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.
Wait, how can Stardock’s Fences be an alternative to Fences? Hear us out.
These days, Fences is a paid app. You can enjoy a 30-day free trial, but thereafter you’ll need to pay $13 for the app. If you want the full app, including Object Desktop, it will cost you $36.
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 Places is a desktop organizer app that lets users organize their desktops 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)
If you’re an Apple user, you will be familiar with Launchpad on macOS. Yes, you can try and customize the Start Menu in Windows 10 to partially replicate it, but having all your installed apps neatly displayed and available 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)
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.
Download: SideSlide (Free)
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 from the ViPad website.
Download: ViPad (Free)
6. 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 if the list of icons becomes too big for the container.
You can change the background and tile colors, show or hide individual icons, and drag and drop your content into your preferred order for each container.
Download: TAGO Fences (Free)
7. Virtual Desktops
We know some of you try to avoid third-party apps wherever possible, so we’ll also drop in the native Windows 10 Virtual Desktops feature.
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, 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.
Want to get the feel of Mac’s infamous Dock straight from your Windows? You can successfully do that with RocketDock, the free app from PolyVector that makes your Windows similar to the Dock of Mac OS X Aqua.
After downloading and installing the app, RocketDock will transform your desktop into a Mac-like minimalist UI. Moreover, it is pretty lightweight at the same time, sitting just at 11 MB.
You can tweak the settings from the Dock itself, as the app gives you a separate icon for the settings menu.
Download: RocketDock (Free)
Another free app on our list, the Rainmeter is an open-source desktop customization that helps you display user-generated customizable desktop widgets or applets known as “skins”.
Don’t worry though; you can always download and install new skins, known as “suites”. Moreover, apart from various skins and themes, the app also displays information such as CPU, RAM, network, battery power, RSS feeds, pictures, and so on.
To get the most out of Rainmeter, you can check out our complete guide on creating custom Windows desktop icons with Rainmeter.
Download: Rainmeter (Free)
Do You Need a Fences Alternative for Windows 10?
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.
However, some users will still love the extra features that they bring. People will messy desktops will be able to extract the most benefit.
If you’re looking for the most Fences-like experience, we recommend Nimi—though all the apps on this list are viable Stardock Fences alternatives.
Image Credit: scanrail/Depositphotos