Windows optimize

Put the Classic Start menu in Windows 7 with Classic Shell

Greg Shultz investigates all of the classic features that the Classic Shell application, by Ivo Beltchev, brings to the Windows 7 user interface.

On more than one occasion, I've looked through the discussions for the Windows 7 blog posts that I have written here at TechRepublic and found messages from angry Windows users that go something along the lines of "Because Microsoft took away the Classic Start menu in Windows 7, I am not going to upgrade!"

When I see these types of messages, I imagine curmudgeonly folks sitting in front of an old Pentium II computer running Windows NT. Of course I know that is not a fair assessment, because many people I know who have either Windows XP or Windows Vista installed also use the Classic Start menu feature.

Still I have a hard time imagining anyone wanting to forego all the underlying advances in the Windows 7 operating system just because of a dislike of the Start menu and other user-interface features. However, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

In any case, those die-hard classic Start menu fans have a champion out there. At SourceForge.net, which claims to be the world's largest open source software development Web site, a fellow by the name of Ivo Beltchev has created a wonderful program called Classic Shell. In addition to bringing the Classic Start menu to the Windows 7 user interface, Classic Shell brings a number of other classic features to Windows 7, such as the Windows Explorer toolbar, complete with the Up button.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll investigate all the classic features that the Classic Shell application brings to Windows 7.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Keep in mind

At the time of this writing, Beltchev is publishing version 0.9.10 of Classic Shell, which he is calling the Release Candidate version. As such, you may encounter some glitches. However, I tested it for the better part of a week on my Windows 7 test system and didn't experience any problems. Classic Shell works with both the 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and appears to work in all editions. I tested it in the Ultimate edition of Windows 7.

Installation

Once you download Classic Shell from the SourceForge.net site, just double-click the ClassicShellSetup.exe file and follow the onscreen instructions. When you are prompted to select the features that you want to install, as shown in Figure A, be sure that you leave both check boxes selected if you want to revive the classic version of Windows Explorer as well as the Classic Start menu.

Figure A

Make sure that you leave both check boxes selected if you want to revive the classic version of Windows Explorer.

Check it out

As soon as you complete the installation procedure, you'll immediately find the Classic Start menu in place, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

The Classic Start menu is immediately available.
Reviving the classic version of Windows Explorer requires some configuration. First you have to enable the menu bar. To do so, launch Windows Explorer, press the [Alt] key to display the menu bar, pull down the Tools menu, and select the Folder Options command. Then, in the View tab of the Folder Options dialog box, select the Always Show Menus check box, as shown in Figure C, and click OK.

Figure C

Before you can revive the classic version of Windows Explorer, you have to enable the menu bar.
With the menu bar in place, you can right-click on it and select the Classic Explorer Bar command, as shown in Figure D. If you disable the Lock the Toolbars setting, you can position the Classic Explorer Bar under the menu bar like in Windows XP.

Figure D

Just right-click on the menu bar and select the Classic Explorer Bar command.
In addition to the Up button, you have the Cut, Copy, Paste, and Delete buttons back, as shown in Figure E. You also have a Properties button, which displays the selected item's properties dialog box, and an e-mail button, which allows you to attach selected items to an e-mail message. The last button is the Settings button, which displays the available configuration settings.

Figure E

With the Classic Explorer Bar command enabled, you now have the Up button back.

Tweaking

You can tweak the Classic Start menu by right-clicking on the Start orb and selecting the Settings command. You'll then see the dialog box shown in Figure F and can change a host of options -- you can even apply several different skins, including a classic Windows 9x/2K colored skin.

Figure F

From the Settings dialog box, you can configure a host of options, including different skins.
You can tweak the Classic Explorer Bar by clicking the Settings button. When you do, you'll see the dialog box shown in Figure G and can change a host of options. You can even select the type of navigation pane that you want to use, such as Windows XP Classic or Windows Vista.

Figure G

You can tweak the way the Classic Explorer Bar looks and feels.

Bonus features

In addition to the Classic Start menu and Classic Explorer Bar, the Classic Shell program brings back a few other classic features. Can you find them? Report your discoveries in the discussion area and describe what those other classic features are.

What's your take?

