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R0b0t1
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Joined: 05 Jun 2008
Posts: 255

PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2017 11:27 pm    Post subject: Replacing the Microsoft Windows Shell Reply with quote

Hello,

I'm interested in replacing the default Windows shell, i.e. the start bar and desktop, and if possible default window decoration. Admittedly this is a strange question for this forum but I have seen users reference software projects that aim to do at least parts of what I want, and am hoping people know of more or can guide me in those project's use.

Ideally what I want is the functionality of the i3 window manager, but for Windows. It's gotten to the point where I am thinking about writing my own software, but that is a massive headache.

The only software I've found was BlackBox for Windows (http://bb4win.sourceforge.net/) but I have been unable to find good screenshots or setup instructions. It also seems rather limited in what it can do.

Cheers.
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NeddySeagoon
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Joined: 05 Jul 2003
Posts: 43004
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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2017 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

R0b0t1,

Is Cygwin a good place to start?

Q: How do I install everything?
A: You do not want to do this! This will install an enormous amount of packages that you will never use, including debuginfo and source for every package.
Clicking on the "Default" label next to the "All" category to change it to "Install" will mark every Cygwin package for installation. Be advised that this will download and install tens of gigabytes to your computer.


Only tens of gigabytes ...
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NeddySeagoon

Computer users fall into two groups:-
those that do backups
those that have never had a hard drive fail.
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R0b0t1
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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NeddySeagoon wrote:
R0b0t1,

Is Cygwin a good place to start?


That is in fact a very good place to start, and I make extensive use of it. MinTTY (the included virtual terminal) is actually quite good and I see no reason to replace it with any of the programs that try to be better than it.

My main problem is that regardless of how hard I try I end up with multiple MinTTY windows and find it hard to sort through and manage them. I am trying to make better use of programs like GNU screen but I still would like to make better use of my screen realestate by using multiple terminals. My Linux workflow involves i3, and I've gotten used to managing programs that are graphical and outside the scope of Cygwin (like Firefox).

I wasn't able to find any tiling window managers for Windows, though I know API exists that makes it possible.
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R0b0t1
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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 4:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Someone pointed me towards https://github.com/fuhsjr00/bug.n. I suspect I will eventually write my own. The project given is written in AutoHotkey, and as such I don't think it can replace the Windows shell.
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Section_8
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Joined: 22 May 2004
Posts: 566
Location: Arlington, TX, US

PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you looked at any of these: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_alternative_shells_for_Windows? I tried litestep for a while many years ago.
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R0b0t1
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PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2017 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did and bbZero seemed the most usable. There is also Blackbox4Windows (bb4win) and I am trying to figure out if it is a separate project. That seems to be the case but it's hard to find information on them. It seems like the developers have mostly abandoned the project(s) but there is still a pretty large userbase.

If anyone else has recommendations I would appreciate it, all options I know of are rather time consuming. But that might just be the way it is.
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R0b0t1
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If anybody is interested, I found the dwm-win32 project. Reportedly it still works decently, but I am still going through the source code. While doing so I found that it uses the function RegisterShellWindowHook (https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/ms644989(v=vs.85).aspx) which appears to be the only function (of three) that can properly make an application aware of window creation, which is necessary for managing desktop windows.

[Moderator edit: explicitly linked MSDN URL. Embedded parentheses break the auto-link rule. -Hu]
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