So, what is LiteStep, you ask? The new wonderful way of losing weight fast? A new 3D modeling package? Nah, forget those ideas! LiteStep is a replacement shell for Windows' standard shell. At heart it's a tweaker's paradise, but you've got some work ahead of you to get into it. Like they say, if you haven't heard of system.ini, LiteStep isn't for you. If you have though, things can get interesting pretty fast.


LiteStep is a pretty small download (completely free and constantly being updated by the way) and installs just like any other software. After you have gone through a few options and information boxes, you reboot and LiteStep is up and running! This is far from the end though, this is where setup really starts.

Post Reboot

As our dear computer restarts, Windows as we know it is gone. My install (like I said, they change all the time) gave an appearance resembling the standard Windows desktop pretty much, only somewhat uglier. Most notable was the addition of the wharf and the disappearance of all my sweet little shortcuts. Oh, the pain! But keep on reading, we're still far from finished!

So, wharf, I said? Yes, I did! It's basically a heap of buttons you can configure as you like to contain the stuff you need, and nothing at all you don't need (like shortcuts to recent files and similar :-). The wharf also comes with some other nice features in it, like a highly configurable clock, a nice looking processor load indicator, and of course the Virtual Windows Manager. This gadget lets you have as many desktops as you like, and displays a grid you can use to switch desktops and drag windows between them. Really comes in handy when you've got a dozen windows open at once ...

Step.rc - The Menace

Sounds nice so far? Windows, only more options? Don't understand that warning in the beginning? Here it comes, the key to the power of LiteStep and the reason for all warnings: step.rc (menacing fanfare)!

Step.rc is a plain text file in the LiteStep folder which you can edit with any text editor. You use it to set LiteStep configuration options - all of them (almost). We're not talking a small config.sys here, this is for real and it doesn't look very inviting the first time you open it either. Lots of lines like "PopupSelEntryColor "000000"" instead of friendly drop down menus and checkboxes can make you want to go straight to system.ini and edit old, secure Explorer back right away, but try to fight that feeling. Because once you learn the ins and outs of this file you can make LiteStep look and feel just the way you always wanted you GUI to do. And besides, Windows more limited customization settings are still available, even though you have to go somewhat new ways to find them. Look through the wharf buttons, one of them hides a menu including a button opening up Explorer (the one for folders, not the Internet one ...). Navigate to your LiteStep directory, and head on into the docs directory. Open manual.htm and browse through it if you haven't already, the answers to all your questions are in there (well, not all of them perhaps, but it sounds rather good with statements like that, right?) ... Do what it tells you and go through step.rc with the manual open. Then start configuring!

Getting Down to Business

This is where the fun starts! Things won't work as you like right away, things won't work the first three times you try them, and the occasional crash might occur. But there's a heap of satisfaction in creating your own custom interface, especially when you do it by hacking a big text file. You really work for your changes, and it pays too. Change available options, add shortcuts and skin everything to your heart's content. And chances are you'll stop missing that other shell in no time at all ...

On to My Step ...

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