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Blackbox for Windows

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
Hello fellow overclockers, i'de like to introduce a desktop shell that has been around since the early days of Windows XP. Blackbox was a desktop Linux shell that was ported to windows by a couple of lovely chaps, with a few branches such as BBlean and most recently updated branch BBzero. Some of you may of already known about it but I feel there is too much ubiquity in the desktop shell game and its about time to bring it back to the light for those who never realized their joys.

This shell is highly customizeable, and built more for functionality then eye candy. Everything can be customized through menus or by directly editing the configuration files. Of course it goes without saying explorer.exe is fine for most, and this just takes a step above and beyond giving you quality of life you may of never realized you needed.
("What is Blackbox and why you should use it")

This guide will not go through the miniature details of every function, although I am sure either I or a user at the blackbox4windows forum would gladly be able to assist you forward.
An example of what your desktop will look like and basic breakdown.

1. Task Bar, this is your blackbox taskbar.

Everything on here can be customized, for example you can have your system tray in the center with tasks and the system clock wrapped around it. All of the colors can be changed and themed. As it is setup right now the task bar only shows icons and the in focus app displays its title across the center (text orientation can also be changed). The system tray and task bar functions similarly to normal windows explorer. The buttons on the right side handle virtual desktops which is a function built into blackbox(can also be disabled). The width of the bar and position of the bar can also be adjusted so rather then taking up an entire width of your monitor you can set it up to take a smaller amount.

2. Menu

This menu is the heart and soul of black box, this is a menu generated by the user allowing you to add and remove as you please. You can access this menu in two ways, the first way is by right clicking on your desktop and the next is of course pressing your windows key. The cool thing about this, that you cannot do with classic shell is make the menu appear where your mouse cursor is allowing you to quickly make your selection rather then having to navigate the cursor to the corner of your screen.

3. Default plugins

Below are a list of plugins that come installed with blackbox, they all have some form of basic functionality but for system information I prefer rainmeter as I believe there is not a good plugin that exists that works with windows 10. That said everything about this system is open, so if you're savvy enough I am sure a labor of love could happen.

4. Example of what the files look like for manual editing, this is using its built in editor but you could easily default to your own (like notepad++)

So you've made it this far and want to dive head first into a brave new world. Well, first off congrats its fun and second off are you sure? While your system should not bork, I cannot be held responsible if you do something that does bork it. This guide works for all version of windows, though will be specific to windows 10 as it has its own set of problems and concerns. If you're running this on windows 7 everything will function 100% perfectly. In windows 8 and windows 10 however there are caveats.

Windows 8/10 Issues
-If set to default shell metro will not load (good thing), but all universal windows apps that you grab from the windows app store will also fail to load. This is only an issue if you are married to windows store apps. Setting explorer.exe back to default shell will of course fix this, you may be able to run blackbox over windows 8 without it running as a shell.

Windows 10 Issues
-Only works properly when set as shell
-Windows 10 settings not legacy control panel configs need to be accessed with explorer.exe as default shell for the same reason windows store apps will not load. Wallpapers are added through blackbox if you are concerned about that. My suggestion is to set all of your privacy, and windows update settings prior to installation although once again you can still get back to them by setting explorer.exe back to default shell.
-Will not run as administrator properly, to which any game you launch under admin will not show the menu over the game. There are a few ways around this, task scheduler will allow this to run as admin and work with most apps. Problem is I found out that glyph (archeage loader) will fail to run although all other "as admin" games and apps run perfectly fine. The last solution that works for everything is to remove all UAC functionality through GPedit which I will explain later. (the UAC settings disable still has an admin sandbox)


1. Download BBZero
-Official Download, you are required to sign up in order to download (http://blackbox4windows.com/index.php?/topic/123-mojmirs-build/)

Alternatively you can use my installation which will net the same configuration I have up top, you will be required to customize menu.rc though to add your own applications. It also contains a few user styles I downloaded, although I am using my own custom at the moment.

