Practical utility that simplifies troubleshooting
Windows 10 / Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 / Windows 7
Classic Shell is a free utility which restores some often-requested features to Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. One of the distinctive and controversial things about Windows 8 is how it tries to meld a tablet-oriented interface with the well-known Windows desktop paradigm. For many people, these efforts were unsuccessful and unsatisfying, and Classic Shell makes for a great way for desktop users to turn Windows 8 into something that more resembles previous versions of the O.S.
Installation of Classic Shell could not be easier. The authors of this piece of open-source freeware have taken great care to make sure that the utility will not interfere with the stability or functionality of Windows itself. This commitment reflects in the well-designed installer. Despite the fact that Classic Shell modifies Windows at a pretty fundamental level. That is, installing it is no harder than doing the same for any other piece of software, an accomplishment that the developers should be proud of.
Once installed, Classic Shell produces a new button on the Windows desktop in a position which will be familiar to anyone who has used previous versions of Windows. In fact, the specific look of this important button is adjustable during the installation process, as well as thereafter if users desire. Once it is in place, users again have access to the Start Menu that, for so many Windows fans, was previously one of the most common ways of interacting with the operating system.
In fact, users can easily change the behavior of that Start Menu to mimic any of a variety of styles. Many will prefer the straightforward "Classic style," a single-column option that reflects the Start Menu that shipped with Windows 98 and subsequent releases. Others will opt for a more modern, two-pane arrangement which provides extra room in the right column for a variety of frequently used shortcuts. Still others will be happiest with the most contemporary option of all -- if Windows 8's disposal of the menu altogether by default is to be ruled out -- a menu setup that closely follows the one found in Windows 7.
Classic Shell does all this and much more in such a smooth, unassuming way that it feels like a part of the operating system. The utility uses little in the way of resources, typically consuming a fraction of a megabyte of memory and little in the way of CPU time. It is a stable piece of software, too, which is fortunate given its fundamental role. For those who aren't satisfied with the ways things are by default in Windows 8, Classic Shell is highly recommended.