Starting from Windows Vista Microsoft has introduced a revised start menu that promises to revamp the interface and bit more tidy as all the installed programs are listed in a sorted single column list. There is scroll bar on the right that can be used to navigate the list of installed programs if installed programs are too many and they don’t fit at once on the screen. One thing is for sure that it looks clean and tidy and saves a lot of space also by the forcing programs list to be single column. Another smart feature is the search box that is offered when you press the start menu button to search a string in all the installed programs for specific program and launch it. Search box offers the search as you type functionality that is really nice (although this functionality can be kind of redundant if you have another search as you type launcher installed such as Launchy which offers much more complete feature set). In addition, for some people (including me) from a more practical point of view it is not as useful and intuitive in a scenario where you have a lot of programs installed as you will always be messing around around with the scrollbar if you want to have a glance at all the installed programs. Basically there is no way that you can have a look at all the installed programs on screen at once in that case. This is one case in which where the classic start menu like in Windows 98, XP etc. was very useful.
There are some third party utilities available that replaces the native Vista or Windows 7 start menu such as Classic Start Menu and Vista Start Menu and you can get them for free. However none of them are as polished or functional as the Classic Start Menu plugin of the Classic Shell. Implementation of Classic Start Menu included with the Classic Shell features Drag & Drop support to reorganize your software listing, works in both 32 and 64 bit windows and also not buggy as some other implementations of classic start menu are. Most importantly for me it do not disables the native shiny start menu that comes loaded with the Windows 7 and Windows Vista. You can still access it by middle clicking with the mouse on the start menu (can also be accessed by using the Shift+Enter on the start menu). So basically you don’t need to compromise anything as you can still access the native start menu if you need to for some reason.
Talking in general about the Classic Shell there are two main plugins that this program supports. One I as I described above is about bringing back the classic start menu. Other plugin called Classic Explorer brings back some of the functionality that is missing in the Windows 7 or Vista as compared to the previous versions of the Windows such as XP. Notable features that it adds are a toolbar to the windows shell with buttons that allows the common operation such as cut, copy, paste, properties etc. and can be customized. It can show the free disk space and the total file size in the status bar – a feature that is surprisingly missing in Windows 7 and very annoying sometimes (I am not sure if it is also missing in Windows Vista since I never used it). It reverts the copy user interface in the Windows 7 and Vista back to the classic interface as in Windows XP which is cleaner and less confusing. There are numerous other enhancements offered as I only mentioned the most important ones. Due to numerous useful features it provides Classic Shell has found a permanent place on my Windows 7 laptop.
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