Classic Shell has been around ever since the final version of Windows 7 was released by Microsoft to the public, a lot longer than other applications that bring back the start menu of Windows 8. It does more than that, even though it is often reduced to its start menu module.
The developer of Classic Shell has released a first beta version of Classic Shell 4.0 that introduces several new and improved features to the program. Note that the version is currently listed as 3.9.0 beta, the final version will however be 4.0 RTM.
Probably the biggest change in Classic Shell 4.0 is the new Windows 7 menu style that you can now select next to the two classic styles the program ships with. It looks similar to the classic theme with two columns on first glance, but uses a slightly different layout and functionality. Windows 7 users should feel right at home when they select the style.
If you install Classic Shell on Windows 8, you will notice that programs and apps are displayed in the start menu so that you can run them from it right away. They show up in the left pane right away as individual folders just like they do under Windows 7. This is different from the classic themes where they are sorted into an apps and programs folder.
Search results show up in the start menu area right away, but unlike on Windows 7, they use all of the available space. The search is tapping right into the Windows indexing service so that you can now search for files and programs from the start menu.
Jumplists too are now displayed right next to the program so that you only need to hover over it to access that functionality.
Other changes include the highlighting of new programs and apps in the start menu, options to pin programs directly from Windows Explorer, and the ability to search all Classic Shell settings to find particular ones faster.
Compatibility with Windows 8.1 has been improved, I had no issues installing the application on the system. It did replace the start button that Microsoft has added to the operating system with its own.
Improvements have also been made to some of the keyboard shortcuts which should now work properly everywhere.
The Classic IE9 module of the application has been renamed to Classic IE to highlight that it is compatible with all versions of Internet Explorer from version 9 on.
The new version of Classic Shell drops support for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, so that it is only compatible with Windows 7 and newer client versions, and Windows Server 2008 R2 and newer server versions.
Classic Shell 4.0 beta introduces several improvements and changes to the application that make a whole lot of sense. Windows 7 users should feel right at home when they activate the new Windows 7 start menu style, and improvements that have been made to search and the way programs are displayed add to that as well.
While stable during tests, it is important to note that this is still beta software so that it is not recommended to use it in productive environments just yet.