Nothing plain about these Fences

Fences Pro builds many requested features on top of the publisher's free version, Fences. The original helps you corral your desktop icons into tidy, organized spaces on your desktop, and then rename, resize, and move them around at will. This premium version now lets you name a default folder in which all newly installed icons should appear--not just the Desktop. In addition, Fences Pro showcases a list of rules you can configure to deposit specific types of icons (images, music videos, etc.) into any "fences" you created. The icon installation rules worked well in our tests, saving … Read more

Fences Pro: New ways to conquer clutter

Desktop customizations developer Stardock is giving you a few more ways to conquer desktop clutter with the release of Fences Pro, a premium version of the free icon organizer Fences.

When we reviewed Fences this past October, and as we followed the app's beta development in the many preceding months, we appreciated how Fences let us flexibly create, reshape, and edit windows on our desktop where we store our (relatively few) desktop icons. Our chief complaint was that all new icons downloaded to the desktop by default. We wanted to apply rules that automatically place specific icons in the correct folders.

Fences Pro ($19.95) largely answers our request; or at least it tries to. Fences Pro's settings menu not only lets you name a default folder in which all newly installed icons should appear, it also showcases a list of rules you can configure to deposit specific types of icons (images, music videos, etc.) into any of your "fences." The icon installation rules worked well in our tests, saving pictures we downloaded from the Web to our specified "Pics" fence, and application shortcuts to "Programs."

In addition, you can organize icons based on name, time, and customized rules. As you tweak or create rules, you'll choose from options like "the icon's type" "is" or "is not" a program shortcut, virtual item, compressed file, executable, and so on. You may have to spend some trial-and-error time with the drop-down menus in order to make your rule watertight.

Rules aren't the only extra features to crop into Fences Pro.… Read more

The secret to a perfect desktop? Fences

When you look at your Windows desktop, what do you see? A neat and tidy display with a few judiciously picked icons, or a meaningless morass of files, folders, ancient pictures, and Web links that were dumped without logic and continue to steadily march across your computer screen? Stop me if this sounds familiar. Stop me again if the thought has crossed your mind to clean house on a dozen occasions in the last few years, but the prospect of sifting through the refuse has deterred you every time.

Happily, a pretty darn good solution is at hand.… Read more

Useful toolbar

ObjectBar is a customizable toolbar that allows users to add and remove various elements. We found it to be a nice addition to our Windows experience.

The toolbar itself can be customized with an assortment of themes and skins, and the ability to tweak the toolbar's contents means that the interface can be just about whatever a user wants it to be. However, the interface with which the user manages the toolbar could be better designed. It's easy enough to add and remove programs, but other functions, including changing themes and skins, aren't so intuitive. The program'… Read more

Animated potential

Putting the clumsier applications of animated wallpaper to shame, DeskScapes wields Windows Vista's 3D hardware acceleration to result in crisp, buoyant, sometimes photorealistic animated wallpaper in the .Dream format.

Dynamic wallpaper this nice is a visual extravagance, but one with a catch. You're welcome to use the three bundled deskscapes without charge for as long as you'd like. But the swaying grass and rippling water will pull you to the online gallery of publisher- and user-made motifs you can download for free or for a premium. This is where the app gets you--you can install all the … Read more

ObjectDock rocks

Power Downloader and I have talked about how useful RocketDock can be, and it is still is. But another excellent program dock to check out is ObjectDock, from Stardock. Besides providing a skinable and extensively customizable Mac-style dock, the free ObjectDock lets users replace the Windows taskbar completely.

Colorful and animated, ObjectDock is so customizable it's impressive. Not only can you choose your own icons to represent programs and documents, set the dock size and location, and configure icon behavior, but you can also set the dock to run faster and take up more RAM, or sacrifice the gloss … Read more

Power Downloader customizes his desktop

While Power Downloader was sifting through criminal case files recently, he received an e-mail from Kitty Kilobyte who had gone back to school. After telling him of her latest "impossible" assignments and new "amazing" friends she had made, Kitty had an interesting software request. Kitty wanted some way to make her computer stand out from the rest of her classmates. She figured, if she's the niece of a famous software superhero, it should show--perhaps even if it's just in her computer's interface.… Read more

Go beyond cosmetic changes with TweakVista

You might not believe me, but preparing paella is more complicated than using TweakVista.

Among the many criticisms of Windows Vista, one that even Microsoft's own engineers should agree upon, is that it's not easy to access essential system information. Stardock's TweakVista unifies all the bits and pieces that you might want to change under one circus tent, but TweakVista's interface is no chaotic circus.

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Multiplicity: Maximal home networking

Imagine a work space with three monitors standing side by side, each displaying a different work environment. E-mail and IM are pulled up on one monitor, Word processing is open on a second, and a spreadsheet graces the third. Now imagine the cursor flitting effortlessly between the screens, clicking, copying, and pasting from one to the other. One keyboard sits on the desk, and just one mouse.

This is no multimonitor setup; each screen here is controlled by its own computer. It isn't remote access software, either, since the controlling console is linked to the satellite computer. It's Multiplicity, and minus one rather large and glaring kink, it's pretty close to a multitasker's dreamware.… Read more