Is Classic Shell dead? Developer quits

The developer of the popular Classic Shell application for Microsoft's Windows operating system released the last version of the program yesterday.

Classic Shell is a free program for Windows that restores classic versions of the Windows Start Menu, Explorer, Internet Explorer and Shell on user request.

It is used by many to restore the classic Windows 7 start menu on Windows 8.1 or 10 machines, and also to bring back the classic look to other core parts of the operating system.

classic shell 4.0

The developer of Classic Shell announced yesterday on the official forum that he won't work on the program anymore. He provided three explanations for stopping development of the application:

  • Lack of free time because of other interests.
  • Windows 10 is updated too frequently (twice a year with a new feature update) which makes it difficult to keep up with the development, especially since updates break functionality of Classic Shell frequently.
  • Microsoft changing the core of Windows from being based on the classic Win32 programming model, and thereby making it more difficult for developers to achieve the level of customization that Classic Shell offers.

The last official version of Classic Shell, version 4.3.1 was released yesterday as well. Users of the application can download and install it.

The latest version is compatible with all recent versions of Windows starting with Windows 7. I tested it on the most recent Redstone 4 build of Windows 10 as well, and did not run into any issues installing it on that system.

The lead developer uploaded that last version, and the application's source code to SourceForge. While he won't develop the software anymore, others may come and fork the code to continue development.

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The official forums will remain open for the year 2018 but will be shut down at the end of the year.

Classic Shell Alternatives

There is a chance that no one will pick up development. There are a couple of alternatives available, especially for changing the Windows 8 or 10 start menu to a classic menu.

  • Pokki -- A custom start menu for Windows 8.
  • Spencer -- Adds a Windows XP start menu icon to the system.
  • Start10 -- The commercial application by Stardock restores the classic Windows start menu. It is available for a one-time cost of $4.99.
  • StartIsBack++ -- A free application that replaces the Windows start menu with a classic variant.
  • StartMenuX -- A free and commercial start menu replacement for Windows.
  • Start Menu Reviver -- The program mixes the old and new start menu.

Closing Words

It is always sad when a highly respected and popular program reaches end of life. There is a chance however that someone else will pick up development, and articles like mine may bring the matter to the attention of developers who did not know about Classic Shell before.

Now You: Do you know of other alternatives? Lets fill the list above with suggestions.

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Classic Shell developer stops development
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The developer of the popular Classic Shell application for Microsoft's Windows operating system released the last version of the program yesterday.
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Responses to Is Classic Shell dead? Developer quits

  1. TelV December 4, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

    It should be pointed out I think that Pokki can be 'problematical' to put it mildly: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/25/lenovo_pokki/

  2. Yuliya December 4, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    I installed StartIsBack on a Win8 computer, and it's actually very similar to 7's Start menu. The frequently opened programs list is still broken (on 7 it updates automatically, on all those start menu clones it takes a while to be updated), but it's fairly decent. Lightweight too, and after uninstalling it doesn't seem to be (m)any leftovers, probably some registry entries at most.

  3. Steve December 4, 2017 at 2:24 pm #

    From the article: "The last official version of Classic Shell, version 4.3.1 was released yesterday as well. Users of the application can download and install it."

    No. 4.3.1 was released on Aug 12th, 2017. There's no other version released after that.

    • Howard Pearce December 4, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

      yiu beat me to it

    • Heimen Stoffels December 5, 2017 at 11:50 am #

      On Sourceforge, in the downloads section, it says that 4.3.1 is released on 3-12-2017.

      • A different Martin December 5, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

        I sure wish everyone would just start using the ISO format for numerical dates (yyyy-mm-dd, e.g., 2017-12-03), so that no one has to figure out whether dates are in the European format (dd-mm-yyyy, e.g., 03-12-2017) or the American format (mm-dd-yyyy, e.g., 12-03-2017). I just ran into the issue at WSUS Offline Update. There, the answer was easy (European) because it's a German site and the "American date" for the most recent release would still be in the future, but it's not always so obvious without spending time digging around. (As a bonus, ISO dates sort without any fancy processing.)

