NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2011
Good Fences Make Good Desktops
(Apologies to Robert Frost)

By Joe Asling, Columnist,
Monterey Bay Users Group – PC, California June 2011 issue,
mbug-pc newsletter
Jhasling (at) comcast.net (click to email author)

I like a neat desktop. In XP, I would right-click on the desktop to get a context menu, then click New/Folder and name it “Internet” or “Utilities” or whatever. I would open it and fill it with shortcuts to all the applicable programs. This way, any program (or other file) I needed was two double-clicks away. But in Windows 7, when you create a new folder, it is a nasty double-columned Windows Explorer folder, and if you accidentally click in the left column, you lose all your nice shortcuts (you can get them back with the left arrow in the upper corner, but...). So I needed another way to organize icons.

Now, the Start Menu in W7 is an improvement. You can right-click on any program icon and select “pin to Start Menu” or “pin to toolbar.”

The programs you use all the time (Internet browser, mail client) can sit on the toolbar and be up in one click, and programs you use frequently are a click of the Start button (the circle with the windows flag in the lower left-hand corner) away. You can customize how the Start menu and the toolbar look by right clicking on the toolbar or Start button and clicking on “Properties.”

The best thing about the W7 Start Menu is that each program you have used has a little right-pointing arrow at the right side; hover the mouse arrow over it and you will see, and can open, the files you have recently opened with that program–admirable!

OK, now to the fences. There are files I don’t use all the time (backup program, scanner software, manuals for hardware I haven’t played with a lot yet) but don’t want to go digging for in Windows Explorer. Stardock makes a free program called “Fences” http://www.stardock.com/products/fences/).

Essentially, it creates shaded areas on the desktop into which you can drag shortcuts, just like with XP’s folders. When you first install it, there are some wizards you can use to configure your fenced areas, or you can just go freeform. You can name them, resize them, and move them. You cannot minimize them as you could folders in XP, but–almost as good–just double-click on the desktop, and voilà, they disappear. Double-click again and, voilà, they come back. (Curiously, other desktop icons, such as the Recycle Bin, disappear also, but you can right-click on the icon and select “Exclude this Item from Fences’ quick-hide.”) You can do a lot of other stuff, like resize icons, from the context menu when you right-click on the desktop. So, happy fencing in Windows 7!

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