only for filing things away. I also teach them to structure folders/subfolders based on their business needs and not just dump everything in the root “library” – all my clients are tidy and organized and can find things. I do give them shortcuts tot hose folders though, on their desktops :)

        Sorry for the long ramble…

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