        At any rate, I'm guessing SourceForge uses the European format and that 03-12-2017 means 3 December 2017 ... right?

  4. George December 4, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

    A real pity, the free Classic Shell is a true software gem. Hopefully, others will resume development. As for the alternatives for the Classic Start Menu (Classic Shell offers more than the menu, CSM is only a part of CS), there are some valid ones like StartIsBack and Start10.

    I prefer them over the Windows 10 native menu (which in turn is better than the Windows 8.0 abomination) but none of them can hold a candle to what Classic Shell can achieve and the amount of customisation offered.

    Bad times for creative people.

  5. GeorgeTowler December 4, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    Great program. I wonder what other than Win 10 compatibility was left to do?

    I discovered Classic a while ago, it did the job out of the box so I had no reason to try other similar products. I run Win7 x86 and it does everything I need so I'll stick with it. Pretty much all of the mods to Classic over the last few years have been to do with Win 10 compatibility so it has no effect on me.

    I have yet to find a current program which will not run under Win7 and only one (VidCoder) which requires x64.

    • Corky December 4, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

      The Win 10 compatibility would be ongoing because of the way Microsoft have chosen to update it, releasing major updates twice a year means third-party developers have to constantly keep an eye on what's changed and if it impacts them, I'd expect many more hobbyists, part-time, and doing it to learn developers are going to abandon Windows in the future as what may have been a fun and altruistic act in the past has turned into a chore.

  6. Corky December 4, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

    Sad to see but understandable as trying to develop software for a platform that's constantly shifting takes a level of commitment that probably puts off most non-commercial developers, i wish Ivo ever success in whatever he chooses to do in the future.

  7. Jeff December 4, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    To say it was a gem is an understatement. It is how software for computers should be - easy yet powerful. Gives you all the choices yet not terribly hard to use. Microsoft is making you their slaves. They do anything they want, pretend to listen to feedback and 99% will blindly trust them and believe that adapting to any kind of change obediently is their no.1 job. They'll brainwash others around them to "get with the times" instead of being rational and critical and oppose the bad changes that tech companies force on consumers - changes which are done purely by the company's management to drive them more revenue. Investors run the show and what's actually beneficial for the end user may not be in the best interest of the user. For the investor who wants a return on his investment, management has to please them all the time, not the consumer. Rare apps like Classic Shell freed you from this evil corporate capitalism and now it's dead. To say that it positively impacted the Windows experience is also an understatement. Classic Shell stood for freedom, choices, empowerment, attention to what the user wants - not what the companies want. We've suffered a great loss today while some idiots are calling an optional piece of app that made computers more customizable as "good riddance". What an awful time to be alive. Capitalism will ruin everything that focuses on quality and reward everything that focuses on profits. I hope the Windows PC can survive the loss of Classic Shell.

  8. kalmly December 4, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

    Awww. I love and appreciate Classic Shell. It shall live on in my Win7 computers.

  9. seeprime December 4, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    Version 4.3.1 was released earlier this year. The file on SourceForge appears to be the same one. The developer did a really nice job on Classic Shell. I hate to see him give it up. Maybe others will step in and keep it going.

  10. Ron December 4, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

    I have StartW8 on the two Windows 8.1 computers in the house. I run Linux Mint on my computer so I don't have to worry about such issues.

