Have you tried one of the Windows 8 Preview releases and found you like the Charms bar on the Metro Start Screen? If you’re not quite ready to give up Windows 7, there is a way to get the Charms bar from Windows 8.

You can easily add the Charms bar to your desktop in Windows 7 using a RocketDock skin. RocketDock is a free, customizable application launcher for Windows. See our article about RocketDock to learn how to add it to your Windows Desktop. You can also use a portable version of RocketDock.

To add a “Charms bar” to your Windows 7 desktop, extract the .rar file you downloaded (see the link at the end of this article). RAR files are associated with WinRAR, which is shareware.

NOTE: You can use WinRAR free of charge for 40 days but then you have to buy it ($29.00). However, you can also use the free program 7-Zip to extract RAR files.

Once you extract the file, you’ll see three folders and a StartMenu.exe file. Copy the “Charmbar transparent” folder to the Skins folder in the RocketDock program folder.

NOTE: If you’re using a installed version of RocketDock (not on a USB flash drive, or other location), the RocketDock program folder will be in C:\Program Files for 32-bit Windows or in C:\Programs Files (x86) for 64-bit Windows.

Before continuing, if you want to be able to go back to the previous setup of RocketDock before adding the Charms bar skin, make a backup copy of the Icons folder and the Settings.ini file, if one exists, in the RocketDock program folder.

NOTE: The Settings.ini file is created if you select to store the settings in a portable .ini file to make RocketDock portable, or even just to be able to backup your settings.

Copy the new Icons folder to the RocketDock program folder, replacing the existing one and the files in it.

The Settings folder you extracted contains two settings files, Settings.ini and Settingstransparent.ini. The Settings.ini will give you a Charms bar with a black background, like the one in Windows 8. To get a Charms bar with a black background, copy the Settings.ini file to the root of the RocketDock program folder, replacing the current Settings.ini file, if there is one. However, if you want a transparent Charms bar, rename the Settingstransparent.ini file to Settings.ini and copy that file to the RocketDock program folder.

The next time you start RocketDock, it will automatically use the new skin, icons, and settings and place a Charms bar on the right side of your Windows 7 desktop. You won’t see the bar at first because you must move your mouse to the right side of the screen to access the Charms bar.

Here is a list of what the icons on the Charms bar do:

  • Search – Opens up an Explorer window with the Search box active
  • Share – Opens up Network Connections
  • Start – Opens the Start Menu
  • Devices – Opens the Device Manager
  • Settings – Opens the Control Panel

NOTE: As mentioned earlier, if you are using the 64-bit version of Windows 7, the RocketDock program folder is stored in C:\Program Files (x86). By default, the Start icon accesses the StartMenu.exe file in the C:\Program Files folder. Therefore, you have to manually edit the settings for the Start icon. Right-click on the icon on the Charms bar and select Icon Settings from the popup menu. Change the path in the Target edit box and click OK.

The Settings icon may not work, either. If it doesn’t open the Control Panel, edit the Target on the Icon Settings dialog box for that icon, as well. For us, we had to change the drive letter, which, for some reason, was assigned the capital letter ‘I’ (i).

Remember that you can go back to your previous RocketDock skin, icons, and settings by replacing the Icons folder and Settings.ini file with the backed up copies.

Download the Charms bar skin for RocketDock from http://peterrollar.deviantart.com/art/Win8-Consumer-preview-charmsbar-for-XP-Vista-Win7-285947568.

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Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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