Have you been willing to forego Windows 7 because it didn't have the classic Start menu feature? What do you think of Classic Shell? Is it enough to make you change your mind about Windows 7? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

TechRepublic's Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report newsletter, delivered every Friday, offers tips, news, and scuttlebutt on Vista and Windows 7, including a look at new features in the latest version of the Windows OS. Automatically sign up today!

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

127 comments
billballew
billballew

Is MS a real Business? Do they use their own products? Gotta ask! We are hanging with MS Office 2003 as much as possible along with XP. Too expensive to retrain. We cannot afford people sitting at the desk searching through ribbons and pancake shortstack of programs looking for the progam or the ribbons for function they need. Good products, just made more complex to use for the average employee. Great for the 14 year olds playing games tho'. They have no other purpose in life anyway. Has MS thought of changing the names of all the installed programs to those used by the system (as seen in the Task Manager Processes)? that will really confuse my employees! MS - have a good time at our expense.

reisen55
reisen55

"I know engineers, they love to change things." - Doctor McCoy in the 1st Star Trek film and his observation is so true. One thing that drives our community nuts is that Micro$oft loves to move things around. I was used to Scheduled Tasks in XP and 2003 Server, it was easy to find. Not so in 2008!! Now it is buried in GROUP POLICY! WHY? God knows and it is this sort of madness that our consulting community is burdened with. Micro$oft does not know the better rule; If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

luismatoso
luismatoso

I use ClassicShell for a long time ago. I like the Up Botton in explorer but the point is: I do not understand why consumers are still using XP. It was a great OS, but please it was a long time ago. In all aspects windows 7 is a much, much better OS. I really don't understand people still using XP.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Basically, I want it more XP like, Vista and 7 pissed me off when the All Programs menu no longer spawned into its own screen space. Stupid stupid move. On my work PC I got 4 panels of programs installed, not including sub folders, at home, I have 6 panels of programs installed. This is just stupid to try and navigate in Win7. You have to screw around with scrolling around.

tjpii
tjpii

I like a lot of the advancements of Win7 but the interface for Explorer and IE8 are so darn difficult to deal with that I have steadfastly refused to upgrade until I found a way around them. Chrome is works to get me around IE8 so I'm all set there. Classic shell gives me what I need for both Explorer and the Start Menu. Bluntly, classic shell gave me what I need - not want - to upgrade. I don't mind that MSFT put a fancy new interface in place, but making it impossible to revert to anything familiar was arrogant. What purpose does it serve to alienate folks. Anyway, classic shell gave me 90% of the UI I am familiar with and that was the difference between adopting willingly and doing everything I can to stay in the world of XP just a bit longer. There are still things I don't care for, but with Classic shell the biggest ones are resolved.

mohitpreet
mohitpreet

i was dying to have this classic setup in win 7 , really aprreciate ur efforts for bringing in such a wonderful tweak for win7 , however i have one more thing to say , it cud be made a litlle better , if the options like "copy to & move to" are added as well ,. it has only cut , copy , paste options but not copy to and move to options, can u please try to squeese in that program , thanks

krowley
krowley

How about the Folder List, in Windows Explorer windows? I really miss the ease of burrowing down into the folder heirarchy!

v941726
v941726

why not just turn off visual styles in advanced features

john3347
john3347

Classic Shell certainly goes a long way to repairing the frustrations of Windows 7. Now if only someone would come up with a fix (application or registry hack) to arrange program icons within a folder to a custom arrangement. (We have always been able to do this through Vista. Now Windows 7 takes that option away) It is shameful that Microsoft chose to remove so many customization options with Windows 7.

Hogsbreath
Hogsbreath

Put in the classic start menu in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. This speeds up administration tasks for us administrators that have been around for a while. We tend to find the new interface burdensome and clunky.

caldo
caldo

I don't care about the Start Menu but WHY do they make it a two step process to choose from all three Power Options. That was the only truly stupid change. I so often through the day have reason to shift from High Performance to Power Saver. Not I have to click "More Options" To go back & forth! STUPID Typical old form Microsoft arbitrary changes.