  11. Steve Hare December 4, 2017 at 7:26 pm #

    Classic Shell helped make W10 a little more bearable. Frankly W10 is becoming rather difficult to use and maintain. It phones home, it has privacy settings all over the UI, , it installs unnecessary apps, the firewall is a mess to manage, the services are unintelligible, it has a huge footprint, and makes you do things you don't want to do. Their Store is a joke. IE and Edge are a pain to use. I can't stand Windows Explorer (thank goodness we can still install different file managers). I've been messing with Windows since 3.1 and I grow weary. I've been using Mint more and more. While there are some bumps the whole system feels more open and easy to use. While Linux may never replace Windows as a commercial product it runs on a whole lot more systems than Windows does. I struggle to see where there is an advantage to a regular user i.e., a non-corporate user. Even in an enterprise environment it is difficult to use and manage Windows. I suppose if you are a truly non-technical person and are willing to surrender to MS it's fine. I've managed to convert several people to Mint and they seem to feel it is a little easier to use. As my first boss told me years ago - "it takes all kinds of animals to make a zoo". Helps keep things in perspective! At any rate...thanks to the developer for working so diligently to keep ths app alive for so long. Good luck with your future endeavors.

    • Sophie December 4, 2017 at 7:30 pm #

      @ Jeff - Your comments are SO SO bang on! Everything you say appears true, to me.

      And to support your words about pretending to listen to feedback........have you seen the many many many generic responses MS$ support staff give to worried and concerned users? It goes like this.....

      - A user asks for some advice for something reasonable and specific...
      - Microsoft cut and paste
      - User asks again, and says it did not address the issue
      - MS$ do nothing useful after that

      Classic shell is a gem.....and one day we will all look back and wonder what happened to computing in the interests of the user.

      By contrast, almost everything that MS$ are doing right now, are of no interest to me at all...and believe me I watch what they are doing.

      • chesscanoe December 4, 2017 at 8:46 pm #

        "By contrast, almost everything that MS$ are doing right now, are of no interest to me at all...and believe me I watch what they are doing."

        I agree. I will continue to be happy with Win10 x64 latest FCU updates that address current function or security, but I want no more additional function for hardware or software I do not want or need.

        My Classic Shell was out of date even though I try to keep installed software current. Thanks for info on version 4.3.1 .

  12. Earl December 4, 2017 at 7:42 pm #

    This just makes me wonder where the bulk of Classic Shell users are. I stopped at Win 8.1, and I won't be going to Win 10. Of course, this is only for the one machine (a laptop) that isn't running Win 7. Mostly though I don't even use Windows anymore.

    • Ann December 6, 2017 at 11:29 am #

      that's the one transition I don't understand.
      Why not upgrade from W8 to W10 ? you already have every bad thing and in almost every other way W10 is better.
      unless you have program's that run under W8 and not under W10, i see no benefit for staying on W8.
      If you were using WIN7 on the other hand that situation is completely the opposite, then I would stay on WIN7.

      • Jody Thornton December 6, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

        Why single out Windows 8x @Ann? Actually Windows 8 is an EXTREMELY STABLE version of Windows. With Classic Shell added, it's better than Windows 7. In fact, UI wise, it's more like Windows 7 than 10, and it's faster than Windows 10.

        That is one of those cases where people refuse to stop h8-ting on Windows 8, just because of Metro and that Start Screen. Classic Shell hides it.

  13. iponymous December 4, 2017 at 7:42 pm #

    classic shell , . . . the best thing i ever did to my win 8.1 computer.

    Many thanks to the developer for such a top notch product.
    and , . Best wishes him/her!!!

  14. Chris December 4, 2017 at 9:25 pm #

    Make the guy CEO of Microsoft!

  15. andy December 4, 2017 at 10:54 pm #

    ehrm, sounds like a true gem will be lost; maybe for some of you bb4win might be a good alternative, if you already have linux anyway.

    You can search deviantart.com for it, because I know the author has published HOWTO's in there, and his gallery has some amazing desktop screenshots.

  16. Tony C December 5, 2017 at 1:46 am #

    I have been using Start 8/10 from Stardock for ages, its the best.
    When I first got it, it was one licence for $4.99, I logged in to the store recently and they have made a change. Its now 5 licences for $4.99, what a deal. I originally bought 5, which now makes it available for 25!

