A large number of novice Windows users really believe the standard operating system interface – its integral part. In fact, this is misleading. The task pane, menu, system tray, desktop icons and other interface elements are created and maintained by a separate class of programs – shells. By default, for such purposes in the Windows program is used explorer.exe.
You can install software that replaces the functions of the standard processing tool interface. In this new program may offer a fundamentally different methods of interaction with the user.
In this article, you will not find programs running on the system only as attachments. Article – no guide to jewelry and a standard interface improvements. This is a guide to alternative shell for Windows, instead of running the module explorer.exe.
Most developers are trying to offer alternative membranes was something extraordinary, enchanting, so that the user’s heart stood still with delight, from the first minutes of contact with the product. The disappointment comes later, when one by one to break habits, developed over the years. Meanwhile, experienced computer users – one of the laziest creatures on earth. And it’s not a lack of desire to create. Simply, with experience comes understanding – if something works correctly, it is better not touch (the basic postulate of the system administrator).
Aston was created for those who value free time and do not want to part with proven skills in working with the interface of Windows. Aston desktop is not much different from the standard created with the Explorer. You can see the exact same task bar, system tray, main menu and desktop icons.
Aston allows you to organize three-tier side panels, which can be put most of your existing applications, so that the desktop was not a huge list of repetitive labels. The icons can be of arbitrary size, contain an animation.
You can accurately track the status of the applications that appear on the taskbar. If the window is minimized the problem, then to the right of its icon will turn black arrow. Hover the mouse on any problem within the panel will display a thumbnail, which will be shown the contents of the desktop window.
In the upper part of the working window displays additional panel, which contains common utility functions. You can call configure Aston, its plug-ins, and open the Control Panel, run the program and cause the Display Properties. In addition, you can search the Web, using the special string searches. The distribution has only the search engine Google, but you can install additional modules. Button automatically update added a list of four other elements. In the left pane displays an analog clock, and right buttons are shut down and restart the workstation.
The main menu Aston strongly different from the usual type of Explorer. You do not see a list of the most popular programs, shortcuts, Web applications by default are also absent. Configuring the Main Menu panel is made from the general configuration of the product. The main menu to work with Aston extremely uncomfortable due to the lack of visual mechanisms of drag & drop.
Aston distro includes four themes, differing only in design. The functionality of all desktops (themes) are almost identical.
The transition from Aston in Explorer and vice versa requires the closing of the current user session. If you decide to remove an alternate shell, before the procedure must return to the Explorer.
Blackbox – a fast, compact working environment, known to many users of Linux. Its version for Windows is much less popular. Most users are accustomed to the standard operating system interface, reluctantly learn even the most widely promoted products of this sector. What can we say about a little modest program, created by a group of enthusiasts who have decided to postpone the time code from an open shell OS runs under Win32.
On the official website offers several options for distribution of the shell. They differ in the default settings, the list included in the product themes, a set of plug-ins.
Installation is extremely simple shell – you run the BAT-file that calls the executable with a key-install. In the register recorded the new value is shell. You wind up the current user session and again enter the system with a new shell.
On the desktop displays the new taskbar and a few shortcuts. Setting up the shell by means of editing text configuration files. Launching applications can be performed using standard tools of the system, caused in the Explorer with a keyboard shortcut Win + R. In addition, pressing the left mouse button anywhere on the desktop is an analogue of the Main menu of Windows. His settings are largely dependent on the choice of distribution Blackbox. Sorting and editing list items by using only edits the configuration file. Taskbar with honor fulfills its responsibilities. All running applications are displayed inside the panel, and in its right side is well-known system tray. You can hide it with a special shooter.
Switching between tasks can be performed not only with the help of keyboard shortcuts Alt + Tab and select the desired item in the taskbar. You can consistently move through the application by clicking on the navigation arrows located on the edges of the panel.
In the left part of it is a tool to switch between desktops, which is the norm for working with Linux. The desktops are named by Greek letters of the alphabet – alpha, beta, gamma.
The behavior of windows and their design is also changed after the installation of Blackbox. Double-clicking on the header of the working window does not minimize it, and produces folding. At the same time hiding the entire contents of the window, there is only its title bar.
Shell showed stable operation without any major mistakes. We can only note is not quite correct operation Total Commander, which is not always curled up in the system tray.