michaelsaltmarsh
michaelsaltmarsh

I prefer the command line as my gui, with green text please :D lol But more to the point of the question; Out of all the microsoft operating systems i still really enjoy the windows 2k gui, W7 is nice and has lots of awesome tricks with the snapping windows, but honestly i think that if they are going in that direction they should re-think the gui side of the os entirely. Think about what sony has done with psp/ps3. It's simple, looks nice and everyone can figure it out in a few min, possibly with some expansion on it for file browsing, word processing, etc, it would actually be a solid os.

ranienow
ranienow

I like the classic interface but if problems arise how can i reinstall the Windows 7 start menu?

davisnewman
davisnewman

I like (am most familiar with) XPs interface. I did buy a new Sony Vaio 24" all-in-one and have applied the classic shell from your post. I like it, and I like Win-7. Only problem I have had was a driver issue that has been resolved.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

I would like to see a full list of those changes that can be done to roll back the GUI for XP and Win 7 to the classic GUI. I like the "classic" GUI. It is simple straightforward and clean.

inimeg
inimeg

Greg, it isn't all that hard to see why some prefer the classic UI. For me, it's a question of speed. Eg. to open some files that I use daily, I can use the keyboard to access the Documents list, select the file and open it MUCH faster than using the mouse, touchpad, etc. The above is one BIG reason why I don't like the Ribbon UI unleashed with Office 2007. Simple operations I can do with key sequences REQUIRE I use a pointing device, which is decidedly slower and hence a productivity killer. IMHO, by declining to provide classic versions of UI which MANY users like (include "captive" ones that are forced to use the new UI at work, like it or not), MS is showing their arrogance all too clearly.

LarryBoy2
LarryBoy2

As others have already noted, there was no reason M$ couldn't have given the option. When I'm using a PC, whether for work or home, I don't want to monkey around looking for what I need any more than necessary. Give me the Classic interface to get things done, and I'll be able to get my work done and learn the new interface on the side, in my (rare) free time. It is a matter of efficiency for me. Also, as several posters have noted, I don't need all the candy. I set it up the way I want it to look and to hack with M$ and how they think it should look.

vernyost
vernyost

I'm an old timer and still moaning about Vista's look and feel but slowly finding my way around. I suppose the same will be true with Win 7. I really like the idea of having the Classic look and feel to fall back on. Question: When Classic Shell is loaded does it affect all user profiles, just the one doing the install or can you pick and choose which profiles will see the change?

g01d4
g01d4

How proficient were you with the older one(s)? Seems like MS is changing the keyboard layout w/every new OS because one theoretically can (learn to) type more efficiently.

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

Great post Greg, but you already knew it would be a hit! At long last folks have the opportunity to work with a menu system they know and understand. That is a huge plus for the masses. I feel there should have been a choice in the UI to emulate a familiar interface. I like the way things are in Windows 7, but I was ready to break from the old look of XP and earlier. The masses have accepted the way-of-the-world moving to newer UI's. It is not needed and can be counterproductive. The "cool factor" just isn't needed in a work evironment. Playing with the gizmos on a system at home is part of the fun of a new OS for me. You can bet I'll be sending a few emails out giving folks the salvation link at SourceForge in a few moments.

megriep
megriep

Excellent. I was'nt looking forward to upgrading because I have so customized my XP start menu that I can start up 90% of of the programs I use in half a second without moving the mouse. If I want Word... Win, W Access? Win, A If i want to Terminal Service to our PDC, then Win, Q, T, 1. When I saw that MS left out this feature I though "Am I a dinosaur?"

BTrik
BTrik

I'll tell you why Windows veterans do not like the new Windows 7 start menu - because it SLOWS us down! When Microsoft in all of their wisdom decides to move or change things that administrators need on a daily basis to do their jobs it causes headaches. Yes the new Windows 7 start menu is pretty and nice and has sprinkles and everything, but when it takes you 3x longer to fix a problem on Win7 than it did in WinXP administrators become frustrated. Microsoft needs to think about the administrators before they make drastic changes like this in the future. By the way, the new control panel sucks too!

mmavin
mmavin

The classic style is a more efficient & powerful, I believe.

arcane357
arcane357

Is there a program to remove the shortcut arrow? And the libraries icon from the desktop?

bruce.mosser
bruce.mosser

"I imagine curmudgeonly folks sitting in from of an old Pentium II computer running Windows NT." You use a word like curmudgeonly and then don't proofread to see you used "from" instead of "front"?????