  17. Jozsef December 5, 2017 at 2:13 am #

    When 8.1 was the current Windows, I tried them all but no similar product could replace Classic Shell for my needs. I particularly love the XP style cascading programs list rather than the scrolling and clicking that Vista and 7 required. CS turned the unbearable Win 8 into rather a nice OS all by itself and for that I will be forever grateful.

    It would not surprise me if working on the despicable mess that is Windows 10 might have sapped the developer's enthusiasm to some degree but since I won't be using it, it won't affect me. As we still have CS to use for 7 and 8.1 which is where most of us have drawn the line, it's not so bad.

    I'm giving Manjaro a shot to leave the cesspool of spying and UI wretchedness that is Windows behind and if that doesn't work out, there are lots of other options.

  18. Stefan December 5, 2017 at 3:40 am #

    "It is used by many to restore the classic Windows 7 start menu on Windows 8.1 or 10 machines, and also to bring back the classic look to other core parts of the operating system."

    I use it in Windows 7 to get rid of Windows 7's DYSFUNCTIONAL startmenu and get the old classic Windows menu back. Have never liked the "new" look since Windows 7 (and later). At least in Vista you could get that classic menu back if You chose to.

  19. jasray December 5, 2017 at 4:13 am #

    Dissent--classic shell was nothing more than a crutch for those users too lazy or illiterate or mentally incapable of the zero learning curve for a new, more functional start menu. Glad it's gone--hope it doesn't resurrect. Quite the pathetic waste of time for the developer. Think of all those minutes, hours, days, months, and years and gone forever--irretrievably lost on some pointless program!

    • smaragdus December 5, 2017 at 4:25 am #

      @jasray
      You are the undisputed idiot of the year, congratulations.

    • Jeff December 5, 2017 at 9:47 am #

      Another sheep blindly following Microsoft. Seriously it's like you have turned off your brain and can only see the higher version number as the indication of some improvement because Microsoft always knows what's best for you right? And it's not even like anyone is forcing you to download the third party app yet you were here trashing a good program's reputation and insulting millions who preferred it and spreading outright lies about it (seriously, you are comparing functionality and usability of the stock Windows 10 menu with this powerful third party Start menu?) Did you miss the whole Windows 8 debacle and how it regressed the entire OS? Think of the minutes you wasted just to comment on the death of a very useful program. *You're* pathetic jasray.

      • George December 6, 2017 at 12:45 am #

        No brain to turn off - don't bother.

      • Jody Thornton December 6, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

        Well he should be able to comment (whether we think it's a waste of time or not), but I do disagree with him. I really don't understand what there is to dislike about Classic Shell.

    • Jody Thornton December 5, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

      Yeah I'd have to say Jasray that you'd be in the minority here. And I've started to become a tad more progressive with time, but both the Windows 8x Start Screen and the Windows 10 Start Menu (which are really just UWP/Metro apps) leave A LOT to be desired.

      So what about the new Start Menus do you actually like better? I'm not caring whether they're easier to learn or not, but what's actually better about them? Please tell us.

  20. hahaha December 5, 2017 at 4:30 am #

    Sad news...

    Classic shell is working good on my w8.1.

  21. me December 5, 2017 at 7:57 am #

    Stop complaining and come over to linux ! Total freedom to do what you want.

    Great work on the part of classic shell developer - to make a horrid gui more tolerable.

    • Roger December 5, 2017 at 8:49 am #

      Well, it's not like Linux doesn't have it's own share of problems, unfortunately... So many desktop environments and so many of them are quite buggy and unstable. I've tried KDE recently and guess what? Crashes here, there and everywhere, very slow desktop animations. Also, font rendering is quite poor compared to Windows.

    • Sachi December 5, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

      I'm not going to comment on the issues @Roger has with Linux (I've been using KDE based distros for almost 2 years strait and have almost no issues with it, among with other desktop environments and no crashes) but not everyone can use Linux all the time so when people use Windows it's nice to have options on how to "customize" Windows.

