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Shell game

Escape the rigidity of the Windows Explorer shell with this flexible program.

The Windows Explorer shell is responsible for some of the most basic aspects of the way Windows looks. The Start menu, system tray, and other aspects of the taskbar are all part of the shell. Emerge Desktop replaces the Windows Explorer with a different, more customizable shell. On the whole we didn't find it to be a huge improvement over the Windows default, but if you like to tweak your desktop's appearance, it might be worth checking out.

The program's interface isn't the most intuitive thing we've ever seen, and we had to consult the built-in Help file to figure out how to get started. Fortunately, the Help file is quite thorough, and Emerge Desktop isn't difficult to use once you've learned its basics. The program consists of multiple modules that are referred to as applets, and these can be rearranged on the desktop however the user sees fit. Applets can contain the Start menu, quick launch icons, system tray icons, the clock, and more, and each one is individually configurable. Users can adjust the position, color, opacity, and other characteristics, and we liked that the configuration menu for each applet was easy to access with a right click of the mouse. Users can also access the Start menu by right-clicking anywhere on the desktop, which is a nice touch. Overall, Emerge Desktop didn't totally blow our minds, but users who prefer more flexibility than the Windows Explorer shell provides might find that this program is exactly what they need.

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