SharpEnviro Is An Awesome, Functional Windows Desktop Replacement

Windows: SharpEnviro takes your Windows desktop and remixes it beautifully. It's not as minimal as the Windows 7 default, nor as data-heavy as many alternatives. Everything — the launcher menu, the taskbar, system tray and desktops — gets some work. Take a look.

The first thing I should note, and the developers themselves are upfront about, is that SharpEnviro is very much in beta at the moment and is a work in progress. The current unstable version available for download is 0.7, while 0.8 versions are with private testers. Still, as Lifehacker reader rkrueger11 has found, and I've concurred with after a morning of testing, it's a pretty stable product for something that makes such deep changes to Windows.

You can click on the image up top for a larger view of my own SharpEnviro deskop, with what I believe is the default wallpaper, and click on a few of the images below for a larger view. Where possible, though, I've sized my screenshots to fit this column width.

One big thing to note about SharpEnviro — dubbed "SharpE" in many of the interface menus — is that it doesn't, by default, change your Explorer, the app Windows offers to navigate directories and manage windows. That's fine with me, but you can, it seems, swap in your own favourite file manager — and maybe pick from our five favourites.

In the upper-left corner of your new top toolbar, you'll find, from left to right, a toolbar configuration menu, a "SharpeE" launcher that substitutes for your Start Menu, a more general SharpE configuration tool, a sticky note launcher, and then tools for launching a command window, running a command from the "Run" dialog, and then system monitors for CPU usage and RAM. As you can see, the SharpE menu is extremely minimal and actually condenses the Start menu's functions into a single menu offering. If your program list is so long that it would extend beyond a suitable screen length, SharpE offers a "Next Page" roll-over menu — that's something I wish Windows did itself.

You can also get to the SharpE menu from anywhere on the desktop by right-clicking.

The upper-right corner contains a whole bunch of useful system tools, though you can swap any in or out that you'd like. By default, you get volume and player controls, along with a super-neat button that can open and switch to any of the popular media players. To the right of that is a calculator, command prompt (two of them on one toolbar?), your Task Manager and WordPad.

In the lower-left, you'll see another toolbar configuration widget, followed by two virtual desktop buttons, a notepad and file explorer launcher, and then your taskbar. SharpE breaks away from Windows 7's icon-only window condensing, but keeps the live taskbar previews — though, again, that's a configurable option, if you're not a fan. Windows calling for your attention, or being actively updated, glow green or blue.

As user rkrueger11 showed us, you can remix SharpE in some serious ways, and it integrates well with customisation tool Rainmeter, the core of many of our featured desktops.

SharpEnviro is a free download, in beta, for Windows systems only. Tell us what you think of SharpEnviro in the comments.



    while the interface looks nice, and displays a lot of information that a power user would like quick access to, there is one feature that does not fit, a cascading menu system. please tell me if you do not agree, but cascading menu's are so antiquated that it just detracts from the whole feel of the interface. i personally dont want to be drilling down a tree looking for a app. or other utility. Microsoft have done one thing right with windows 7, the task bar, while not being ease, is very simple to use (we are still waiting for them to thank NEXT and MAC for the interface concept).

    it's a good thing that SharpEnviro is in beta as it needs to get away from Linux and Windows 95 inspired app. launchers and think outside the box for innovation not just "thats the way its been done for 15-20 years.

      Agree, though, to really make something functional. they need to go back and see why things were done, and do what would be more achievable today.

      Heck, sure windows has a very functional GUI that mainly uses the mouse. How bout making more use of the keyboard ctrl-c and ctrl-v are clearly much better than secondary-click copy, secondary-click paste. cant forget good old ctrl-alt-del which is now ctrl-shift-esc. Make more use of the input devices and make them part of the user interface.

      Off the top of my head something like maybe make holding a function key brings up a from cursor single click menu. I don't know. All i know is that I've used GlovePiE to create a application keyboard that has functions assigned to every key, which has been very useful however an accidental mashing of keys on it will cause some chaos.

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