2. Install BBzero

With the official download, unrar the file and then run the executable. It should save to C:\BBzero by default.
With alternative DL, unzip to a permanant location of your choice.

3. Setting default shells

In the BBZero folder there is an executable called bsetshell.exe. Run this as administrator and you can swap between explorer.exe and blackbox.exe. You will be required to restart your PC in order for the changes to take affect.

If you do something silly such as set blackbox.exe to run as administrator without task scheduler you will be greeted with a black screen. Don't fret, ctrl+alt+del to get into task manager.
-Run new task, and hit browse
-Find Blackbox.exe --> Right Click ---> Properties ----> Compatibility ----> Turn off administrator,
Find bsetroot.exe --> Right Click --> Run as administrator --> Set Explorer.exe as default shell to return.

And with that simple step you've started your journey, everything is installed but the ride is not over. A world of customization open up to you.

-I suggest you disable blackbox titlebar skinning, windows 10 title bars as well as many browsers don't work too well with the custom skinning. There are other ways to change the colors of active and inactive windows in windows 10 through an app or registry edits. if you use my alternative installation this will already be disabled.



-Disable Full Width
-Enable Compact
Disabling User Account Control

This is an advanced step, and should not be done unless neccesary for proper functionality on your system or because you know what you're doing. UAC exists for your protection, and should normally be left on for most users.

Enter GPedit.msc
>>Computer Configuration
>>>Windows Settings
>>>>Security Settings
>>>>>Local Policies
>>>>>>Security Options
>>>>>>>User Account Control: Run all administrators in Administrator Approval Mode, Set to Disabled
Windows 10 Suggested actions
Once you're sure BBZero is for you and have done away completely with the windows 10 marketplace.

1. Uninstall All Windows 10 Metro Apps (http://www.howtogeek.com/224798/how-to-uninstall-windows-10s-built-in-apps-and-how-to-reinstall-them/)(Just copy pasta'ed a list so I wouldn't have to paste a buncha lines)
>>Open up power shell under administrator
>>Enter the Following
Get-AppxPackage *3d* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *alarms* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *windowscalculator* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *bing* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *camera* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *candycrushsodasaga* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *communi* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *commsPhone* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *connectivitystore* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *getstarted* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *maps* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *messaging* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *officehub* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-appxpackage *onenote* | remove-appxpackage
Get-AppxPackage *people* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *phone* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *photo* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *skypeapp* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *solit* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *soundrec* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *Stickynotes* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *sway* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *twitter* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *windowscommunicationsapps* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *xboxapp* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *zune* | Remove-AppxPackage

This list does not include apps you've manually installed which you will need to uninstall manually.

2. Tweak your privacy settings

Not going to even bother explaining this, he does a great job and deserves more then 5 bones.
App replacements for default windows/windows 10 apps to move as far from the ecosystem as possible. Not a requirement but definitely adds to a nice feel.

Total Commander (https://www.ghisler.com/)
-Really good file manager, can be set as default file managing shell through registry edit. I will let you guys find that on your own since that is another can of worms that can go wrong.

Foobar2000 (http://www.foobar2000.org/)
-Replaces Zune Music

Kawaii Codec Pack (http://haruhichan.com/forum/showthread.php?7545-KCP-Kawaii-Codec-Pack)
-Installs MPC-HC and replaces both Zune Video and WMP.

Waterfox (https://www.waterfoxproject.org/)
-Replaces Edge/IE, a paired down version of Firefox. All other browsers of course suffice, this is just my preffered.

Thunderbird (https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/)
-Replaces Mail app, includes decent enough RSS function to replace store apps

Pictus (https://poppeman.se/pictus/)
-Replaces default photo viewer, minimalistic and functional for basic tasks. I love it, don't need something as complex as infranview.

Manga Ripper (https://mangaripper.codeplex.com/)
-I found windows 10 store has a ton of cool manga apps that make reading and finding easy. There is no such luck otherwise but Manga Ripper seems to work the best for me.

