The Windows shell is the graphical user interface for the Microsoft Windows operating system. Its readily identifiable elements consists of the desktop, the taskbar, the Start menu, explorer.exe. task switcher and the Autoplay feature.

On some versions of Windows, it also includes Flip 3D and the charms. The Windows shell, as it is known today, is an evolution of what began with Windows 95, released in 1995. It is intimately identified with File Explorer, a Windows component that can browse the whole shell namespace. Windows Desktop is a full-screen window rendered behind all other windows.

Files and folders: Users and software may store computer files and folders on Windows desktop. Naturally, on a newly-installed version of Windows, such items do not exist. Unlike ordinary folders, special folders do not point to an absolute location on a hard disk drive. Windows Desktop Gadgets to appear on the desktop. Windows taskbar is a toolbar-like element that by default, appears as a horizontal bar at the bottom of the desktop.

It may be relocated to the top, left or right edges of the screen. Starting with Windows 98, its size can be changed. The taskbar can be configured to stay on top of all applications or to collapse and hide when it is not used. Start button: Provides access to the Start menu. List of open windows: Along the length of the taskbar, open windows are represented by their corresponding program icons. And once pinned, they will remain even after their respective windows are closed. Until Windows 7, the operating system displayed active windows as depressed buttons in this list.