    • John Fenderson December 6, 2017 at 7:14 pm #

      I use Linux exclusively for all of my personal machines, but I am unfortunately forced to use Win10 at work. Classic Shell removes one of the (many) pain points with Win10. The replacements are OK, but Classic Shell is the best. I'll miss it if nobody picks up maintenance of it.

  22. John C. December 5, 2017 at 8:27 am #

    I can't blame Ivo for wanting to free himself. It had to be like a non-ending game of chess with the Windows 10 developers. He did say this though: "So, moving forward, I am making the latest version of Classic Shell open-source and adding it back to SourceForge (https://sourceforge.net/projects/classicshell/), where it all began. I encourage other people to fork it and go with it.
    I will keep the MediaFire download mirror for another 6 months. The forum on http://www.classicshell.net/forum/ will stay open until the end of 2018, however I will not frequently participate in the discussions.

    Update: The source code can be also found on GitHub here: https://github.com/coddec/Classic-Shell "

    My thanks to him for his excellent work. I never would have tried Windows 7 if it hadn't been for him.

  23. Classic December 5, 2017 at 8:32 am #

    Sad news but I will not be moving to Win10 so not a problem.

    Classic Start Menu saved my sanity...and has done so since it`s inception.

    The only menu fixer I donated to - Thanks Ivo !

    and thanks Martin for the news update.

  24. Jeff December 5, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    In the last 30 days alone, FossHub shows Classic Shell had 365,021 downloads. In the months before that, 369,575, and 353,838. This, despite it competing with the stock Windows menu, and Start8/Start10 and StartIsBack++. Do you know what I would give to have an app - free or paid that has this level of sustained popularity after 8 years of running? Does anyone even know any UWP Store app which is not from a big corporation with this level of success? Microsoft just lost one of the best apps for Windows because of their arrogant behavior.

    • ULBoom December 5, 2017 at 3:39 pm #

      But they don't care, users are free employees running ad servers for them. So many software companies have themselves as customers, managing ad revenue movement at a level their users are not involved in except as a flow control in the data pipeline. I mean, is there any value whatsoever to seeing everything you've purchased? If you wanted those things you would have already bought them, and you did; makes no sense unless users are just cranking click pumps. Your use of "arrogant" as blind is so accurate.

  25. AnorKnee Merce December 5, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

    Come year 2020, ie the EOL of Win 7, most Win 7 users will likely have upgraded to Win 10, especially businesses and professionals = about 80% of the world will likely be running Win 10 in the desktop/laptop. If so, does this mean that most free Windows programs developed by "Lone Rangers", like Classic Shell, will also go extinct.?

  26. ULBoom December 5, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

    Once microsoft decided to combine phones, touchscreens and pc/laptop interfaces and force the least common denominator on everyone, windows usability became dreadful. Tile interfaces do keep users from easily accessing anything except what is shoved in front of them turning their devices into free ad servers, likely why the junk standard interface will remain. Amazing how many "features" I've disabled in Windows. Folks who see my desktop stare at it and say something like "Is that xp or something?" Sad we've become accustomed to seeing square baby shapes.
    Since Win 8, I've used classic start on all of our desktops and laptops and it's been a godsend, the smoothest of these replacements available, hope it remains in some form, pay or free. Everyone I've recommended it to, those stymied by microsoft's insistence on making windows' interface increasingly inane, has returned with a huge smile after installing classic shell/start, "Yay, windows works again!"

  27. A different Martin December 5, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

    I don't know much about Classic Shell's bells and whistles, but I do know this: when my dad got a Windows 10 computer, I couldn't stand "administering" it -- make that trying to administer it -- until I installed Classic Shell. When a recent round of Microsoft updates semi-borked the computer, a tech at his work uninstalled Classic Shell as part of the diagnostic process. (It didn't help.) We figured out a workaround on our own, and the first thing I did after that was to re-install Classic Shell.

    It's a shame the developer is throwing in the towel, but I understand completely. At a certain point, battered developers, like battered spouses, just have to get out and save themselves. (No winking smiley, for once.)

