I have been using the alternative windows shell, Geoshell, for a few years now and I have been really happy with it. It really enables me to be more efficient. However, I was recently tempted by another shell, BBLean, and thus gave it a five day trial to see if I like it more than GeoShell.
BBLean is a port of the *nix Blackbox BBLean is a pretty good windows shell. It is easy to configure (via .rc text files much like litestep) and has a fairly small footprint. However, these two things weren’t enough to unseat GeoShell as my preferred shell.
GeoShell actually uses a smaller memory footprint and gives me great power right out of the box. It is slightly harder to configure (involves registry editing) but the power gained is well worth it. I’m a keyboard type of guy, I don’t use my mouse often, so having great access to my entire machine via the keyboard is priceless. Both shell options have a hotkey setup (bbKeys plugin for BBlean or a core part of Geoshell) and both have an improved command “run” window. However, the implementation of both in GeoShell is far superiour.
I can’t live without GeoShell’s “run” dialog called GeoCommandTime. This actually sits in a toolbar at the bottom of my screen and appears as a clock. But when focus moves to the clock it converts into a command line box. I can type in paths, commands, or urls and GeoCommandTime handles them all smoothly. This plugin alone was enough to get me to come back to GeoShell. It’s implementation and overall utility just seems more intuitive to me than bbRunEx the BBLean run dialog replacement plugin. There is also a BBLean command line toolbar but you can’t type a path into it without some kind of qualifier. As soon as I typed a colon it started to do something I didn’t want it to do. I shouldn’t have to configure it to do basic command line stuff so it failed in the intuitive category.
The second priceless feature of GeoShell is it’s hotkeys and the documentation for them. It may be possible to do the following in BBLean but it isn’t obviously documented anywhere so who knows? In GeoShell I can setup hotkeys to show me menus. For instance to get a small menu to appear by my mouse with all my development tools on it I can just hit CTRL+ALT+D (d for dev) and bam it appears. Both shells make it easy to launch a single program via hotkeys - but I don’t put every app I have in a hotkey so it’s nice to be able to quickly access these menus wherever my mouse is without having to find a part of the desktop to click on.
Speaking of menus; GeoShell and BBLean both have great and easy to use support for a right click menu on the desktop. You can edit this menu to your hearts content. BBLean’s text based editing is much easier to manage than the registry editing nightmare of GeoShell. However, once I get my right button menu setup I rarely have to edit it again so this isn’t too big of a strike against GeoShell.
If your looking for a replacement shell for Windows (both start up faster than Windows Explorer Shell and use far less resources) then I suggest you give these two a look and see which fits your workstyle better.
I don’t use GeoShell as a replacement, instead I use it as an add-on to Explorer. To me, it is just as useful. My goal was to increase productivity more than reduce the memory foot print. I definitely vote for Geoshell, especially because of mapping popup menus to shortcut keys.
I have been using GeoShell for more than a year now and I can tell you, it is great! :)