Texas.Ex
Texas.Ex

I can live with the Classic Start Menu that Microsoft has defined in Win 7 EXCEPT for one thing: In the spot where one can "Pin" programs to the left panel of the Start Menu, in XP one could ALSO "Pin" pointers to sub-menus - this permitted the collection of like items together! No more - one is limited to 30 items with no sub-menus possible! I wish I knew the e-mail address of the bright spark that decided to take that feature out!!

deICERAY
deICERAY

When I click on a folder name in WIN7 explorer in the left-hand pane, instead of opening it in place, it shoots the opened folder list in the bottom of the screen; most times I just think it has disappeared! And it is inconsistent as well, sometimes not dropping down. I have yet to see an explanation of why this happens nor have I seen a solution, and I know it happens to others as well - will this program fix that quirk?

FRiC
FRiC

I don't really mind using Windows 7's start menu, but the missing up arrow to go to the parent folder drives me nuts. Great post!

dalor8
dalor8

Excellent, I like it, especially being able to switch back and forth. Now I can use classic while I'm learning windows 7 menu.

abbos
abbos

Sort of same decisions here. I installed Classic Shell and use it a few days and the most of my annoyances regarding Windows 7 are gone. The Classic Shell makes your Start Menu flexible again and able to reach all programs fast and in order and manageble. I even created a Quicklaunch (maybe this option was already there but i aint going to uninstall Classic Shell..:) And the toolbar back in the Explorer. I missed this also! I have been thinking of falling back to XP 64 but maybe i stay to 7 now.

seanferd
seanferd

this is just an article. The author didn't write the program. Also, CopyTo and MoveTo, although you could expose them with a registry hack in previous Windows releases, once exposed, tend to cause problems occasionally.

seanferd
seanferd

There is probably a way to make it permanently available by default. Same situation in just about every previous release of Windows.

carlsf
carlsf

We will not be moving (115) users to WIN7 reason MS have removed the "CLASSIC" option. We use XP, Vista (32 and 64bit) set to the "CLASSIC" with NO problems, reason... 1) This eases the tech support required as every user knows where to go. 2) Ease of configuration with the other O/S's. 3) The cost of training and the users have less problems I MUST ask the question why should I purchase the classic option when it should have a option as in XP and Vista. UNLESS MS put this back then they have lost this house, and I would immagin alot more SMB's and Corp. MS's LOSS as we will be evualting other O/S's where the learning curve is less, and CHSNGE is NOT forced upon us.

dougogd
dougogd

The classic shell is nothing more than a theme. Ask Microsoft they will tell you that. If you are referring to a classic user interface the answer is no I just effect the current user. The classic theme is also user specific. Until everyone figures out what Microsoft means by classic shell and classic user interface Microsoft will never change anything to make its customers happy.

BigRed_32399
BigRed_32399

Let me be able to work with the "classic" menu and access and learn the new stuff later, if at all. The new menus and ribbons may be fine for new users but those of us that have to get our jobs done need to be able to access the features we need without having to hunt down required things from obscure menu choices. Thanks for this info on classic configuration.

yaffeart-tr
yaffeart-tr

I agree that it takes longer. I'm annoyed, for example, that I have to make one more click to get to my own documents because what's in W7s menu is a library, one of which is My Documents. That's a nuisance on a single user system. I do not now, nor do I anticipate, having any "Public" documents. I'd love to get rid of that extra click. The Control Panel, though, is so similar to the control panel I've been using since XP that I hardly care about that. What is it that you find so objectionable?

dwdino
dwdino

But there was a learning curve. Now past the bend, I find XP is drudgingly inefficient and slow.

whatisnew
whatisnew

I'm an old dog and I prefer the classic style. Microsoft should has the built-in feature for the classic. After I have looked the classic control panel more than several thousands time, I can say that I work much faster at the classic mode. To switch between classic or 7 doesn't make my computer faster or slower. It's all about my personal choice for one over another.

