Classic Shell: Alternatives


Alternative start menu implementations

Before I decided to develop my own start menu I tried to look for alternatives. I couldn’t find something that is free, supports reordering of programs, shows the recent documents, etc. Here is a list of what I found with some (hopefully objective) pros and cons:

Classic Windows Start Menu

Classic Windows Start Menu is  free and though previous versions only had basic functionality, the latest versions are far better. There is drag and drop, many customizations, and as of version 4 - a search box. There are still quite a few glitches overall though. Still, this project shows great promise and is one to keep an eye on.

Classic Start Menu

Classic Start Menu, while not free (20 bucks), has a variety of advanced features. You can use drag/drop to rearrange your menus (I found it to be a bit buggy), it has 2 skins to choose from (Aero and Classic). On the negative side, there is almost no keyboard navigation because there is a search box that steals all typed characters. There is some sort of shortcut system using the numeric keys but I couldn’t get it to work reliably. There is no proper "recent documents" menu. Also the localization is a bit off and right-to-left support is a bit lacking.


CSMenu is free and provides the basic functionality – open the Programs menu, click on a program to run. It is lacking advanced functions like keyboard navigation, drag/drop, recent documents, customizability, etc. Also the localization is not quite right – for example Help and Support, Calculator, etc. are not localized, no support for right-to-left languages.
Update: Looks like development has stopped on this project and it has been abandoned by the authors
Update: Looks like the original CSMenu program is not available for download anymore. The website is taken over by the developer of the Classic Start Menu program from the previous section, and now offers his software.

Vista Start Menu

Vista Start Menu is another version done by the same developer as Classic Start Menu above. It tries to be much fancier but the UI was way too busy for my taste. I gave it a quick look and found the keyboard shortcut system to work a bit more reliably. There is free version and PRO version (20 bucks) that adds some more customization features. I would rate this one the highest of the bunch because of its features, if you are into this sort of UI.

Seven Classic Start

Seven Classic Start is probably the worst of the bunch. It is the most expensive (25 bucks!) and only offers basic functionality. Even though it is advertised as “Complete with everything that makes the original Start menu beloved by so many users” there is no drag and drop, expanding Control Panel, recent documents, localization, or right-to-left support.
P.S. When you try to uninstall the trial you get an offer to use it for free if you agree to try some other software as well.
Update: The latest version has some drag and drop (but is a bit buggy) and some basic Aero accents

Taskbar Classic Start Menu

Taskbar Classic Start Menu is a start menu that doesn't attach to the start button, but to the tray notification area. It may take some getting used to, but some people may prefer it on the right side of the screen. The latest version I tried (version 3) is still a bit rough. There is no drag and drop, Control Panel or much customizability (although the customizable banner bitmap is a nice touch). There are also a few glitches that hopefully will be fixed in the future.

Alternatives to other Classic Shell features

Classic Shell has a long list of features, but not everybody needs all of them. In case you need only a single feature, here's a list of simpler utilities that you might find useful:

Mavis Up Button

Mavis Up Button adds Up button in the title bar of Explorer. It costs $4.95. Besides not being free, it has a few downsides compared to the Classic Shell implementation. It doesn't get disabled when you reach the top folder. It breaks the resizing of the search box in Windows 7 Explorer. And it doesn't scale up for higher-resolution displays. On the plus side, it is a pleasant shade of green and has a nice shadow around the button.

Win7 Shared Folder Icon –

Win7 Shared Folder Icon is a small shell extension that adds an overlay to show shared folders in Windows 7. While not free ($19.90), it offers a good selection of icons to choose from.


BreadCrumbKiller is a small free utility that disables the breadcrumbs in Explorer in Windows 7 and Vista. Currently it has a problem that it shows 2 dropdown arrows in the address bar. The author is aware of the issue and is looking for a solution.
Update: The problem with the two arrows is now fixed.


AveNoBreadcrumbs is the original breadcrumb killer. Unfortunately it doesn't work on Windows 7, just on Vista.

Explorer7Fixes -

Explorer7Fixes is a small utility that adds the sort header for Explorer in Windows 7.

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