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Is there a way to completely replace Windows 7 explorer and taskbar by its XP counterparts?

I don't mean only the look but a real replace (maybe by replacing parts of the 7 system by files from XP) because some properties of explorer and taskbar in Windows 7 seem to be impossible to change just by provided options.

Why I want that:

  • The Win 7 superbar always glues together icons of windows of the same application, e.g. all icons of explorer windows (switching grouping in taskbar properties doesn't help). For XP/Vista there is external software (e.g. Taskbar Shuffle) which allows to reorder taskbar icons freely. This software doesn't work on Win 7.

  • Similar problem: The software Virtuawin allows to have multiple desktops and switch between them. It can store and recreate taskbar order between desktops with XP/Vista but not with Win 7 (by the way: I wrote the initial code for reading icon order from taskbar for Virtuawin).

The reason for both is that previously taskbars were built using stock Windows controls and detecting the order (and reordering) of icons on it was simple. This doesn't apply to the superbar and Microsoft didn't provide a useful API for it.

  • In Win 7 explorer the change of security settings of a file needs more mouse clicks because in the file properties the settings are only shown but need additional clicks to really modify them. That becomes annoying if you change the settings more often.

  • The tree view in explorer seems to never have a horizontal scroll bar even if needed (but maybe I have overseen a setting in this case).

  • Moreover the fold/unfold icons in tree view (small triangles or +/- signs in classic skin) vanish as soon as the mouse cursor leaves the tree. Seems to be unimportant but it drives me crazy because I'm used to first look at the target where I want to click on and then move the mouse cursor to this location.

The latter two can be solved by an external tool like e.g. Explorer++ but it would be nice to work with the integrated explorer instead (I haven't tested yet how Explorer++ integrates with TortoiseSVN).

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Why do you want to do this? What you are asking seems (at first glance) to be very difficult - if not impossible. If we knew why you wanted to make this change we might be able to suggest an alternative solution. –  ChrisF Mar 13 '12 at 11:13
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I have added an explanation. I should have explained that in the beginning already, sorry. –  Michael Butscher Mar 13 '12 at 13:24

2 Answers 2

up vote 0 down vote accepted

In short, no, but you may be able to find an XP-lookalike shell replacement or file manager to suit your needs. Alternatively, the taskbar can be made similar to XP by Right click > Properties then:

  • Check "Use small icons"
  • Change "Taskbar buttons:" to "Combine when taskbar is full"

Ultimately, though, operating systems change over time. XP is now 11 years old, and unless you have very specific requirements (best served by third party software as mentioned above) your best bet is to learn to use the UI provided with a newer OS.

Further discussion and tips for making Win7 behave more like XP:

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I hoped to get away without new third party software which may have different annoyances but there seems no way. Anyway, thank you very much. Especially the list of shell replacements is interesting and I will play around with them now. –  Michael Butscher Mar 13 '12 at 13:45

You can accomplish the individual tasks you want, but not my replacing the explorer.exe itself.

  • You can disable User Account Control (UAC) settings in the control panel, which will help with the properties
  • You can use Classic Shell - http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/ - to get the fold/unfold icons to show up all the time without hovering, as well as other nifty features
  • You can use 7 Taskbar Tweaker - http://rammichael.com/7-taskbar-tweaker-v3-4 - to prevent Win7 from automatically combining icons for 2 instances of the same program

Try these simple steps and you should have 99% of your problems fixed!

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