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How to Group and Organize Windows 10 Desktop Icons

Posted by Robert Hayes on April 10, 2019

A lot of us treat our Windows desktop as our go-to location to put files and folders. Every family photo, Word document, and receipt ends up cluttering that one poor overloaded screen. In part this is the fault of the operating system; the Desktop appears first in just about every file save dialog and is an incredibly handy place to stow “just a couple of files”. Unfortunately that couple of files quickly escalates into a couple dozen or couple hundred or couple…you get the idea. Your desktop quickly ends up looking like a teenager’s bedroom floor.

It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Organizing your Windows desktop mess is a lot easier than cleaning up real-life clutter, and you don’t even have to stop using the Desktop as your default organizing space. In this article, I will show you how to get your Windows desktop organized so that it’s clutter-free, efficient, and useful.

(Just need a short-term fix for a crowded desktop without doing a major reorganization? You might try our tutorial on how to shrink your desktop icons, but that’s only a temporary fix.)

Windows has some built-in features for organizing files and folders that might be all you need. For a more robust solution, there are some third-party packages which you can use to group desktop icons into specific categories. I’ll look at both of these solutions.

Organizing the Desktop Icons With Folders

The first and most straightforward way of getting your desktop under control is to use folders. Adding new folders to the desktop is simple. Right-click on the desktop, and select “New,” then “Folder” from the dropdown to create an empty folder.

It’s a good idea to name the folder when you make it, but if you forget, you can always right-click on the folder and select “Rename” to enter a name for it. Your desktop will become a mysterious place if all your shortcuts are sorted into “New Folder,” “New Folder (1),” “New Folder (2),” etc.

Now you can drag and drop the appropriate desktop shortcuts into your new folder. That will remove the icons from the desktop, but you can always open the folder to access the shortcuts within. You could add any number of folders to the desktop for alternative shortcut categories such as applications, utilities, multimedia software, and so on. Then you could move the icons into the folders as in the snapshot below.

desktop icons

If you have a lot of files on your desktop, then getting them organized can be difficult, especially if they start overlapping. One useful technique is to use the built-in sorting functions of Windows 10 to sort your files by type. This will put all the files of one type together, so that for example if you have a “Movies” folder, doing a sort by type will put all the video files in one place, where you can group-select and drag them to your “Movies” folder. Just right-click on the desktop, click Sort by -> Item type.

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Third-Party Tools

Nimi Places

The built-in folder system for Windows is simple and effective, but it isn’t feature-rich. One feature you might want to have is the ability to see inside folders without having to open them, just to remind you whats in there.  you put inside. You can create folders like that using a third-party tool called Nimi Places. That’s a portable software package which you can use to add folder groups to the desktop. Open this page and click “Download Nimi Places” and save the executable. Then click on the .exe file and select “Extract Nimi Places” to launch the software.

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Nimi Places launches with four premade container groups for Applications, Games, Documents, and Downloads. You can copy and paste desktop shortcuts into those boxes by right-clicking an icon and selecting “Copy.” Then right-click inside one of the container boxes and click “Paste” to add the copied shortcut to it.

You can also drag the containers to re-position them on the desktop. Or, if you want them to stay put so you don’t drag them around by accident, just right-click a container and select the “Lock” option. The containers will stay fixed on the desktop. You can unlock them the same way, by right-clicking the container and selecting “Unlock.”

To add your own group containers to the desktop, click the Nimi Places icon in the system tray. That will open the window as shown in the screenshot below. Click the “+” button at the bottom right to make a new container. Then click “Place,” and then select one of your desktop shortcut folders. That will add the folder container to the desktop, and you can open the shortcuts it includes from there.

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You can resize the containers by clicking dragging their borders with the mouse. Note that you can also scroll through the contents of larger containers with a scroll bar: click the right of a container and then drag its scroll bar up and down.

To edit the containers’ titles, first right-click on the title bar at the top of the container box. Then select the “Rename container” option, which opens the text box below. Enter an alternative title for the container there.

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The software has some other customization options for the containers. To see them, right-click a container and select “Appearance” and “Theme” from the submenu to select those settings. This will let you choose some alternative backgrounds for the containers.