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

I agree, keep it simple, have more performance and save time. I have not time in business (and my home time is more precious) than to spend hunting for an application or documents trying to while trying to learn a new interface, wastes too much time, all that candy gets in the way, slows down my machine. I disable all that, to web enabled folders, themes, just a plain color for a background. I work in IT, work on computers all the time, last thing I want is to have to spend more time on them not by my choosing.

dougogd
dougogd

Microsoft told me that they didn't include nor support the classic start menu in windows 7. That is why you have to download this program to get a classic start menu.

felicia
felicia

But with this addon I can now get my 'Classic' win explorer back and particularly a task bar with delete button. BTW I find W7 explorer is a bit buggy. Click on a older to open & the folder drops to bottom of screen with its contained folders unseen below. More mousing around to view what I want to see. Classic Shell is a GREAT idea and a cold beer is waiting for Ivo Beltchev when he's next in Bangkok.

Lamini
Lamini

I use the computer for work, not toying around. Thats precious desktop space being used for gadgets/windows I dont need in my workspace. Could care less about all the candy.

digitrog
digitrog

I've been into computers for more than 25 years, and still possibly the easiest of interfaces is the "Classic" which is really a clone of X-Tree Gold 4 for Windows [a.k.a "PC Tools File Manager for Windows"], which was a package for Windows for Work Groups v3.11 - with Win32S, and would run on Win9x and later OS's as well. [Does anyone else remember one of the best apps for DOS - XTree Gold file manager ? ] ( or even GeoWorks GEOS Ensemble GUI which was a brilliant Multitasking Desktop interface which can run off DOS 5 or later ? ) Win XP actually runs quicker with the "Classic mode" interface and None of the "Web Styling". Win 7 - WHAT AN ABOMINATION of a Menuing system! You install a program and then have to know what to look for to be able to actually run the application!, - even when installing MS Office PRO - it Doesn't put hot-links on the desktop when installed! , or a programs tree off the start button ... ! Win7 is supposed to the fastest bucket of bolts from Micro$oft ?!?!? what a load of bulldust. I have seen 4 new computers running I7 CPU, 6GB RAM, monster graphics, etc., and loaded with the 64Bit Win7, and it takes soooo loonnnnggg to fire up from initial start-up - and I'm talking of a Brand-New computer, not one that's been thrashed , [and yes all available compatible drivers installed ...], [ I'd like to try loading Win98SE onto one of these and see the speed difference at start-up ] Why is the Classic feature not an option instead of a "Techy Fix" ... ?? At least with XP - If you managed to locate the tweaks to disable the XP mode enhanced rubbish, and enabled the Classic Mode, you eventually got a more stable and smoother running machine. [ Build a faster CPU and M$ will find a way to SLOW it Down! ] they need to get back to the KISS principle " KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID " !

krowley
krowley

Cool! How do you make the Folders List show permanently?

ranienow
ranienow

I didn't think it was that easy...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I can't figure out how to resize it permanently. I've dragged that thing larger a dozen times, but every time it reopens is back to its original too-small size.

Darryl~
Darryl~

Very first thing was to set everything I could to "Classic". In addition to not caring about "all the candy", that stuff just slows the system down. I don't need nor want it, I suppose it's there for the gamers.

ian3880
ian3880

I see TrueDinosaur beat me to it. :-) Xtree for DOS - now THAT was a classic. Then Xtree Gold for Windoze and then oblivion when bought and buried by Symantec. For other troglodytes out there, Xtree still lives on as ZtreeWin. [http://www.ztree.com/html/ztreewin.htm ] and still just as powerful and user friendly. Wouldn't be without it. Oh, yes, and unlike Win7 one can customise just about every aspect of the way it presents the data AND the way you can manipulate just about all aspects of files. Win7 users who like all the twizz and gloss won't like it, however. Ztree is text only (no fancy graphics) and hence FAST and soooooo stable. Customisation is what the original article was about - the freedom to customise or adjust the settings of a program (or OS) to suit the needs of the end user, whatever those needs are. Ztree has it, Win7 apparently doesn't - or didn't until "Classic Shell" came along.

carlsf
carlsf

Should I have to pay for something "CLASIC" when M$ should have left the option there. Hence my GRIPE is with MicroSoft, and hence my withdrawing my $$ spend from them. I guess it is a Microsoft have said TAKE it OR LEAVE it... Ill Miss it out all together, WIN7 I mean.