Two Very Cool Utilities

Today, I’m not going to focus on pressing business issues, Microsoft licensing, or the latest news from Citrix. Instead, I want to share a couple of software utilities that have made my computing world more pleasant. Both have free versions as well as “Pro” versions that cost a modest amount of money and give you more functionality. Both are Windows 7 compatible.

Managing Desktop Icons
First, I’m one of those users who puts a lot of icons on the desktop. I want my most frequently used programs (and even some of the less frequently used) right there where I can double-click them without having to navigate through the Start menu tree. (Yeah, I probably never entirely outgrew Windows for Workgroups v3.11 in that respect.) But the desktop can get, um, rather cluttered. Sometimes the icons don’t want to stay where I put them. I can use the “auto arrange” feature, but I don’t always like the way they get arranged.

I was delighted to discover “Fences” by Stardock. All you have to do is hold down the right mouse button and drag on your desktop to define an area, and a little context menu will pop up that says, “Create New Fence Here.” Click on that, and you’ve just created a defined area on your desktop that you can name, resize, drag to whatever position you want, and then fill with desktop icons just by dragging them inside the “fence” (see below – click to view larger picture):

"Fences" Screen Capture

Double-click anywhere on the desktop, and all the icons disappear for that nice, clean, uncluttered look. Double-click again and they come back. Create a “snapshot” of your current fence configuration, so that if things do get scrambled by a random cosmic ray, you don’t have to re-create everything from scratch. I love it!

Multiple Monitors
Second, I have become highly dependent on multiple monitors. My primary business computer is a Motion Computing LE1700 Tablet. I have docking stations in both my work office and my home office. When I dock it, my desktop is automatically spread across a large external monitor as well as the screen of the tablet itself. My multi-media studio PC at home has two widescreen monitors that are essential when I’m doing multi-track hard disk recording. My personal desktop PC has multiple monitors simply because I reached the point where I found a single monitor to be annoyingly limiting. But I was always annoyed by not having an easy way to have different desktop images on the different monitors.

The answer for me was “DisplayFusion” from Binary Fortress Software. DisplayFusion can do a number of cool things, including random “slide show” changes of your wallpaper, and multiple taskbars on your multiple monitors. But the key thing for me was that I finally had an easy way to put a different picture on each of my monitors.

DisplayFusion Example

You’ll notice that the two pictures aren’t the same size. The one on the right is the screen of my tablet, which is only 1024 x 768, whereas my external monitor is 1280 x 1024. DisplayFusion doesn’t care about the size mismatch.

And in case you’re curious, yes, I took both of those pictures. Both were taken last summer in the Mountain Loop Highway area of Washington State. The one on the left was one of many incredible views on the way from Barlow Summit to the old, abandoned mining town of Monte Cristo. The one on the right is of Perry Creek just above Perry Creek Falls – about 2 miles in and 3300 feet up on the Perry Creek – Mount Forgotten trail. Yes, I’m lucky to live in such an awesome part of the country.

But I’m sure you have some awesome pictures of your own, and now you know how to put them to use with multiple monitors and how to manage that desktop icon clutter.

2 replies
  1. Joe
    Joe says:

    I really like for organizing and giving especially WinXP machines a ‘fresh look’. It is a little buggy on some graphic cards, make sure your drivers are all the latestest before installing.


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  1. […] was also very pleased to discover that my two favorite Win7 utilities, “Fences” (also by Stardock) and “Display Fusion,” also still functioned […]

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