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ToolBox

ToolBox is another third-party package you can use to group your desktop icons. You can download the program from here. Click tbox285.zip to save its Zip. Then open the Zip folder in File Explorer and click “Extract all” to extract the folder. When you’ve extracted the Zip file’s contents, you can run ToolBox from there.

Now you can set up new icon boxes for the desktop by right-clicking the ToolBox icon on the system tray and selecting “New Toolbox.” That adds a box to the desktop as you can see in the screenshot below. Drag desktop icons into the box or boxes to organize them.

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To further customize those desktop icon boxes, right-click one and select “Toolbox Properties” from the contextual menu. That opens the window in the snapshot directly below. There, you can resize the boxes, alter their colors, and apply new effects to them.

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To resize the icon boxes, drag the bars under “Window & Tile Size.” Drag the “Rows” bar to expand or contract the height of the box. Alternatively, you can drag the “Columns” bar right or left to alter the width.

You can alter the colors of the boxes by clicking the box next to “Color.” That will open a color palette from which you can choose other colors. Or you can add some background wallpaper to the box by selecting “Bitmap” from the drop-down menu and pressing the “…” button beside the Background Bitmap path box.

You can include the title at the top the box by clicking the “Title Bar Visible” check box (or hide the title by unchecking it). Enter new titles for the box in the “Toolbox Name” text box at the top of the window.

When you’re done, click the “Apply Changes” button to apply any newly selected settings.

The Toolbar Control Panel lists all your icon boxes. You can right-click a box and select “Toolbar Control Panel” to open the window shown below. The “Toolboxes” tab lists the desktop icon boxes. You can a delete a box by right-clicking its title there and selecting “Delete Toolbox.” Click “Settings” > “Save all toolbox settings” to quickly save all the shortcuts, effects, and desktop positions of the icon boxes.

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In addition, you can also set up boxes that include system tray shortcuts. The Toolbar Control Panel includes a “Wizards” menu at the top. Select that to open a small menu where you can set up a system folder, drive, and megapack shortcut box.

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With Windows 10 folders, Nimi Places, and ToolBox, you can now effectively group your desktop icons and organize the shortcuts. You might also look at app launchers as a way to clear up a cluttered desktop, as covered in our How to add new app Launchers to Windows 10 article.

Want more tutorials to improve your Windows 10 experience?

Check out our tutorial on how to change your volume with hotkeys on Windows 10.

Learn about error checking your memory on Windows 10.

Having issues with Windows Update? See our article on fixing common Windows 10 update problems.

Tired of having to login to your desktop? We’ll show you how to auto-login to Windows 10.

Network not working right? We’ve got a tutorial on fixing network problems on Windows 10.

Can’t hide the taskbar? We’ll teach you how to hide the taskbar when you are running full-screen apps.

Use your clipboard a lot but need to clear it out? Here’s how to clean out your clipboard on Windows 10.

2 thoughts on “How to Group and Organize Windows 10 Desktop Icons”

Jan Neff-Sinclair says:
I am reading this article because I have found that Fences has become unusable. It was a great little app but they added so many “features” to it without the requisite support that I cannot use it with two monitors. It messed up my very carefully organized desktop.

When you go to their website, you learn that they don’t really have support for issues outside of money related ones like billing. You instead have to search their Forum pages for help with a search engine so rudimentary that posts with any of the words in your search string are listed; I had 23 pages to wade though. I gave up. It is faster to look for another app.

It is an inexpensive app now but when it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is.

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Mark says:
I installed Nimi Places based on your article. It looks good but in practice I found it too difficult to work with. 1. It crashed after a few minutes. 2. You cannot drag and drop items into the groups. 3. You cannot open folders within the framework – double-clicking the folder opens Explorer. 4. It doesn’t have a proper installer and you cannot uninstall it, only delete it and then you’re eternally left with a defunct startup app.
Reply
Cormac says:
I was having a similar problem with Nimi, plus I was also unable to find a way to uninstall it? However, I since discovered that I was able to disable it from appearing at startup, by going to ‘show hidden icons’ from the taskbar. Right-clicking on the Nimi container icon / Quick settings and unticking Automatic Startup.
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