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Desktop shell replacements for Windows - are they dead?



  • After several years of using a Mac mini for office computing, a low-end linux netbook for everything else and a gaming/3D rendering workstation with Windows, I looked upon options to replace the boring interface of the later.

    It appears that since Windows 10 came out, shell replacement software development seems completely abandoned! It's also verified on Wikipedia that virtually all options are out of question.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_alternative_shells_for_Windows

    Back in the Windows 98 and XP days, I remember using LiteStep and being very happy with its theming options. The aesthetics of Microsoft operating systems have always been quite unattractive for my taste.

    Is there something I've been missing? From what I suspect, Windows 10 makes changing the GUI shell impossible for 3rd party software...



  • @matchaman I remember LiteStep too and some other options. It wasn't powerful in terms of changing the Usability like in Linux with different Desktop Environments, but it was nice. For that time, I was happy to be able to change some Windows aspects, asthetics, adding widgets to Desktop and so on. Today, I use Windows only for gaming and so, I am not interest in anything like that. I think, those days are dead.



  • Indeed, it was fun while it lasted. Microsoft seems to have focused heavily on making customisation harder for 3rd parties while in all honesty, the Windows 10 GUI gets extremely boring after a while. The case seems to be the same for Mac OS, however, Apple has managed to make their OS look still attractive even after years of usage.

    This all comes in contrast with the amazing theming capabilities of Linux GUIs... another field that open source makes things much, much better.

    My final conclusion is that Windows 10 has some theming capabilities that are currently limited to two options (which can be used simultaneously): Cairo Shell (open source) and WindowBlinds (proprietary). Neither of them is a complete shell replacement though.


  • Global Moderator

    @matchaman In their defense, they've added the multiple desktops feature right into explorer now - at least that's on par with the most basic Unix/Linux window manager. To be honest, at the pace their developing the new OS, I don't think they want to expose any extension/customization points for fear they'll be breaking them in one their rolling releases. Which is probably why custom shell solutions have given up on maintaining them in the Win10 release track.
    They're focusing now on adding Linux into Win10 (via WSL), so in 1 year you'll probably be able to run any Linux windows manager on-top of Windows explorer :).



  • That's some mind blowing news! I'm reading about it and it feels almost as shocking as SEGA games being released on Nintendo systems back in the early 00s :)



  • @matchaman it is. Hell is frozen already. And not only that. I read somewhere Microsoft did a Linux only distribution; i think for web servers.


  • Global Moderator

    @thelostsoul said in Desktop shell replacements for Windows - are they dead?:

    I read somewhere Microsoft did a Linux only distribution; i think for web servers.

    It's probably for their cloud (Azure), which makes sense since they want to compete with AWS/GCE, where Linux is the dominant OS deployed. Do you know they also ported .Net and SQL Server to Linux ? (ok, this topic is getting out of hands).



  • @mitu yeah as I use Linux based OS as my main OS since 2008, I am aware of it. ;-) its just amazing.

    For the on-topic, I don't believe the situation will change for Windows 10.



  • Well, there's always the option to switch to a more flexible OS. ;) (As long as one isn't dependant on Windows-only software like AAA games, MS Office, or Photoshop.)



  • @clyde said in Desktop shell replacements for Windows - are they dead?:

    As long as one isn't dependant on Windows-only software like AAA games, MS Office, or Photoshop

    And theres the reason keeping me from using Linux. I play a lot of games on steam and rely on software like Photoshop and Bridge for school work.



  • Most everything in terms of desktop shell replacements died out around Windows 7's release.



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