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Classic Shell brings back missing features to Windows 7

So you have started using the new Windows 7 but you miss some of the familiar things you got used to after all these years, like the classic start menu or the Explorer buttons. Classic Shell, an open source project, is a collection of features that were available in older versions of Windows but not anymore. It brings back the classic start menu that Windows 7 doesn't support, adds a toolbar for Windows Explorer in Vista and Windows 7 like the one in Windows XP and adds couple more smaller features.

Classic Shell adds the following features to Windows 7

1. Classic Start Menu is a clone of the original start menu, which you can find in all versions of Windows from 95 to Vista. It has a variety of features:

  • 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
  • Available for 32 and 64-bit operating systems


There is another Classic Start Menu tool which we reviewed previously. This one had a transparent Aero theme.

2. Classic Explorer is a plug-in for Windows Explorer that actually improves the Explorer of Windows 7.

Toolbar Icons:
Firstly, it adds a toolbar to Explorer for some common operations (Go to the parent folder, Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete, Properties). Windows Explorer in Vista doesn’t have a toolbar like the one in Windows XP. If you want to go to the parent folder you have to use the breadcrumbs bar. If you want to copy or delete a file with the mouse you have to right-click and look for the Delete command. It’s a nuisance. (That’s why learn keyboard shortcuts).


New copy UI:
In Windows Vista and 7 when you copy files and there is a conflict you are presented with this:


Now there is nothing wrong with this screen and I personally feel it’s a better implementation than the earlier one, but Classic Shell’s author has a point.

…it is not immediately clear what parts of it are clickable. You have to move the mouse around to discover the UI like in a Lucas Arts adventure game.

The Classic Explorer plug-in brings back the simpler dialog box from Windows XP. If you click on More… you will get the original dialog from Windows.


Alt+Enter in the folder panel:
Alt+Enter is universal shortcut across Windows to bring up the properties of the selection. But in Vista and Windows 7 it doesn’t work in the left panel that shows the folders. It works fine on the right where the files are. This is broken compared to Windows XP where Alt+Enter works in both places. To solve the problem, the Classic Explorer plug-in detects when you press Alt+Enter and shows the properties for the currently selected folder

During installation you will be asked whether you want to install both Classic Start Menu and Classic Explorer or only one of it. Giving the user the choice is such a good thing. Do read the “Read Me” provided along with the software to learn how to turn on the Explorer toolbar.

Classic Shell homepage


  1. Classic Menu keeps resetting my Windows Explorer.


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