Here’s a review of the Classic Shell by Jacques Bensimon.
Finally got around to testing Classic Shell on Windows 8 – I delayed it for a while to try life without a Start Menu (it’s workable but, bottom line, it blows!). The Classic Shell review will be brief: it’s absolutely fantastic! Not only does it bring back a great looking Start Menu (complete with Taskbar orb – see screenshot to the left) and not only does it have the usual Programs submenu to access your “classic” installed apps, but it also adds an “Apps” menu that gives you direct access (from the Desktop side of Windows 8) to all your Store (aka Metro) apps – as far as I can tell, that’s not an easy thing to do: creating standard shortcuts definitely doesn’t work, and the only such ability I’d found prior to Classic Shell was launching the following Explorer command line
which opens a folder called “Applications” that contains all your installed apps (Desktop and Store) mixed together (many store app icons in that folder look crappy or barely visible until you highlight them).
When installing Classic Shell on Windows 8, I recommend you don’t select the Classic Explorer and Classic IE features (the Windows 8 Explorer already has a rich ribbon interface with lots of buttons – no need to add a toolbar – and Classic IE is pretty much useless anyway).
SIDE NOTE: By sheer coincidence, soon after I sent the e-mail admitting my previous failure to launch Store/Metro apps from the Desktop side of Windows 8, I ran across a URL type named “xboxgames” in the Registry, so I tried launching “xboxgames://” from the Run dialog and sure enough it started the Games (Metro) app. It therefore also works from a command line (Start xboxgames://) and from a shortcut (.URL type). Searching the Registry for other URL types (search HKCR for “URL:” or “URL Protocol” as in the screenshot below, or use NirSoft’s URLProtocolView), it looks as if most (if not all) Store apps have an associated URL type (bingnews://, bingsports://, netflix://, etc.). I’m not yet sure whether there’s a more direct way to identify the URL type corresponding to a given Store app (I suspect there is), but this is a good start.