I am a huge fan of the redesigns that the Windows Start Menu went through in Vista and Windows 7, but I know everyone doesn’t share the same enthusiasm. Microsoft’s decision to not include a classic Start Menu layout irked many, but at the same time that opened the door to plenty of third-party developers.
I’ve been following one project pretty closely called Classic Shell. Its goal is to replicate all of the functionality the old-style Start Menu offered while giving you some settings that will help make it your own. One thing I actually love about this app is that you turn on the search box so that you can get instant results for applications and files just like in Vista or Windows 7 (as pictured above). Other Start Menu replacements tend to offer a similar experience without the search box option, which is something you can always turn off in the settings if you dislike having it there. Here are some of the other things you’ll find in Classic Shell:
- Drag and drop to let you organize your applications
- Options to show Favorites, expand Control Panel, etc
- Shows recently used documents. The number of documents to display is customizable
- Does not disable the original start menu in Windows. You can access it by Shift+Click on the start button
- Right-click on an item in the menu to delete, rename, sort, or perform other tasks
- The search box helps you find your programs without getting in the way of your keyboard shortcuts
- Available for 32 and 64-bit operating systems
- Has support for skins, including additional 3rd party skins
- Fully customizable in both looks and functionality
- Converts the “All Programs” button in the Windows menu into a cascading menu
There are two features I’d like to highlight from that list. First is the ability to bring up the normal Start Menu by Shift+Clicking on the Start button. That’s pretty important for when you may find something that this replacement doesn’t offer. The second thing is the ability to customize the appearance with skins. They have instructions on creating your own skins, but I have to admit that the ones it’s bundled with are pretty awesome. Here are some screenshots I took of the ones that are included (note that some do have transparency but the screenshots were taken against a white background):
Pretty cool, huh? This program also packs some Windows Explorer customization options if you want to bring back a few features that changed in that regard as well.
Classic Shell Homepage (Windows only; 32/64-bit; Freeware)