Atomic Cleaner 3 (http://www.atomicware.co.uk/)
-Better then CCleaner imo, less bloated. Fully free~

Free Alarm Clock (http://freealarmclocksoftware.com/)
-Eh some of us need alarms, windows 10 has a good one built in but we just nuked all that.

Speed Crunch(http://speedcrunch.org/)
-Just a calculator replacement that I find is better and easier to use then anything built in.


Edited by RitzyBusiness - 1/19/17 at 10:21pm
post #2 of 2
Thread Starter 
This is a work in progress
This will go over the most common things you will toy with. Some functions work better through a GUI, but i've included the settings file as an example of what it writes. There may be hidden settings or options you could code yourself to make things even more modified to your own liking. Some of this information can be transferred between plugins.

Everything Below can be accessed by the blackbox context menu.
Win Key ---> Black Box ---> Edit

Some changes will require you to go to
Blackbox --> Restart (will reload the UI not restart windows)
Styles (Click to show)

This installation of blackbox uses a GUI based application to facilitate (make easy) customization of the style. The image above shows the document it writes, which can be freely added to and edited at your own will.

1. Section
Toolbar- This is your blackbox task bar
Menu - This is your menu, the bread and butter, the holy grail (well no **** Ritzy B, said it for you)
Window F/U - Not sure actually, but its not being used by me. I assume its for task bar skinning.
Slit - Blackbox slit plugin bar (Personally don;t use this but might be handy if you do)
Other - Allows you to set your desktop background to a specific color/texture or a wallpaper.

Note: Not all options are available to each section and other options will be disabled or open up depending on what you are editing.

2. Item

This shows the various pieces of of the section you want to add a style to. For example for the tool bar you can set a color to the bar, your active window, the clock segment can all be styled separately of each other.

3. Texture

This allows you to set a style for a two tone color scheme, or a single solid color. For example you could set it to vertical and make the top portion white and t he bottom black with an even fade and give it an "aero glass" style look. Of course you can also make it transparent but you cannot do that here.

4. Look

Bevel- This just affects the 3 dimensional look of the item, does it pop at you or appear recessed.

Margin- This just sets up the internal margins of the item, if say you wanted there to be a ton of space between words and the edges you would thicken the frame.

Border - Adds a border around the item, say your bar is back you could add a white border around it to make it pop. This controls the thickness of the border.

5. Colors

Choosing what you want to color, the frame, the border, and the text are options here. You first need to choose which you desire to color.

To the right of that you see 6 sliders. If you are using a solid color only 3 of them will be active, allowing you to set an RGB value for the color you desire. If you are using a two tone configuration the 3 on the right will become active allowing you to do the same time. The Link button will allow you to tie the sliders together.

6. Toolbar Font
This allows you to not only edit the font but position of text. For example if you use a taskbar with icons and text and wanted to centralize the text you could do so with this.


BlackBox Bar (titlebar ---> Winlabel)

Configuration BBStylemaker

Menu (Click to show)

This is where you will be editing the menu, there aint no fancy GUI that I kn ow of to facilitate this but it is far easier then the bunch of gibberish that it looks like.

1. To add a shortcut to an application:

[exec] (Name) {File Path}

[exec] (Banana Maker) {"C:\Program Files\BananaSoft\Banana.exe"}

2. To add a folder path, that lets you view the contents inside:

[path] (Name) {Folder Path}

[path] (Lots of Bananas) {"C:\HiddenStash"}

3.To add a custom submenu

[submenu] (name)

[submenu] (My games)
[exec] (Bananas of War 4) {C:\Games\MonkeyVision\BoW4.exe}

4. To add a Seperator


I mean it adds a line between stuff, you don't need an example.
Keybinds (Click to show)

This one is pretty self explanatory and allows you to setup custom keybinds. If you're not a hotkey maniac then this will have little purpose for you except for one tweak.

I suggest you use ,
KeyToGrab(LWIN), WithModifier(), WithAction(ShowMenu)

Which allows you to have the menu open on your mouse cursor always.

Edited by RitzyBusiness - 1/19/17 at 10:18pm
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