Classic Shell for Windows 8

In a fit of madness I installed Windows 8 Pro on my desktop machine. I’ll have my review up shortly (spoiler: stick with Windows 7) but I wanted to call out Classic Shell, a free and extremely useful program that entirely replaces Windows 8’s absurd new Start screen.

Classic Shell

Why hello there pretty!

This picture shows the “Classic” mode of Classic Shell, inspired by Windows 2000. Start menus don’t get any more classic than that! I prefer this style as it gives me exactly what I want: a compact hierarchical view of the combined directory trees in Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu for all users and the current user. All installed Metro apps are shown in a separate “Apps” folder for easy access, too.

The search box only finds items in the Start menu itself, the Control Panel, and the PATH by default, which is also exactly what I want. I’ve never used Windows search for anything but Start menu items, as I generally keep my files organized so I don’t have to search for them in the first place. When I do want to search the file system I use proper tools such as the excellent File Locator Pro. You can add such external programs as additional options to the Classic Shell search box, by the way.

Classic Shell also fixes Windows 8 so that it boots directly to the desktop, disables the “active corner” for the Start screen where Classic Shell now sits, and adjusts the Windows key so that it goes to Classic Shell by default, and to the Start screen only when pressed with Shift. Remarkably, one single person (Ivo Beltchev) has implemented all this functionality from scratch, plus a ton of customization options for behavior, contents, and styling. So much for the claim occasionally heard from Microsofties that bringing forward the classic Start menu would have been “too hard!”

Note: The Classic Shell installer offers two other sets of Windows modifications, concerning Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer 9. They don’t make much sense on Windows 8 which ships with IE10 and a completely revamped Windows Explorer UI, so I recommend you uncheck them during installation and just select Classic Start Menu.

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