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Alternative Shells for Windows

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r0k
Posts: 79
Joined: March 9th, 2012, 10:06 am

Alternative Shells for Windows

r0k » April 6th, 2012, 3:23 pm

Hi. A discussion in another thread gave me the idea of listing alternative shells for Windows. As Rainmeter users love customizing their OS, they may be interested in trying out those.

What is an alternative shell?
Every OS has several layers interacting with each other.
  • At the heart of the OS lays the Kernel. The Kernel will directly communicate with the hardware. This term is most known to linux users who are used to frequent Kernell updates (and hopefully not so frequent "kernel panics"). The infamous "Blue Screen of Death" is the result of the Windows kernel crashing, when this occurs, the only solution is to reboot.
  • Then comes various "mid layer" components that perform specific tasks. The well known Windows processes fall into this layer.
  • Finally, the visible layer is the GUI. In every modern OS, the GUI will show windows with buttons and menus. Those don't appear by magic : an application will create them. It may be Firefox, Microsoft Word, Rainmeter. But what about your desktop? It's the first thing you see when you log to your session and it's tempting to think it's something unique, well, it's not really! Actually, the desktop, the taskbar, the start menu ... are just some special windows created by Windows Explorer.
An "alternative shell" is an application that will replace Windows Explorer. It means you will have a different desktop, a different start menu (or no start menu at all), but your OS will still be Windows because all the underlying layers will be unchanged! Some shells might replace the Window Manager that runs in the middle layer and is responisble for the aspect of the windows, but that's all.
Most of those directly comes from, or are inspired by, the Linux world where multiple desktop environment have existed from the beginning.

Why use an alternative shell?
  • An alternative shell will give a different look to your OS, but can also add or remove some functionalities for accessing files and functions (such multiple task bars, right click menu on the desktop to launch applications ...). Some people will find them more convenient to work with.
  • An alternative shell may work with less ressources than Windows Explorer. If you have an old machine and want more power for your applications, it might be worth "lightening" the system.
  • An alternative shell may increase the system security because they don't have the vulnerabilities of Windows Explorer. That being said, they have other vulnerabilities and security increase is only true because targetting those vulnerabilities is not worth the effort for most pirates.
  • Most alternative shells are more customizable than Windows Explorer.
For most people, an alternative shell is just a way of customizing their system beyond what Microsoft allows.

Why NOT use an alternative shell?
  • Because you are happy with the way Windows looks and works.
  • Because you don't want to mess up with an important part of your system.
  • Because you know how Windows works and you don't want to re-learn using your computer.
  • Because your computer works perfectly right now and you need it as stable as possible
  • ... add your own good reason ;-)
Whatever you choose just remember it's your choice. Don't install one of those shells just because i listed them! Changing the shell won't blow up your computer but it might render it unstable and in the worst case you might have to reformat your disk. I will take no responsability :uhuh:

Note : Please correct me if i said something wrong. I'm no programmer and most of my computer knowledge is self learned on the net. As we all know the net is not always the best place to find truthworthy informations :sly:
Last edited by r0k on April 6th, 2012, 4:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
r0k
Posts: 79
Joined: March 9th, 2012, 10:06 am

Re: Alternative Shells for Windows

r0k » April 6th, 2012, 3:23 pm

Open source shells

Will be filled. I will add details later.

Emerge Desktop

Geo Shell

KDE for Windows

Sharp Enviro

Lite Step

BlackBox for Windows Several Branches listed on this page.
Last edited by r0k on April 6th, 2012, 8:36 pm, edited 4 times in total.
r0k
Posts: 79
Joined: March 9th, 2012, 10:06 am

Re: Alternative Shells for Windows

r0k » April 6th, 2012, 3:24 pm

Closed source but free shells

Cairo
Last edited by r0k on April 6th, 2012, 4:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
r0k
Posts: 79
Joined: March 9th, 2012, 10:06 am

Re: Alternative Shells for Windows

r0k » April 6th, 2012, 3:25 pm

Commercial shells

Cool, i wasn't block by an anti spam filter :D
dragonmage
Developer
Posts: 1286
Joined: April 3rd, 2009, 4:31 am
Location: NC, US

Re: Alternative Shells for Windows

dragonmage » April 6th, 2012, 8:19 pm

Don't forget about the Blackbox family.
r0k
Posts: 79
Joined: March 9th, 2012, 10:06 am

Re: Alternative Shells for Windows

r0k » April 6th, 2012, 8:34 pm

Thanks for reminding them. As you can see it's a WIP right now. Hopefully other people will know other taskbars and the list will grow.
Not sure i can list all of the BlackBox variants without forgetting one thought :???:
panjooel
Posts: 1
Joined: July 31st, 2012, 6:17 am

Re: Alternative Shells for Windows

panjooel » July 31st, 2012, 6:23 am

Great post...

i already tried Sharp Enviro, really great, but only in xp i think... cause default windows 7 is better... :D

can you give me advice the best Alternative Shells for Windows??
i want to make my PC look more futuristic, about tech.. like iron man or something like that..

maybe you can give a little review about comparison, or like pro(+) or con(-)... :bow:

Thanks....
chav1to
Posts: 2
Joined: October 18th, 2012, 1:07 pm

Re: Alternative Shells for Windows

chav1to » October 18th, 2012, 1:24 pm

Hi, sorry for the dumb question but I'm a newbie at this... is "rainmeter" also consider a windows shell???
User avatar
Kaelri
Developer
Posts: 1739
Joined: July 25th, 2009, 4:47 am

Re: Alternative Shells for Windows

Kaelri » October 18th, 2012, 1:28 pm

chav1to wrote:Hi, sorry for the dumb question but I'm a newbie at this... is "rainmeter" also consider a windows shell???
No. :)
chav1to
Posts: 2
Joined: October 18th, 2012, 1:07 pm

Re: Alternative Shells for Windows

chav1to » October 18th, 2012, 1:38 pm

Thanks a lot Kaelri!!! Just what I was looking for...

Now's clear as water =D...