26 August 2007

#35. Solutions for Slippery Shortcuts

Sometimes it’s the little irritations that get you – the small annoyances that can occasionally build up into one of those days when it seems nothing is going right. Like when the bar and grill where you hang out runs out of your favorite pie, the coffee is cold, and the waitress brings the wrong change.

None of that will happen at my Tool Bar & Grill. In fact, in my hangout I specialize in solving little problems and banishing small annoyances – for free!

My loyal readers know that I can be rather particular about my computer (some might call it anal retentiveness, but it’s all just part of my charm.) So of course I hate it when my carefully arranged shortcut icons suddenly go crazy and fling themselves all over the desktop. This can happen when I change the screen resolution, or start Windows in Safe mode. A newly installed program might wreak havoc on the desktop, or Windows might just decide it’s time for a change.

If you, too, are troubled by roving icons, take your pick from these neat and simple solutions. They’re all free.

Icon Restore

The simplest utility is Icon Restore by Tim Taylor (http://users.rcn.com/taylotr/icon_restore.html). After you install it, the Windows desktop context menu includes two new options when you right-click on any system icon (such as My Computer): “Save Desktop Icon Layout” and “Restore Desktop Icon Layout.” When you’ve got your icons right where you want them, just right-click and select Save Desktop Icon Layout. Then if your icons break loose, you can corral them again by right-clicking and choosing Restore Desktop Icon Layout.

Desktop Icon Save and Restore

Slightly more sophisticated is Desktop Icon Save and Restore by Jamie O’Connell (http://www.midiox.com/html/desktop.htm). It works very much like Icon Restore, adding “Save Desktop…” and “Restore Desktop” options to the desktop context menu when you right-click on any blank area of the desktop. This program, however, saves the icon layout separately for each screen resolution setting. So if you frequently move back and forth between certain resolutions, this little program is for you.

Note: These two utilities apparently have not been updated since 2004, so their support for Windows Vista is questionable (I have not tested them with Vista).


Several steps up in functionality is Iconoid from SillySot Software (http://www.sillysot.com). Yes, it saves and restores icon positions for each screen resolution. But this program comes with a bit of a learning curve. Among its many advanced features: You can save icons by their relative positions for any screen resolution. You can specify their text labels’ background colors. Iconoid can automatically hide all the icons under various conditions – for example, when you move the cursor off the desktop – and display them again when needed. And it is Vista-compatible.


If you really like to play with your desktop icons, you might enjoy RocketDock from Punk Software (http://rocketdock.com). RocketDock is an application launcher, not just an icon saver. It places a semitransparent icon bar along the edge of your screen, which is much like the Apple OSX animated “Dock.” Drag your desktop icons onto RocketDock. When you move the cursor over the strip of icons, they expand and display their text labels. The effect is really cool, but after the initial oohs and ahs, I found no practical use for this novelty.

If you use one of these free programs and like it, do please consider sending a donation to the programmer.

Thanks for dropping in to the Tool Bar & Grill. Do you have your own favorite icon utility? Let us all know about it with a comment below or an email to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com. Do come back next week, and bring all your friends.


  1. Also try the Freeware "Launchy" - so you never need to remember your icon positions. After some weeks i really love it.

  2. Thank you for pointing out Launchy, "Anonymous." I am familiar with Launchy, but actually I don't like it much because it requires keystrokes (even though I'm a diehard keyboard user, I want the point-and-click option) and requires you to remember the beginning of the name of the application you want to launch. I recently started using another graphical launcher utility, 8start Launcher -- see my review in #25, 17 June 2007.

    Thanks again for contributing. I hope you'll be back every week!

  3. Win Tidy is another good Icon position restorer. It's what I use now.

    Best Regards,

    Chuck Brotman

  4. Chuck, thank you very much for for reading my blog and for suggesting WinTidy. WinTidy is a PC Magazine utility. I have not used it, but I do instinctively trust and like PC Magazine utilities, and used to use many of them. (I was a PC Magazine subscriber from the very first issue.) However, PC now charges a pretty penny for its utilities, and in this blog I try to focus on freeware. Also, WinTidy has not yet been updated to work with Vista. So for now, I am not changing my recommendation. Thanks again, and please keep reading and commenting!

  5. I also am an avid user of RocketDock, I set it to auto-hide to make my desktop even cleaner looking :). It’s a great tool & can make life more productive on the computer :)

    I used to use Wintidy too ;)

    Here is a great video tutorial on how to install, setup, beautify & organize RocketDock: RocketDock, Increase Productivity And Coolness Factor To Your Desktop

  6. Pclicious, thank you for visiting and commenting. I'm glad you enjoy RocketDock, as do many others. They will no doubt enjoy the RocketDock video tutorial.