Fences Pro: New ways to conquer clutter

The premium version of the free icon organizer Fences adds a round of much-requested features, including flexible rules that automatically deposit an icon into a specific fence.

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
Fences Pro now lets you create default rules for automatically-installed icons. (Credit: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

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. Right-click on a fence to begin sorting a fence's constituent icons by criteria such as date and how often you've used it. Fences Pro also automatically snaps restore point pictures at intervals (the program captures a daily snapshot by default.) Being able to ghost a fence until you mouse over it is a cosmetic tweak that the premium version allows.

Stardock tells us that more customizations are on their way in Pro, to add individuals images, logos, and textures to your fences.

Stardock Impulse
At launch, Stardock's Impulse app is the only download portal for Fences Pro). (Credit: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

In addition to the sometimes convoluted rules section in Fences is the pain point of having to download Fences Pro through Stardock's download application manager, Impulse, itself an extra app to download. Stardock initially released versions of the free Fences beta app this way, and we like to think they turned Fences 1.0 into a standalone download based solely on our complaints (yeah, right). We definitely don't appreciate having to download Impulse again just to get our app--and we're pretty sure that existing Fences users who want to upgrade won't particularly enjoy going that route either.

Solutions like Fences and Fences Pro aren't everyone's cup of tea. Some people have perfected using folders; others eschew every trace of desktop clutter and rely on an app launcher instead.

Yet for those open to Fence's brand of corralling your desktop icons, Fences Pro is the long-promised way to garner more control within the Fences ecosystem. Do you need it? No, of course not. The free version, even with its ticks, is robust enough to help clean house. Having said that, the Pro version's feature set answers many of our druthers.

Fences Pro is also available bundled into Stardock's Object Desktop, a customization suite, for $49.95.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.