ReactOS 0.3.16, the Windows clone has got a new Explorer
On the long, long road that leads to its final target, ReactOS continues to grow and evolve thanks to the hard work made by developers contributing to the project. The latest, important changes help the system to actually advance toward the aforementioned final target, ie to reach full compatibility with software and drivers made for Windows operating systems based on the NT architecture.
Started in 1998 as a Windows 95 clone, ReactOS is now an open source project aiming to implement binary compatibility with software for modern generations of Windows (from XP onward), an alternative implementation of that NT technology that according to the developers stood out as the leading computing platform thanks to its remarkable flexibility and power. ReactOS would therefore represent a tribute to these undoubted qualities, allowing users to continue to use the familiar Windows operating environment and software in a FOSS (Free Open Source Software) framework as well.
Right now ReactOS is in alpha stage, the system’s foundations are still settling in and the ReactOS Foundation strongly advises not to use it for everyday activities. One of the aforementioned foundations is the shell (the graphical interface, essentially), and a significant amount of work has been done lately in this regard thanks to the contribution by Giannis Adamopoulos. The developer was hired by the foundation with a regular contract, and the final result is that now ReactOS has an all-new Explorer.
The events that leaded to the implementation of the new file manager – also known as “explorer_new” and similar to File Explorer/Windows Explorer in Microsoft Windows – are summed up in a post on the ReactOS site: Adamopoulos had to spend a good part of his time studying how the Windows shell’s infrastructure works, creating the new shell and confirming it was working – in its fundamentals at least – letting it run in place of the Windows 8.1 shell.
Adamopoulos fulfilled his contracts’ terms, the ReactOS Foundation says, furthermore piling up a huge documentation on the Windows shell that will be useful for future developments. The explorer_new element is included in the recently released version 0.3.16 of the FOSS operating system and it’s the first result of the system’s graphical interface rewrite. Other significant changes of ReactOS 0.3.16 include a new CSRSS subsystem, preliminary support for themes (disabled by default) and a new driver for Realtek (RTL8139) network cards that lets the OS support newer versions of QEMU “out of the box”.
The new things included with ReactOS 0.3.16 are “a prelude to several new features that will provide a noticeable enhancement to user visible functionality” in the future releases, the ReactOS Foundation explains. The Windows NT open source clone is now capable of running Microsoft Office 2003 “in a decent state”, nevertheless it still is an operating system that isn’t recommended to run in an real operating environment. The end-user distribution packages include in this regard a Live CD and a ReactOS version preloaded for the most popular virtual machines (QEMU, VMware, Virtual Box), while the foundations reminds users the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign started to create a ReactOS-based cloud platform (Thorium Cloud Desktop) and to have the money required to hire several developers to employ full-time on the project.