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Windows XP Your Way: Customizing Shortcuts
One way to use Windows XP better and more efficiently is to have a quick path to your most common tasks. Here's how to create useful shortcuts.

Everyone is familiar with the icons placed on the desktop, the shortcuts to open programs. Many are also aware that shortcuts can be placed in the taskbar. However, the average PC user is often unfamiliar with the various methods that exist for creating shortcuts, not just to programs but also for other functions. There are a number of methods for creating new shortcuts:

  • Drag and drop
  • The right-click “Send To” function
  • The right-click “New” function

A discussion of each approach to creating shortcuts is given in the sections below. Examples of useful shortcuts are discussed here.

Drag and drop

The drag and drop method can be used in several ways. Either the left or the right mouse button can be used for drag and drop with somewhat different behavior. I prefer the right-click method and this will be the basis for the rest of the discussion. Dragging with the right-click brings up the context menu shown in the figure. One way to employ drag and drop is to use the menu entry "Copy Here" to make a copy of an existing shortcut in a different location. For example, an entry in the Start-All Programs menu can be dragged to the desktop or to the Quick Launch bar to place a copy of a shortcut in a more readily available spot. This method is probably already familiar to many. Shortcuts can also be made from files or folders by using the menu entry "Create Shortcuts Here". Open the folder containing the object whose shortcut is desired, hold down the right-click, and drag to the desired destination, such as another folder or the desktop.

The right-click “Send To” function

For making shortcuts specifically on the desktop, the Send To function of the right-click can be used (figure on the left). Simply right-click on the desired file or folder and select "Desktop (create shortcut)" from the "Send To" menu.


The right-click “New” function

The most general method for creating shortcuts uses the "New" function of the context menu that appears when a vacant spot within a folder window or on the desktop is right-clicked (figure on the left). Right-click in the folder where the shortcut is to be placed and select the entry "Shortcut" from the menu. The dialog box shown below will open. The location of the target item can be entered or the "Browse" function can be used to locate it.

First dialog box for creating new shortcut

If the "Browse" button is selected, the dialog shown below will open. Here you can select the file or folder that you wish to create a shortcut for (the target). Once the desired folder or file has been selected, Click the "OK" button.

Dialog box for Browse function

The Create Shortcut window will reappear, this time with the desired file or folder entered as shown below. In this example, the folder "C:\Library" has been chosen.

Dialog box with location of target entered

Click "Next" and a window where the shortcut can be named appears. After entering a name or accepting the default, click "Finish".

Naming the shortcut

Executable files and switches

Many PC users are not very familiar with the capability of some program and other executable files to have what are known as "switches". A switch is some additional code that modifies the behavior of a file when it is opened. It is added to the file name after a forward slash (or sometimes a dash) when invoking the file. The typical fornat is: somefile.exe /someswitch. One advantage of using the "New" function to create shortcuts is that switches can be added to the file name. An example of this added functionality is given in the discussion on another page of picking where Windows Explorer starts.

Switch for shortcut to command-line executable

Another example where a switch is needed is a shortcut to run one of the many command-line executables. In this case, the entry for the shortcut is cmd /k somecommand.exeIf the switch /k is omitted, the command-line window will not stay open.

Other functions in shortcuts

The "New" function is also the method for making shortcuts using the methods of rundll32.exe (discussed here), control panel applets (discussed here), and Windows Explorer commands (discussed here). It is also possible to set up shortcuts to email addresses and to Internet links.

Icons for shortcuts

When you create a shortcut, Windows will assign an icon from the target program or for some functions a generic icon. If you wish to use an icon of your own choice, use the methods discussed on another page.

Examples of useful shortcuts are discussed on the next page

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