In May, we chatted with Ivo Beltchev, the main developer behind the free program Classic Shell, which had a massive surge of new downloads following the launch of Windows 8, thanks to its Start menu. Recently, version 4.0 of Classic Shell was released, which not only is compatible with Windows 8.1 but also has a new "Windows 7" style of Start menu.
We decided to check back in with Beltchev to learn more about Classic Shell 4.0, how he feels about Windows 8.1 bringing back the Start button but not a full Start menu and more.
It's been a few months since we last did an interview and recently you launched Classic Shell 4.0. First, what can you tell us about the main features that you have put into the new release?
Classic Shell 4.0 is a huge step forward from the previous version 3.6. It took 6 months to develop and 3 more months for beta testing The biggest new feature is the “Windows 7” menu style, which replicates the start menu from Windows 7. You get the All Programs list inside the main menu, search for files and documents, list of frequently used programs, highlighting for new programs, and more. There are plenty of options to customize the look and feel of the new style. The Classic Shell implementation of the start menu has some unique features that set it apart from the competition. It is the only menu that can use the standard start button from Windows 8.1.
It is the only menu that shows when there are new Windows updates to be installed. It allows you to customize the icon, the text and the behavior for the menu items. It is also one of the few programs that still support Windows 7. Another new feature is the addition of a status bar for Explorer in Windows 8. It shows the total size of the selection, the available free space and the security zone. Classic Shell 4 also improves the localization experience. You get a notification when there is an update for your language and you can install new language files directly from the settings. Classic Shell continues to generate a ton of downloads.
Are you surprised that it has continued to be a popular download?
No surprise here. It is obvious there is a need for tools like that. With the adoption of Windows 8.1 I expect the popularity to grow.
What do you think of Microsoft's decision to put in a Start button, but not a full Start menu, in Windows 8.1?
It feels to me like “too little too late”. We were asking for a full start menu on the desktop, which is optimized for precise devices like keyboard and mouse, and can play well with other desktop applications. Instead we got a shortcut to the start screen, which is optimized for touch devices and fat fingers. Both interfaces have their place, but I think the desktop users are being underserved. Which is a great opportunity for tools like Classic Shell :)
What plans do you have for Classic Shell following the launch of 4.0?
The next few months will be mostly small tweaks focusing on polish, compatibility and bug fixes. There are plans for new big features but they are still in the design phase and will not be announced until sometime next year.
Do you have any plans to develop more programs that are made to bridge the gap between Windows Modern and desktop users?
No such plans. I am already spending an unhealthy amount of time on Classic Shell. I do not have any capacity to take on new projects.
Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Classic Shell 4.0?
I’d like to thank all my users for their support during the beta. The feedback and participation has been phenomenal. It is because of them that Classic Shell 4.0 is such a high-quality release.
We would like to thank Ivo for answering our questions.
Image via Classic Shell