[Rapid Review] Aston

{rw_text}Software reviewed in this article:


Version reviewed:


Software description as per the developer:

Aston is an original shell replacement for Windows – you can use it as a whole and customize every desktop element the way you like.

This surprisingly smart, considered, at once sophisticated and simple shell replaces the standard Windows desktop and makes it more usable, beautiful and customizable. It also lets you get easy access to files, folders and applications on your choice. Aston offers the completely unique approach with yet unseen features and themes with live and 3D animated wallpapers.

Every element of Aston: main menu, desktop, panels – can be tweaked and customized, thus letting one create the most convenient working area. Aston makes people surprised about how easy to understand, natural, human and approachable a desktop might be.

Download size:

15.6 MB

Supported OS:

Windows XP and higher


$29.95 (USD)

{/rw_text} –>


  • Straightforward and easy to use.
  • Skins the start menu, desktop, taskbar, and comes with skinned panels and widgets.
  • Highly customizable; users can add objects (panels and widgets) as they please and drag + drop and place objects (panels, widgets, start menu, etc.) literally wherever they want. (Objects can be locked into place, too, to avoid accidental displacement.)
  • Has multiple different useful widgets, such as resource monitor, launch bar, and toolbar.
  • Comes with three skins and users can download dozens more (for free).
  • Users can create their own custom skins (requires technical/designer knowledge).
  • Users can individually enable/disable the three main areas of Aston (start menu, taskbar/panels/widgets, and desktop).
  • Supports 3D wallpapers.
  • Has a built in hotkey manager.
  • Has a built in “event manager” (aka task/todo manager).
  • Has a built in search box in the start menu that can search locally, or search the Internet via Google.
  • Supports Expose and Flip3D window switching effects (Mac OS X and Vista like window switching).
  • Supports Windows 7’s Aero Peak.
  • Supports 22 different languages.
  • Does an extremely good job at minimizing impact on computer by continually cleaning up RAM usage.

{/rw_good} –>


  • Lacks an easy way to create your own skins (i.e. doesn’t have a WYSIWYG editor).
  • Lacks an easy way to revert skins to default settings.
  • When customizing start menu entries, users can add a custom folder but not a custom file/program.
  • Needs an ability to directly add entries to the “Top Programs” list in the start menu.
  • No hotkey support for switching between Google search and desktop search in the start menu.
  • Aston Desktop doesn’t work without the taskbar/panel/widgets feature being enabled (a bug).
  • Event Manager needs to be more easily accessible.

{/rw_bad} –>

{for=”Ease of Use” value=”9″}Very easy to use once you get used to it. However, with so many things going on at once (panels, widgets, menu, taskbar, etc.) it is easy to get overwhelmed by it all; so don’t worry if you freak out when you first load Aston… I did. Also, the Event Manager is sort of hidden – you have to dig for it to find out; the developer needs to make it more easily accessible, maybe add an option in the system tray icon’s right-click menu.
{for=”Performance” value=”8″}Aside from the lack of some features (as I listed in “The Bad” above), Aston performs very well. It especially does a good job of continually cleaning up RAM usage, making sure it never leaks; CPU usage typically stays in the single digits but depends on what you are doing. The only major problem I see with performance is one bug I found: The Aston Desktop feature does not work unless you have the taskbar/panels/widgets feature enable.
{for=”Usefulness” value=”6″}This program is only for those people who like skinning the way their Windows looks.
{for=”Price” value=”6″}Considering WindowBlinds (a very popular skinning program) is $19.95, asking $29.95 for this program is too high in my opinion. Either match WindowBlinds or go $25 – nothing more.
{for=”Final Score” value=”8″}
{/rw_score} –>

{/rw_verdict} –>

{rw_freea}I don’t know of any free alternatives. If you do, please post in the comments below and share with us.
{/rw_freea} –>

{rw_verdict2}Aston is a terrific program; easy to use, highly customizable, supported by dozens of free skins, has useful widgets, self-regulating on computer resource usage, etc. – this program is a winner in my book. If you are looking to skin your Windows, you really should give Aston a try.
{/rw_verdict2} –>

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  • Harold Carlson

    Fences (off topic perhaps) I just installed and oh boy I have been dreaming of “windows” like this! I’m crazy in love!!! Customize a bit spend 10 minutes here and there — (example – my titles are in green which gives a nice touch) Not surprised on the Ashton – seems they could parcel it out — ie Menu totally on it’s own (maybe that is possible???) and not the full bloatware!

  • Harold

    I just installed and Fences does not operate anymore.

  • I use the free Vista menu. The name is somewhat of a poor choice IMHO. I have used Aston, the classic referred to here, and the paid “Pro version” . I keep coming back to the free Vista Menu that I like a lot. I haven’t figured out how to group folders within the app but it is easy to revert back to the built in and he also has a start utility that seems to address this issue. I have used only briefly. Again I like Vista menu a whole lot! Win7 menu .. what were they thinking? I also use Jarte for .rtf and .txt — the more years one uses the more you love this free brilliant program. Also xplorer2 $30 version.


  • Sparky


    I just worked for me!

  • karsten
  • GAOD User

    Kann wer den Aktivierungs-code hier posten? Aston schreibt immer nur “outdated” bei meiner
    License Nr von GAoTD. Danke

  • bc

    Aston did not work with Stardock Fences on Windows 7 64 as of 1 month ago. I ditched it because of that and it also had trouble resizing properly when I hooked up my laptop to a projector.

  • KOng

    @Sparky: Your sourceforge link is a 404 – dead link.

  • Aaron

    I currently use Fences to organize my desktop…is this compatible with Aston?

  • Sparky

    What about Classic Shell – it’s free as far as I know and works a TREAT!! It’s at “http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/”


  • Jabtano

    Goof revue as always but i’m not sure that I would like to use this product.

  • P.Wallace

    Here is a link of completely free windows shell replacements – some are very versatile and some like the 3D worlds are really cool.


    You can also do a yahoo/google search for “free windows shell replacements” and get even more.

  • Matthew W

    I used to use Aston from a previous GOTD but I ran into too many problems with various Windows addons that only worked with normal Explorer, like Dexpot and Dropbox.

  • karsten

    @Ashraf: here is the best shell ever: http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/
    I am not sure if you remember I have pm you about that for some time ago ashraf
    and its free

  • Ashraf

    @Jeanjean: This provides you the features of Aston Start Menu + other skinning features. It replaces it.

  • Seems to duplicate Aston Start Menu… it replaces this one or are they complementary?

  • Ashraf

    Sorry I couldn’t write a full review today. Was busy all day working on a project for college. Don’t let the lack of a full review let you miss out on this program. If you are looking to skin your computer… this is a great program to do that with.