Think the Windows desktop is limited, inflexible, and boring? Good news: You're not stuck with it. Here are five cool alternatives.
1: Aston Shell
Astone Shell is one of the most feature-rich of all the replacements. With plenty of add-ins, plug-ins, themes, and widgets to play with, the Aston desktop can become pretty much anything you like. You can also find animated skins and themes, live wallpaper, effects, and much more. Aston is shareware and will run you $29.95.
Sharp Enviro might remind you a lot of Classic GNOME. The goal with SharpEnviro was to create a flexible, user-friendly desktop shell that would please new users as well as more advanced users. They succeeded. This shell will especially appeal to users who want a shell whose every aspect can be customized. This shell is open source, so it's free of charge.
Window Blinds by Stardock, used to be a full-blown desktop shell replacement. That is no longer the case. Now WindowBlinds is a means of making the Windows 7 shell more user-configurable. This is mostly with regard to look and feel. You won't be adding widgets and new and improved menus. But the improvements to the look of the Windows 7 interface can be fairly dramatic with WindowBlinds. This shell is proprietary and will cost you $19.95
Bblean is one of two BlackBox clones listed here. BlackBox was always considered one of the lightest, fastest window managers in the Linux environment. So for anyone who wants a desktop shell for Windows that is incredibly fast and minimal, bbLean is a great choice. With this shell, you will also have hotkeys, window skinning, the slit, the taskbar, the icon box, and the mouse menu. Lean and fast. This shell is open source, so it's free of charge.
Xoblite is the second BlackBox clone for Windows in this list. I include it because it offers a few more advanced features than does bbLean, such as plugins, some extra tools, and a font pack. The default Xoblite desktop is similar to that of bbLean, but out of the box it looks more polished and advanced. Xoblite isn't quite as lightning fast as bbLean, but it offers more features and power. Like bbLean, Xoblite is open source, so it's free of charge.