Work in the Blackbox is not convenient because of the absence of most familiar elements of the interface Windows. You can not call with the right mouse button context menu traditional, for example, to cause the display properties. Customize Start Menu – a very complicated task for a beginner.
On the other hand on the workstations with less memory, use Blackbox allows you to significantly speed up your system due to less frequent appeals to the hard drive. The shell is about five megabytes of RAM.
LiteStep – compact shell that has a modular structure. On the official website you can download only the core shell that provides the desired functional minimum. In addition, developers do not create an installation package for your product by offering only downloaded the program archive.
If you decide to follow the example set by the author and his workstation Litestep, you can use any of the proposed distribution network shell, which include intuitive installer, a set of plug-ins, as well as simple presets designed for a beginner.
After installing the shell asks the question about the location of user data, as well as on your list of program priorities. The shell defines a large number of installed products, but if suddenly some of the categories has remained unknown, you can specify the program. For example, to test the workstation had to manually assign IRC-client by default.
Upon completion of all preparations, you should restart the system, though only enough to start a new session. The theme set by default, includes the task bar, system tray, the Main Menu, as well as manager of virtual tables. Inside his panel, you can see thumbnails of the working window, which displays the application icons. If you are inside the manager will suffer a thumbnail from one table to another, the operating window of the application will make a similar transition.
The desktop can contain shortcuts to applications, but the management is carried out only with text configuration files. The main menu is called Litestep using the right mouse button. Some themes include a separate button on the taskbar, through which you can access the basic element of the interface.
Litestep has amazingly flexible support system change themes, and adding additional modules. Everything is simple. Find your favorite web you theme. Download it, run to run. The program displays a list of missing modules in the system and offers them an additional download. You agree, there is a procedure of loading, after which a new issue is ready for use. The whole procedure takes a few seconds for a broadband connection and, in any case not more than a minute with a dialup connection to the Net. The user does not need to search for modules, install them – all of these procedures takes on the shell.
As a result, we have a situation where a new theme brings the system is not only a new look, but also a unique set of tools that completely transforms the shell before our eyes. Of course, you can change settings by manually adding and removing yourself any of its elements.
C plug-ins, Litestep can display on your desktop free space on hard drives, show the degree of CPU utilization, control of any of the player Winamp and Windows Media Player (by default, is set on them). Other examples – it navigate your local file system directly from the taskbar, the weather forecast in a separate menu, a convenient and compact panel to launch applications, as well as a variety of entertainment, gaming modules (such as miniature breakout).
Setting the shell is carried out exclusively by means of changes of text configuration files. But note that there are separate plug-ins that allow to pass on a portion of the load on the basic product configuration. You can assign hot keys not only to challenge any application, but also the huge number of system operations.
Litestep, of course, is not without drawbacks. During loading the additional modules membrane is blocked. Throughout the installation procedure, you will see up window that displays its process. The taskbar is not entirely correct updated. If you move the working window in front of the panel, sometimes it is not redraw, leaving a chaotic trail. Several times during the open-test applications running in the background in the system tray disappeared without a trace, disappearing from view as the standard task manager. Installing new themes also did not seem stable. Some topics have refused to work because of the incompatibility of some additional modules. When you run any Windows Explorer, the shell is temporarily blocked, do not respond to any manipulation. Unloading from the memory module explorer.exe Litestep returns to life.
Despite minor shortcomings, Litestep – first of all, flexible, scalable environment that enables you to create unique interfaces to functionality.
SharpE – a powerful alternative shell distributed with open source. Initially, the product development team worked LDI , but since the summer of 2005, the project gained full independence.
The program has a convenient installer, which control the installation and initial configuration of the shell. After completing the installation process and start a new user session is loaded the new interface.
Most developers are trying to copy the concept of shells standard taskbar Windows. This means that a single panel represents the entire ideological potential of the shell – the list of running processes, the main menu button, system tray, quickly call applications, and much more. SharpE offers a different mechanism. Panels can be many. On each of them by default is only a small set of tools. If desired, you can edit, combine elements of panels, reaching a maximum comfort.
So, when you first start a shell you can see the three panels at the bottom and one at the top. The system tray as a separate structure and can move independently of the main set of tools. The list of running applications – an independent panel that is displayed on a separate line caption of the active task. This is very handy if you run more than a dozen applications. The taskbar has long been missing a place you do not see the header elements. Quickly switch between them, you can quickly get acquainted with the titles of windows. Next to running applications is a list of programs for quick launch.