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I'm looking for a shell replacement for Windows, instead of Explorer. The features I'm looking at are:

  • a task bar
  • a tray bar
  • an application launcher (I mostly use Launchy for that, but I need a launcher for those applications I forget the name...)

The lighter and the easier to configure, the better!

I'm currently using Emerge, but I found it a little buggy. I tried many others, but I never found something convincing.

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closed as not constructive by slhck Oct 7 '12 at 14:50

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Duplicate? superuser.com/questions/90/… –  jtimberman Aug 4 '09 at 1:19
I'm not looking for a replacement for Windows explorer for managing files. I'm looking for a shell! –  Jazz Aug 4 '09 at 1:21
Out of curiosity, why would you want something like this? More configurable? More features? –  JP Alioto Aug 4 '09 at 3:26
progman.exe. Okay, okay, joking –  grawity Aug 4 '09 at 8:29
Because I find it pretty clumsy, and it often freezes, especially when using Visual Studio. –  Jazz Aug 4 '09 at 10:01
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8 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've tried the lot, but I always return to BB4Win, a very lean and stable shell, highly customizable too.

alt text

And as for a 'launcher', I much prefer Slickrun over the resource hogging and highly overrated Launchy.

BB4Win is open source freeware.

PS: looking forward to Cairo's public alpha to be released on September 22nd.

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I already tried BB4Win long time ago. I loved it, but I missed a traybar. It seems like bbSystemBar provides it! I will try it! Also, I tried many Launchy alternatives, but I always miss the Putty plugin. –  Jazz Sep 21 '09 at 12:58
so does the BBLeanBar: lostinthebox.com/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=3482 –  Molly7244 Sep 21 '09 at 13:12
Your right. Slickrun is well worth it. Can't imagine how I lived without all this time. –  Diago Sep 22 '09 at 21:06
it's exactly what the doctor ordered ... for keyboard junkies :) –  Molly7244 Sep 22 '09 at 21:18
Also I had a look at the Cairo alpha and it looks very very promising, especially if you come from a Mac. I am not sure if I will run the Alpha as a permanent shell but will keep an eye on progress. –  Diago Sep 22 '09 at 22:01
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The SharpEnviro is one interesting try (also called SharpE)

alt text

Wikipedia has a list of Open Source and Proprietary shell replacements.
Some more options at OSSWin desktop environments page

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Is SharpeShell commercial/free/open source? What platform (2000/XP/Vista/Win7) ? What special or important features does it have? –  Peter Mortensen Aug 4 '09 at 8:11
@peter, SharpE is hosted on Sourceforge and probably supported on most Windows platforms. –  nik Aug 4 '09 at 11:24
I tried SharpE for several weeks now. It is pretty nice, but there is some things I dislike, like the tray bar that cannot be configured to hide some icons (Emerge does it), and, strangely, when I click on a link in any application to open in my browser, the app freezes for some seconds before opening in the browser. I will now try BB4Win. –  Jazz Sep 21 '09 at 20:53
I have been using SharpE and really like it for simplicity. It doesn't take a few hours to learn like most shell applications and I was up and running quickly. Definitly worth trying the latest version. –  Diago Sep 22 '09 at 21:05
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I used to use the Aston Shell. Worked well, pretty and fast, and compatible with old Windows versions.

Aston Shell is really pretty and customizable.

Some features:

  • Settings flexibility, science fiction themes creation capability
  • Animated skins
  • Live wallpapers
  • Skin 3D objects support
  • Widgets support (analog clock, weather forecast, power management, system resources monitor, etc.)
  • Easy wigdets personalization
  • Themes' support and their application simpleness
  • Customization simplicity and usability even for a novice user
  • Multi-language support
  • Systems with several monitors support
  • Color labels for desktop icons
  • Effects support for icons
  • Quick search on local disks and in the internet
  • Progress indicator for tasks
  • Sound effects

I've also heard of Geoshell, which seems really nice (very "Unixy"). Haven't tried it though.

Geoshell desktop is also very customizable.

Keep in mind that it does not work under XP-64bit nor Vista-64bit

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+1 for the nice formatting ;-) –  Ivo Flipse Aug 4 '09 at 5:35
Legitimate answers, but holy crap are they ugly! –  Factor Mystic Aug 4 '09 at 5:35
Are Aston Shell and Geoshell commercial/free/open source? –  Peter Mortensen Aug 4 '09 at 8:15
+1 for providing a description, listing features and the 64 bit restriction. –  Peter Mortensen Aug 4 '09 at 8:15
Geoshell seems great, but I never succeeded to install it. I should try again. –  Jazz Aug 4 '09 at 10:02
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A long time ago when my Explorer was crashing regularly I used the Task Manager as my shell. It works really well as long as you know exactly where to find things.

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up-voted for tenacity to stick with insanity. –  AngryHacker Aug 4 '09 at 7:35
Don't you mean something else than Task Manager? Can it be used as a shell? Doesn't Task Manager just list CPU usage and other information for each process? –  Peter Mortensen Aug 4 '09 at 8:19
cmd.exe makes a good shell too if you want to go minimalist. –  Tiberiu Ana Aug 4 '09 at 8:31
@Peter: The Task Manager provides a high-priority way to start and manage tasks. It just doesn't have the friendly stuff like menus and icons, etc. –  tsilb Aug 4 '09 at 12:12
@Tiberiu: Just waiting for Windows 7 Ultimate Core Edition :) Nah, I just put the UI stuff on my leftmost screen, out of view. –  tsilb Aug 4 '09 at 12:12
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Cairo Shell sounds like an interesting option, but they have been developing for a looong time now without showing anything (public) for it.

In the off chance they are not vaporware or have some nefarious purpose, I'd check them out every now and then.

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It isn't vaporware as long as it is't mentioned as something to check out. –  reinierpost Sep 21 '09 at 7:19
According to the website "The Cairo public alpha is going live on September 22nd at noon." Which is tomorrow at the time of writing. –  Dave Webb Sep 21 '09 at 12:47
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If you haven't given Windows 7 a shot, I recommend at least trying that. The taskbar is vastly improved over previous versions of Windows.

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I'm stuck with XP at the office. At home, I prefer using a Linux distro. –  Jazz Sep 21 '09 at 20:56
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Object Desktop works very well.

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Is Object Desktop commercial/free/open source? What platform (2000/XP/Vista/Win7) ? What special or important features does it have? –  Peter Mortensen Aug 4 '09 at 8:20
@Peter: What part of that information cannot be found behind my link to their website? Feel free to edit my post and copy/paste their feature list in there. –  Huppie Aug 4 '09 at 8:57
I already looked at Object Desktop, but I never found on their website if any of their products could replace the task bar and the tray bar. –  Jazz Aug 4 '09 at 10:05
Actually, Object desktop is not a shell replacement, it is rather combining several customizations of the existing shell. The change is rather graphical, and the components remain the same (besides for their own widgets, this is an addition) –  Gnoupi Aug 4 '09 at 15:32
@Huppie: is good netiquette to provide some basic information. Remember this is not a CW, so there aren't a lot of users that can edit your post to add that information. Furthermore, those that can edit posts, are less likely to come to this kind of questions/polls. –  voyager Aug 6 '09 at 20:46
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Look at EasyDesktop. It is an old-school menu program. It is pretty cool! http://www.microseconds.com

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It seems it only replaces the "Start" menu, not the task bar nor the tray bar. Did I miss something? –  Jazz Aug 14 '11 at 17:15
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