  28. Bruce December 5, 2017 at 8:57 pm #

    I have & love the way Classic Shell made my Windows 10 Laptop look and feel almost like my XP computer.
    And I also would like Microsoft to let users decide if they want Feature Improvements, instead of this jackass
    twice a year major change to Windows 10 .. For those that do not added or unneeded features, just let them
    continue to receive security updates. I for one, am happy with what I am currently on Windows 10 Home 64 1703

  29. b003 December 5, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

    It's what made windows 10 tolerable. If it's picked up I hope there's no ads or nag screens.

  30. dark December 6, 2017 at 12:27 am #

    Forget Windows, come over to Linux. Linux Mint and Manjaro are good enough for most.
    For newcomers i would recommend trying Cinnamon, KDE, Budgie, MATE, Deepin, Xfce and Pantheon desktop environments and then choose whichever DE you like. You can use VM to try out Linux distros with these DE's.

    If you can't let go of Windows programs and games after switching to Linux, there's Wine Staging/PlayOnLinux and VirtualBox or QEMU. QEMU offers near native performance and runs windows programs like Photoshop and Premiere very well. Gnome Boxes and Virt-Manager are GUI front ends to QEMU.

  31. A different Martin December 6, 2017 at 3:11 am #

    @ dark:

    I arrived at this conclusion on my own. The thought first came to me when Windows 8 was released. I thought that 8 might just be an interim dog, like ME and Vista, and that Microsoft might return to form with the following release. But when Windows 10 was released and Microsoft started f*cking with Windows 7 users, I began experimenting with Linux distros in VirtualBox while spending an unreasonable amount of time and energy keeping buggy or invasive Windows updates at bay.

    There was a little learning curve with VirtualBox, but not an insurmountable one. For example, you have to join the vboxsf group in Linux if you want to access shared Windows folders, and it isn't necessarily an out-of-the-box GUI process in every distro. Also, in some distros, updating to the appropriate version of Linux guest additions -- the one that matches the version of VirtualBox you're using -- isn't always a happy experience. It actually borked my PCLinuxOS (KDE Plasma) virtual machine twice in a row the last time I tried it, and I wasn't knowledgeable enough to fix the problem, even after reading about it in forums.

    Anyway, I played around with maybe 12-15 different distros and finally decided that Linux Mint Cinnamon was the easiest and most hassle-free for a Linux beginner like me. I'm super-busy for another month or two, but I got myself a new drive for my laptop -- I'm not going to attempt a dual boot or overwrite my Windows 7 system -- and when things start slacking off, I'm going to do a bare-metal install of Mint 18.3 Cinnamon. I'm sure I'll still have a lot of learning to do, but at least it won't be entirely alien to me.

    The only Windows program I can think of that "I can't do without" is the updating software for my Garmin GPS. But I guess that's what friends' and relatives' Windows machines are for. ;-) (Or, I could just swap my Windows drive back in. Or turn it into a Windows virtual machine and run it from within Linux.)

  32. Chris December 7, 2017 at 5:33 pm #

    Great shame, used it for years.

  33. Anonymous December 8, 2017 at 9:26 am #

    Homepage has downloads for Classic Shell version 4.31
    It explicitly states "Last updated: August 13, 2017 "

  34. Adam Smith December 8, 2017 at 9:27 am #

    The homepage has downloads for Classic Shell version 4.31
    It explicitly states "Last updated: August 13, 2017 "

    A great program: free, rock solid stable, never crashed, no bloatware, low resource usage.
    Basically Classic Shell is perfect software.
    Thank you to the programmer, for improving the computing lives of millions of Windows users who never saw the value of the Windows 8/10 operating system or its GUI

  35. George December 8, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

    I hope those chaps at Microsoft are fully aware of how much weaker and vulnerable Windows is without software like Classic Shell.

  36. Unknown Disturbance December 16, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

    Other than the theming I not sure how much more you can improve it? Turn it into windowblinds next?

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