Get Windows 10 Features Now

You’ll need this Classic shell Get a new custom Start menu (www.classicshell.net).
dexpot Create four sets of virtual desktops. Download it for free at dexpot.de

The release of Windows 10 is still a good few months off, and if you’re not quite brave enough to begin experimenting with the Technical Preview, you might be sighing in anticipation of all the new features that Windows 10 promises to bring to the desktop and elsewhere – not least the return of the Start menu.
Worry not though, because you can replicate many of those very same features in Windows 7 and 8 using a variety of (mostly free) third-party programs, as we’ll demonstrate in this step by-step guide. Some are quite well known – the amazing Classic Shell, for instance, has become a firm favorite among many Windows 8 users – but there are a few others you may not have known even existed. Once you discover them, you’ll probably be hooked – and using them will get you ready to jump straight into Windows 10 when it lands later this year.

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1 GET CLASSIC SHELL

One of the biggest gripes many people have with Windows 8 is the lack of a proper Start menu, which is probably why Microsoft is bringing it back in Windows 10, with some extra improvements. There are many utilities available to ‘fake’ a Start menu in Windows 8, but the best is definitely Classic Shell – and it’s completely free (download it at www.classicshell.net).

2 INSTALL THE SOFTWARE

Classic Shell actually consists of three components: Classic Start Menu, Classic Explorer and Classic IE. If you just want the Start menu, you can safely ignore the other two parts. During installation, you can choose whether or not to install each component: just click and choose ‘Entire feature will be unavailable* for Classic Explorer and Classic IE.

3 START WITH STYLE

Once it’s installed, the next time you click the ‘Start’ button you’ll see the Classic Shell Settings screen (Image A). First, choose which style of menu you like: Classic style’ is more like Windows 95; ‘Classic with two columns’ is like Windows Vista; and of course Windows 7 style’ exactly replicates the previous operating system’s Start menu style. If you like, you can now click ‘OK’.

4 GOING FURTHER

There are many more ways to customize Classic Start Menu though, and it’s worth having a look through all of the options (just search for ‘Classic’ to access the settings program again). Click ‘Show all settings’ to display even more customisa-tions aimed at more advanced users. You can even replace the Windows 8 Start button icon with the Start orb from Windows 7.

5 MODERN APPS IN A WINDOW

In Win10, Modern apps will be able to run in a window – unlike in Win8, where they can only run in full-screen mode. You can fix this with a program called ModernMix from www.stardock.com (Image B).

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6 Bin the mix

ModernMix can run Modern apps full-screen, in maximised windows, or in normal windows. You can change the default behaviour for apps in the General settings; by default, it assigns the [F10] key as a hot-switch between each mode, or you can use the little icon that appears in the top right of the app window.

7 COMMAND CONTROL

Windows 10 includesan improved Command Prompt window that now features – at long last – proper support for copy/paste keyboard commands, among other things. You can get this right now in Windows 7 or 8 with Console2 from sourceforge.net/projects/console. It’s a free standalone program that offers many extra options over the basic Windows version (Image C).

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8 SWITCH IT ON

Task switching has been revamped in Windows 10. with a full-screen preview of all your open windows. There’s a similar utility called Switcher 2.0, which runs on Windows Vista, 7 and 8, available at insentient.net. This gives you three different ways of displaying open windows, hotkeys for quickly switching between them, customization window styles and more (Image D).

9 VIRTUAL DESKTOPS

The final major interface change in Windows 10 is virtual desktops, which enable you to group windows and apps into different sets of different ‘screens’. Yet again, though, there’s a well-established utility that does all this and more, which is available for Windows 7 and 8. It’s called Dexpot and you can find it at dexpot.de. The program is free for personal use.

10 THE POWER OF DEXPOT

Dexpot enables you to assign apps and windows to one of four different desktops (Image E). You can assign rules so that a particular app always opens on a particular desktop, and you can preview desktops as a full-screen view, then click one to use it. There’s also a handy little quick-switcher that sits near the clock, and fully customisable shortcut keys. In fact, just about every part of Dexpot is customization. It’ll end up saving you a lot of time.

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KEY FEATURES

1. A BETTER START

Customise the Start menu. You can even bring back the Windows 95 style.

2. IN COMMAND

Install a command prompt replacement to mimic the new version in Windows 10.

3. WINDOW ON THE WORLD

Run Modern apps in a normal window, and resize them just like any other program.

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4. VIRTUAL DESKTOPS

Get multiple virtual desktops and switch between them quickly using Dexpot’s powerful features – before Win10 arrives.

5. MAKE THE SWITCH

Get advanced task switching, tiled app previews and more with Switcher 2.0.

6. RETURN OF THE START

Bring the Start menu back to Windows 8 with Classic Shell – it looks and works like Windows 7, right down to the icon.

Get Windows 10 Features Now

 

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