How to Get the Good Bits of Windows 8 on 7

Despite the arguably neutral reception that Windows 8 has received, it has several very useful and improved features over Windows 7 that thousands of people enjoy using. However, if you think that Windows 8 has a bad experience overall, you can use several apps and tweaks to get these features on your Windows 7 installation.

This post will outline some of these apps and show what you can accomplish. It will not go into depth for any of the apps listed here, but you can find out more about each one from its website.

Tiles

Metro Tiles are the most prominent feature in Microsoft’s new operating system, being the main form of navigation on the start screen. There are many applications that add this feature to other Windows versions as it is very popular.

Omnimo UI is a free RainMeter skin with an additional premium pack. There are hundreds of tiles and several expansion packs for you to add, customise, and use on your Windows installation. Unlike Windows 8, these tiles sit on your desktop, instead of having their own separate start screen.

Stardock Tiles display live tiles of your software in a sidebar on your desktop. It doesn’t have many features other than this, so won’t be a suitable full replacement for Microsoft’s own tiles.

Mosaic is another alternative that adds several live tiles to a start screen of its own. Although there far less tiles in Mosaic than some similar applications, it still runs very well and gives Metro’s experience proficiently.

Newgen offers you the ability to display information from both your computer and websites such as FaceBook in the form of Tiles, replacing your Aero desktop.

Metro 7 lets you scroll through the few tiles it has and install more from its store, and includes the Windows 8 lock screen in the installation too.

Charm Bar

The Charm Bar introduced in Windows 8 is the universal toolbar that you can access from both the Metro and Desktop. This allows you search your device much like you can from the Start Menu in Windows 7, share information through social networks, open the Start Menu, view and configure peripherals, and get to the Control Panel.

Using a custom RocketDock skin, you can have a dock that looks exactly like Windows 8′s Charm Bar and replicate its functions, or even customise it to do what you require that RocketDock can. You can download the skin here.

Alternatively, you can use a RainMeter skin, giving you the same design and features as the Windows 8 Charm Bar, but far less customisability than the RocketDock counterpart. Download it here.

The Metro Start Menu is a different approach – it replaces the default start menu with a much cut-down version, leaving only functions from the Charm Bar.

Boot Screen

While it’s not something you’d look at for long or possibly even care about, the new boot screen no longer has the colourful Windows flag we’re used to, or the fancy animation found in Vista and 7. There are a few boot menu tweaks that can be used to emulate this, such as these three here.

Task Manager

The new Task Manager has a redesigned UI and far more features, compared to the one found in previous versions of Windows. You can do xxx.

While it doesn’t give the full Windows 8 application’s experience, this Metro styled Task Manager gives the compact view that only allows you to end processes and restart explorer.exe. This is a separate application, it doesn’t tweak the original Task Manager.

Quick Access Menu

Windows 8 has a quick access menu which you can bring up with the hotkeys WIN+X. This context menu has several buttons which you can use to navigate to the control panel, task manager, and many other computer management applications built into Windows. This shortcut on previous versions of Windows brings up the Mobility Center.

WinPlusX replicates this feature for previous versions of Windows, and even allows you to add/remove your own buttons so you can customise the menu the way you like it.

Lock/Login Screen

The Metro Lock Screen is a minimalistic screen that shows when an account is locked or the device has just been booted. It displays a picture for the background, as well as the date and time. It can also display calendar events and icons to show battery, connectivity, and notifications. Flicking this up will reveal a similar login screen.

WinLockPro is a tool that allows you to have this functionality on Windows 7, along with customising it easily.

There is a RTM logon theme on deviantArt that allows you to achieve the Metro logon screen’s styling, although it has no additional features.

If all you want is the Metro Clock on your lock screen, there’s a tool that does just that, too!

Explorer

As Explorer is the process you’re probably using most in Windows, it goes without saying that it should also have some form of Metro styling applied to it, even though Microsoft’s own Explorer design is pretty poor for Metro in the release preview.

There are already hundreds of these released, a lot of which can be obtained through a simple search on deviantArt. Here I’ll list some of the more uniquely styled ones I quite like.

Other

There are tons of other small tweaks made in Windows 8 that have been ported to other versions of the OS, and even more that developers think should have been in it.

ViGlance is a redesigned, minimalistic Start Orb button, and it’s not the only one. While Microsoft removed the trusty Start button in Windows 8, if it were kept it would be sure to look like one of these.

There are a host of minimalistic Metro-inspired wallpapers on the internet, while the official wallpapers are also available to download.

You can even get your profile picture to show up in the taskbar with Laushung’s UserTile Program or Stealth2010′s that does the same, as found in Windows 8.

What if you want Aero to take the same colours as your current background, like Metro’s auto-colourisation? There are multiple tweaks for that too, including Dejco’s and another of Stealth2010′s.

ClassicShell lets you bring Windows 8′s up/down buttons to previous versions of Windows.

Conclusion

Windows 8 is still in its infancy, and so is the amount of applications and tweaks emulating its features, quirks, and Metro design. This means that there are still going to be plenty of new apps released in the future that you can use in place of, or in conjunction with, the ones listed above. However, this article should give you a lot of options and ideas on how to tweak your system to get the best out of Windows 8, even if you’re not using it.

What do you think of taking features from other operating systems, would you rather have the best of both worlds or stay with one and how it was designed to work originally?


  • M MeaIey

    I love this kind of stuff! Thank you. I have one question: as I am always wanting to suck every bit of power and resources from my machine, how much of a resource hog is this to put together?

    • Liam Hammett

      It really depends what you’re going to use. There are multiple pieces of software for each tweak you want to make, but you’d only want to use one of each – what’d be the use in having 5 different tile systems?

      Rainmeter (and Omnimo) is pretty lightweight nowadays. an Explorer skin doesn’t take up any more memory than the regular skin unless you install it using something like WindowsBlinds, and everything else is pretty low on memory usage too as far as I’ve tested. It’ll barely be a noticeable difference

      • M Mealey

        Excellent. Thanks for the reply. I’ll give it a try.

        • Liam Hammett

          No problem! Good luck setting it all up. It’d be interesting to see a screenshot of your setup once it’s all been installed and configured to your liking.

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