OpenShell is working on replacing the Windows 11 Start menu • The Register

There’s a very preliminary FOSS Start Menu replacement for Windows 11 – but it’s not quite there yet.

Windows 11 is an interesting release, given that Microsoft once said there would be no more releases. One could be forgiven for thinking that reversing this major decision would have to be something quite historic… but it isn’t. It’s a little prettier and polishes off some of Windows 10’s rough edges, but it’s mostly a facelift. In a way, it’s a functional downgrade because there’s a big loss in customization of the taskbar and Start menu, which are the centers of the Windows user interface.

Help is coming, however, in the form of OpenShell. OpenShell is the continued development of the older Classic Shell for Windows 8. Its developers have been to discuss the impact of the new Windows, and a new version has leaked out that will install and run.

It hasn’t been promoted to a full version yet, so you’ll have to hunt. On the main OpenShell GitHub page, under Releases on the right side, click “+7 releases”. This should take you to a new page, and under Periodic update at the top, a new construction hides. Click on “Assets” and there is OpenShellSetup_4_4_169.exe.

Windows 11 desktop screenshot

Desktop changes in Windows 11 didn’t set the world on fire

We tried it, and with some limitations, it works. Until we chose a custom button, it only opened in response to the Windows key; clicking the Microsoft start button got the Microsoft start menu. A custom button does what you expect, but the problem is that it doesn’t line up with the built-in button. The Aero version is too small and the Microsoft button sticks out from below, while the Classic button is too big and overlaps the Search button.

We also experimented with the tweaks that change Explorer’s sidebar, and they work fine, but they don’t take into account Windows dark mode, which seems weird. We come disabled dark mode. (While you’re at it, you can also disable the Chat button. Unless you use Teams, in which case you have our sympathies.)

But by all means, give OpenShell a try, leave feedback, and encourage the team in their efforts.

It’s a proprietary operating system, and for now, a proprietary tool remains the most complete solution. Stardock’s Start11 rises to the rescue, like Start10 did seven years ago. There’s a one-month free demo to give you a taste. As you can imagine, here on The Reg’s FOSS desktop, we try to use Windows as rarely as possible, but Start11 helps.

What no offer can help at the moment is to move the taskbar. Since Windows 95 it’s possible to arrange this vertically – and since Windows places scrollbars on the right, the left edge is the best place. It’s not just me. Others I agree.

Xfce, LXQt, LXDE and PIXEL all do vertical taskbars very well. Cinnamon makes a noble effort, and it works, if not perfectly – as it does in UKUI and Deepin desktops. It breaks pretty badly on MATE and KDE, though. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s desktop today is inferior in functionality to the FOSS desktops it inspired.

To recover, LiteStep. All is forgiven. ®

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