Windows Shell

Windows Shell

In computing, Windows Shell is the most visible aspect of the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems. The shell is the container inside of which the entire user interface is presented, including the Task bar, the Desktop, Windows Explorer, as well as many of the dialog boxes and interface controls, but also describes the past shells, like MS-DOS Executive and Program Manager.

The default Windows shell is called Explorer — this is the program that determines the look of the desktop (i.e. it creates the task bar, notification area, start menu, etc.)

Windows 1 and 2 - Early UI

Just after the IBM PC hit the market (August 1981), a project named "Interface Manager" started. It was renamed to "Windows" because the programmers talked very much about the zones called "windows" on the display screen. Rowland Hanson, the head of marketing at Microsoft, convinced the company that the name Windows would be a more appealing name to consumers. The first Windows pre-version was presented in November 1983. It used Word for DOS-like menus at the bottom of the screen. The first released version, Windows 1.01, released in November 1985, used pull-down menus like the early Macintosh System 1.x (Microsoft actually licensed GUI elements from Apple). The shell was a file manager (not a program manager) called "MS-DOS Executive". Applications could be launched from the MS-DOS Executive which minimized itself. The minimizing (called "iconing") was done by transforming the windows into an icon which was placed at the bottom of the screen, in a special minimized windows zone. The maximizing (called "zooming") could extend the window over the minimized windows zone. Windows could not be overlapped, but they were instead "tiled". As a result, two windows could not be "zoomed" at the same time.

Windows 2.0 was an interface-based release. The new window controls were introduced with this release, with the new "minimize" and "maximize" terminology. Windows could be overlapped and the minimized window icons could be moved freely on the desktop.

Windows 3.x, NT 3.x - The First Revolution

Windows 3.0, introduced in May 1990, inherited the OS/2 GUI. The new "Program Manager" was a simple "front end" where the "groups" and icons had no relation to the actual file system. A background could be put on the desktop, and the window controls were redesigned. The buttons were all in 3-D appearance (the windows weren't). As a result, the Windows 3.0 operating system was a success. Later versions of Windows 3.x introduced Screen Savers.

The new operating system from Microsoft, "Windows NT", featured the same GUI in the first version (3.1), like Windows 3.1x, although the color scheme was inherited from Windows 3.1, not the 3.0 version.

Windows 95

In Windows 95, the shell was redesigned. The new taskbar was introduced, with an area consisting of buttons representing open windows, a clock, a "notifications area" for background processes and system notifications, and the Start button, which harbored the replacement for Program Manager, the Start menu. The desktop now linked to a folder, and also contained several system folders - My Computer, Network Neighborhood, and the Recycle Bin. The shell was now managed by Windows Explorer, which also served as the file browser, replacing File Manager.

Windows 95C, 98 - "Nashville"

The growing popularity of the World Wide Web caused Microsoft to release its own browser, dubbed "Internet Explorer" which was based on technology licensed from Spyglass [cite web | url= | title=Memoirs From the Browser Wars | author=Eric Sink | date=April 15 2003 | accessdate=2006-06-24 ] . In early 1996, Netscape announced that the next release of its browser, Netscape, would completely integrate with Windows and add a new shell, codenamed "Constellation". Microsoft started working on a similar Internet Explorer release, codenamed "Nashville". Internet Explorer 4.0 was redesigned and resulted in two products: the standalone IE4 which replaced the Windows shell with a new "Active Desktop" shell and the future Windows releases, like Windows 95C and Windows 98, which integrated Internet Explorer and Active Desktop in the shell.

Georgia, Neptune and Tiger

Windows 2000 (NT 5.0) also integrated Internet Explorer into the shell and added some new capabilities, such as extended Start Menus and some eye candy. This interface was codenamed "Georgia". Fact|date=June 2008 Windows Me also added these features. In the meantime, some new Windows versions were planned, "Neptune" and "Odyssey".

Neptune and Odyssey were cancelled in January 2000 and replaced with "Whistler". But before that, an early alpha release of "Neptune" appeared. It featured Activity Centers, which were also cancelled along with "Neptune" and "Odyssey".

"Tiger" was a short-lived idea for continuing the DOS/9x platform. [cite web | url= | title=Windows ME the last Win9x OS? Maybe not... | date=June 21 2000 | accessdate=2008-10-01 ]

Odyssey, Whistler - The skinning engine

"Odyssey" was designed to have a skinning engine similar to Stardock's WindowBlinds. It was later incorporated into "Whistler" (the "skin" name was changed to "visual style"). Two visual styles were developed: one "Professional" and one "Home". Early builds of "Whistler" (later named Windows XP) shipped only with the "Professional" visual style (later renamed to Watercolor), which was developed initially for Odyssey, but later Microsoft polls showed that consumers were interested in the "Home" visual style, which later replaced Professional/Watercolor.

XP, Server 2003 - "Luna", "Royale"

The "home" skin became known as "Luna", and this refined version featured other UI elements, such as a reworked Start Menu and Control Panel. It was shipped with Windows XP. It received an update with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, called "Royale". Windows Server 2003 featured the same Luna UI.

Longhorn - Plex, Slate and Jade

The future Longhorn operating system was designed to have a new interface called Aero. In the early alpha builds, Longhorn featured some interfaces called Plex, Slate and Jade, which were some interim steps between Luna and Aero. The Aero developments were at the beginning similar to Plex, but later transformed in the modern Aero.

Vista - Aero

The Aero UI was introduced with Longhorn build 5048 and was developed along with the Vista builds, Beta 1 and the CTPs. It is currently included in all versions of Windows Vista (with the exception of Starter and Home Basic), as well as Windows Server 2008.

hell replacements

It is possible to replace the default Windows shell with a different program. There exist a number of third party shells designed to be used in place of the standard Windows shell.


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