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Program Manager
Program Manager.png
Program Manager in Windows for Workgroups 3.11
Developer(s) Microsoft
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Type Shell
License MS-EULA

Program Manager is the shell of Windows 3.x and Windows NT 3.x operating systems. This shell exposed a task-oriented graphical user interface (GUI), consisting of icons (shortcuts for programs) arranged into program groups. It replaced MS-DOS Executive, a file manager, as the default Windows shell.

In later versions of Microsoft Windows, starting with Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0, Program Manager was replaced by Windows Explorer as the shell, though Windows 95 gave the user an opportunity to choose which shell they preferred during setup. For backward compatibility with old applications[citation needed], Program Manager was still included in later versions of Windows. It can be accessed by executing PROGMAN.EXE from the command line or Run dialog. The file is located in the Windows directory in older versions, or the System32 directory in Windows 2000 and Windows XP. On any Windows version, it can be used as the default shell by specifying the Shell value in the registry at either HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon (per machine) or HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon (per user).

Today, Program Manager has little practical use beyond compatibility with pre-Windows 95 programs.[citation needed] Since Windows XP Service Pack 2, it has been reduced to a stub and a converter for Program Manager shortcuts to Windows Explorer shortcuts. Windows Vista does not include it at all.

It is still possible to use the Program Manager in Windows XP Service Pack 2 or 3 (and Windows Vista) by replacing (or copying if there was Windows Vista computer) the Progman.exe executable with the executable from Service Pack 1 or the Windows XP original retail release. With the SP1 (or original release) CD, one can expand it by typing expand -r D:\i386\progman.ex_ %Windir% at the command prompt (replacing D: with the CD-ROM drive letter). It is also possible to bypass the Windows File Protection and overwrite the SP2/SP3 version of Program Manager completely. Alternatively, the file can be saved to a different location or using a different filename. If Service Pack 3 has backed up previous files on an RTM or SP1 Windows XP installation, the backed up version can be accessed from: %Windir%\$NtServicePackUninstall$\Progman.exe

Modern Variants

For the user who enjoyed the kind of interface provided by Program Manager there are similar utilities available as an add-on to the later versions of Windows, such as Fences by Stardock Corporation[citation needed]

See also



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