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ClassicShell Adds Classic Start Menu and Explorer Features to Windows7

If you’re moving from XP to Windows 7, you might have a hard time adapting to the new User Interface. Today we take a look at the free utility called ClassicShell, which gives you the original Start Menu and classic Windows Explorer features back.

Note: This project is still in Beta stage so you might experience some quirkiness.

During the install you can select to have just the Classic Start Menu, Classic Explorer, or both.

1shell

Classic Start Menu

No restart is required and after a successful installation, click on Start to see your new classic menu.

2shell

Here is another look at the Classic Start Menu pulling up recent documents.

16shell

To change the settings of the Classic Start Menu, right-click Start and choose Settings.

4shell

Here you can make some different changes to how it will look and behave.

5shell

Here is an example of using Small Icons.

15shell

Classic Explorer

The Classic Explorer option is great for those who want the same buttons as in XP. You might have to do a bit of tweaking to see them however. If you don’t see them right away, with Explorer open hit the key combo “Alt+T” and select Folder Options.

13shell

In the Folder Options window under the View tab, check the box next to Always show menus, then click Apply and Ok.

7shell

Now right-click on the Menu Bar and choose Classic Explorer Bar. You will see the Classic Bar to the right of Explorer.

8shell

If you want to move them, right-click on the Menu Bar and uncheck Lock the toolbars.

9shell 

Then you can drag it over to the left side. If you want to make the Classic buttons larger, click on Classic Explorer Settings.

10shell

Then select use big buttons, and here you can also change other settings to fit your preferences.

12shell

Here is the final result after moving them to the left and making them bigger.

11shell

You can also show the classic tree view from the settings options shown here.

14Shell

Another neat change is when you go to shutdown or restart the machine, you get the classic shutdown screen.

3shell

Conclusion

Even though it’s in beta stage, in our testing over a the weekend, it seemed to run flawlessly. There are some some features and settings (like getting rid of breadcrumbs) that would be nice to see, and I’d imagine there will be more changes in the final version. It works with Vista and Windows 7 (32 and 64-bit versions), and uses very few system resources. If you’re new to Windows 7 and aren’t impressed with the Start Menu or the new look and feel of Explorer, ClassicShell will quickly get you back on track.

Download ClassicShell from SourceForge

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/21/09

Comments (18)

  1. calebstein

    If it didn’t change the shutdown screen, I might have installed it to get the up button in explorer.

  2. archie

    Sorry
    But upgrading Xista 32 bit to Win 7

    I got offerred NO choices

    the question is – How the hell do I get the classic bar back now,
    this Win 7 version is so bloody counter-productive.

    Tip:
    Try (free) Explorer X2 lite
    its a 2 pane file manager
    I have C: in one drove and D: in another and the file structure is visible all the time,
    with no idiot settings annoying me.

  3. Ivo

    @calebstein – the article is not very clear on this, but the shutdown screen is replaced only if you use the classic start menu. You can install only the Classic Explorer features (the toolbar, status bar, etc). See the screenshot at the top of the article.

  4. eddie

    Is there even any way to get the seven start menu back after you install?

  5. Dave

    You call this XP style?
    XP style start menu has 2 columns like the current vista and 7 start menu. However, the All Programs menu expands out horizontally, and thats what I believe most users migrating from XP are looking for. But it’s still not available, hopefully someone will come up with a solution.

  6. DancingWind

    to Dave.
    No no no Dave – This Is ‘Classic Style’ – its for those who didnt quite made through the interface hurdle form win95/98 to XP :)
    Seriously “MS button’ + type in 3-4 first letters of the wanted program + Enter … how much more productive can you get … almoust everthing can be accesed from search bar – programs, documents, control panel items.
    I can understand ppl wanting XP style program list poping in separate plane, but dumping everything (serchbar, second bar) past win95 .. and on top of that they spout productivity nonsence …

  7. Stargazer

    DancingWind: “Seriously “MS button’ + type in 3-4 first letters of the wanted program + Enter … how much more productive can you get”

    How about pressing the Win-key + *one* additional key?

    You see, the classic menu can be navigated by keyboard, and when a key-press corresponds to only one item on (the current level of) the classic start menu, that item is launched.
    Thus you can create shortcuts and rename them so that they (for example) start with a number. You could have a shortcut named “1. Explorer” that launches Explorer, “2. Notepad” that launches Notepad, etc. etc…

    In many cases the vast majority of a user’s application launches consist of a rather small number of applications, and if you use this scheme for those applications, the vast majority of your launches can suddenly be done with just two key-presses (instead of the 5-6 you mention). As an added benefit it is also much easier to execute when you’re not in a “typical typing posture”, such as when you’re typing one-handed.

    Sure, it requires some setup, but that is easily done, and there are those of us who consider it worth the “effort”.

    Sure, the Windows 7 (and Vista) Start menu also has its benefits (the search bar can under some circumstances also be a very handy way to access programs), but it’s not strictly “better” for *all* users. Which Start menu is “better” depends on many things, such as usage patterns and user preferences. It would be rather myopic to claim that *either* of the alternatives are strictly “better” for *all* users, as each alternative has its own benefits (some of which can be replicated by 3rd party utilities) and drawbacks. It is simply the case that some people prefer the classic Start menu, and some the current Start menu. Both are perfectly valid options.

