Shell extensions are COM objects that add capabilities to Windows. When you right-click a Windows file, you’ll often see menu entries for specific programs like WinZip or backup utilities; those menus were created by adding shell extensions to the operating system. NirSoft’s ShellExView is a free utility that displays the details of any shell extensions installed on a PC and lets you enable or disable them individually. You can generate reports and save and export results to different file types for archiving or troubleshooting, such as diagnosing problems with context menus or when right-clicking is slow or doesn’t work.
ShellExView is standalone freeware that is totally portable, and at 54KB, it’s tiny enough to fit on practically any portable device or storage medium. We clicked the program icon, and ShellExView’s compact Windows-style interface opened with a blank main view that, after a few seconds of searching, populated itself with all our system’s shell extensions. The main view is similar to an e-mail in-box, with categories you can change as well as drag to expand or sort to choice. These displayed information like the extension’s name, status, size, attributes, description, version, and product; even a tiny icon for each object type; although that’s just a fraction of the information ShellExView extracts. Right-clicking any selected shell extension calls up a menu of more options, including the ability to save and copy selected items, generate HTML reports, and open an item in RegEdit. Selecting Properties on the menu or clicking the Properties icon calls up a detailed dialog for any selected item. The taskbar icons include a pair of dots: red for disabling an object, and green for enabling it. We scanned the list for a shell extension associated with an unused program since stopping a Windows extension can cause booting trouble, as a Warning Message advised. Selecting one, we clicked the red icon, and a message asked us if we wanted to stop the process. We did, and it did; same for the green button, only in reverse: clicking it re-activated the extension. This is a simple tool that’s easy to use and effective.
This handy, free utility adds a useful capability to Windows, ironically by letting you view something else that adds a useful capability to Windows.