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Making Firefox Your Windows Shell

Written by:SAJChurchey
Published by:SAJChurchey
Published on:2004-03-09 02:37:41
Search OSI about Windows.More articles by SAJChurchey.
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I use Windows 98; so this might not work for later versions of Windows, and it could be dangerous to try if you cannot get a DOS prompt.

I tried Mozilla Firefox for the first time today, and I love it. So much so, that I made it my shell! How did I do that?

First, understand that Explorer.exe is not Windows. It is a program that runs on top of Windows to give you a way to run the OS. It is a shell. In the file system.ini in your Windows directory, the first section has an entry:


If you change this, you change the shell. For instance, progman.exe will give Windows a 3.1 look, although it does not work correctly. While notepad.exe turns your computer into a crappy word processor. In the notepad example, you cannot run any programs, just edit text files.

Closing the shell program gives you the shutdown dialog box.

Next thing you need to know is that Firefox supports extensions, like the External Application (EA) Extension, which allows you to run applications from inside Firefox.

Put these together by making your shell Firefox. Remember that DOS does not support long filenames, so it will probably look something like this:


This will make your computer load Firefox as the shell when you boot up, which with the EA extension, will let you run programs.

Why do this? Well, it gives you an Open Source, web capable shell for Windows. Plus, it does not have the security holes that Internet Explorer web integration does.

A word of caution. If you misspell the program in system.ini, Windows will not be able to find the shell and will generate a warning telling you to reinstall Windows. This is not as bad as it looks unless you cannot get to a DOS prompt. Just reboot your computer, start Windows in Command Prompt mode rather than Normal. You should use the same method you use to get into Safe Mode; F8 on my computer, but it varies. Then, go to the Windows directory and type "edit system.ini" - this will allow you to edit the file again and eliminate the error. Save and reboot, and it should work with the new shell you assigned, provided you didn't misspell again.

One thing I noticed, and I do not know if it is a fluke or because I am not using Explorer.exe anymore, but Alt + Tab froze my computer. Other than that, I am having no trouble.

Submitted and published on behalf of Philosopher

Did you like this article? There are hundreds more.

2004-03-10 00:27:00
pity that microsoft borked winXP (or 'fixed' it) to the point that it isn't quite so easy to change shells
2004-03-19 15:47:07
Litestep is the shell to end all shells. it's quite clean, easy to mod and is 10000 times more efficient and faster than explorer.exe :)
2004-03-22 22:29:26
I tried to install the External Application Extension, but on the Firefox extensions list, the closest there is is called "External Application Buttons" with which you can create buttons that when clicked will run the program they point to. I made a few buttons but can't seem to find them =P

About Litestep, I ran into that a while back, and tried it out. I thought it was excellent, especially the Excalibur II theme, but not being able to drag stuff onto my desktop, and not being able to select multiple things on my desktop irritated me, among other things.
2004-04-15 05:58:09
I personally use AstonShell, which is awesome and has about a gajillion wicked themes :)

Anyway, for Win2k Pro you don't even need to use the extentions, all you have to do is ctrl+alt+del and bam go into Run and voila got yourself a mighty fine thing going on :)
2004-08-11 18:15:30
How can you do this in XP ?
2005-04-09 15:18:19
the shell is set in the registry somewhere. if u find a tutorial on how to change the start bar text or something, it will tell u where this is set, then u can just set the shell= thing to firefox, or whatever shell you want.
2005-07-08 15:40:54
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon


for XP use thought Id help. Since I know my registry alot
2006-04-30 07:56:56
2007-09-28 10:57:09
can someone please the url for the external application plugin pleas i cant find it no where
2008-08-08 00:58:29
Firefox is the best browser. It is a very clean natural browser. It is naturally the best out there. Natural is the best really in all cases.
2009-04-12 14:29:03
hi great article! thanks!

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2009-04-22 08:58:47
I ran into that a while back, and tried it out. I thought it was excellent, especially the Excalibur II theme, but not being able to drag stuff onto my desktop, and not being able to select multiple things on my desktop irritated me, among other things. flash games
2009-10-09 21:22:19
Firefpx is my favorite browser too, I don't use any other browsers anymore.
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