    (I’m inclined to believe that the current Start menu is more useful for a larger number of users, so I believe that it makes for a good default option)

    (Yes, I’m aware that if you attach a program to the Win7 taskbar you can access it with Win+#. For a number of reasons, that’s not the same thing)

  8. Duder

    Is it just me or did you completely forgot to mention the best part of the Classic Explorer, which is the additional size information it adds to the old status bar (not the massive details bar).

  9. Rebecca

    Hi,

    Whoever created the above program / hack thanks a lot! You have saved me a lot of trouble converting back to Vista.

    I have always loved the simple classic view menu and this is perfect

    Thanks a tonne

    Rebecca

  10. Paul

    Thanks Thanks Thanks!!
    Just switched to 7 and hated the start menu. I have spent the night looking for this exact conversion. Great job and thanks again.

  11. Leonard

    How do you pin shortcuts to the start menu? Thanks for any help.

  12. s_n

    @Leonard – right click apps/app. shortcuts and there’s a selection: “pin to start menu”

    But Classic Start Menu is great! If you see the menu is either too large or too small, click “More options” and set up better values for:

    SmallIconSize (default=16)
    LargeIconSize (default=32)

  13. Anonymous

    @Dave, don’t troll without even trying the app. The two-column menu is also available.

  14. Babar Saeed

    Thanks dear
    I love classic style and its good for me.
    Again thanks

  15. Greg

    I don’t know why MS had to reinvent the wheel. I have no idea what shape MS thinks the wheel should be. Round works the best for me. This information from this page along with Classic Shell is a frustration eliminator.

  16. Dr. Beverly Kurtin

    C’mon people, stop acting like crybabies and learn to use the new menu; you will eventually find that it is much more flexible than the older menu. This menu is almost the same as the Vista menu except that it does not give you the choice that Vista had of permitting you to go back and forth from the Vista menu to the classic menu.

    I had quite an initial gripe ritual as most people do when something is new AND BETTER. Suppose you just saved a document and when you went to reopen it is wasn’t where you thought you had saved it. If you say you’ve never done that, please go to wardrobe and request a pair of wings. But for the rest of us who sometimes let our fingers outrun our thinking, with 7 all one has to do is to press the Windows key (some call it the start key) and notice that a your cursor is blinking in a blank space on the bottom of the menu. Just type in the name of the missing document and BANG it will show up ready to edit.

    Need to do a quick disk clean up? Click on the Widows key and type in the word disk, Ta-daa, Disk Cleanup is highlighted. Just hit ENTER and in a few minutes you’re ready to roll.

    Go to just about any program on the All Programs list and right click. It gives you the option to either pin the program’s icon to the start menu or the task bar at the bottom of your screen.,

    Once you UNDERSTAND the new menu, you will never want to go back to the Classic Menu.

    I’ve used Windows since 3.0 and have upgraded every time; MS has pretty sharp people working for them, many, believe it or not, work in Israel. After all, that tiny country invented the computer fire wall, the first chat functions, XP, Vista and parts of 7, they’ve got some pretty smart cookies working for MS over there.

    Instead of griping and acting like a Luddite, get used to the new system and you’ll be singing its praises like I am.

  17. Dr. Beverly Kurtin

    C’mon people, stop acting like crybabies and learn to use the new menu; you will eventually find that it is much more flexible than the older menu. This menu is almost the same as the Vista menu except that it does not give you the choice that Vista had of permitting you to go back and forth from the Vista menu to the classic menu.

    I had quite an initial gripe ritual as most people do when something is new AND BETTER. Suppose you just saved a document and when you went to reopen it is wasn’t where you thought you had saved it. If you say you’ve never done that, please go to wardrobe and request a pair of wings. But for the rest of us who sometimes let our fingers outrun our thinking, with 7 all one has to do is to press the Windows key (some call it the start key) and notice that a your cursor is blinking in a blank space on the bottom of the menu. Just type in the name of the missing document and BANG it will show up ready to edit.

    Need to do a quick disk clean up? Click on the Widows key and type in the word disk, Ta-daa, Disk Cleanup is highlighted. Just hit ENTER and in a few minutes you’re ready to roll.

    Go to just about any program on the All Programs list and right click. It gives you the option to either pin the program’s icon to the start menu or the task bar at the bottom of your screen.,

    Once you UNDERSTAND the new menu, you will never want to go back to the Classic Menu.

    I’ve used Windows since 3.0 and have upgraded every time; MS has pretty sharp people working for them, many, believe it or not, work in Israel. After all, that tiny country invented the computer fire wall, the first chat functions, XP, Vista and parts of 7, they’ve got some pretty smart cookies working for MS over there.

    Instead of griping and acting like a Luddite, get used to the new system and you’ll be singing its praises like I am. It is only natural to dislike new things when they come about, but Microsoft is hardly stupid, they asked users what they wanted and what you see is what they told them they wanted.

    Suggestion: If you don’t like change, go back to the bad old days of DOS. I started with DOS 1.0 on a Compaq luggable computer over two decades ago. Anyone want to go back to THOSE days?

  18. Eldon

    Dr. Kurtin:
    Having Preferences does not make one a “crybaby” How about giving people room to navigate and excercise options. There is plenty of space for everyone to have what works for them. They are not
    stepping on your toes when they modify, choose a former style, or stay with MS’s latest “Choice”
    Regards!!!

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