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A Shortcut is a link to a program, file, folder, drive, system object, printer, or URL. Shortcuts are actually small files that come in two flavors: Windows Shortcuts (.lnk) and Internet Shortcuts (.url). (See Figure 3-24.)

Figure 3-26. A standard shortcut icon is distinguishable from other icons by the little curved arrow

While you can start a program or open a folder by double-clicking on its icon on the Desktop or selecting its icon in the Start menu, odds are that application is stored elsewhere and you’re using a shortcut only to access the application executable. If you find that there’s a program, document, folder, or web site you use often, it’s easy to create a shortcut to the object.

There are several ways to create a shortcut:

  • Use the Explorer to navigate to the directory where the program’s executable (.exe) is stored; if the program is a Windows component (listed in Chapter 4), it’s executable is probably in the \Windows\System32 folder. Otherwise, the executable is probably located in a subfolder of \Program Files. Once you’ve located the .exe file, use the right mouse button to drag it to the location of your choice (typically the Desktop or the Start menu) and select “Create shortcut here” from the context menu that appears. The same procedure works for folders, drives, and documents, as well. In some earlier versions of Windows, dragging an .exe file with the left mouse button (in most situations) automatically created a shortcut, regardless of the destination. This feature, which nobody liked, has been removed in Windows XP. More information on right-dragging can be found in Chapter 2.

  • Right-click on an empty area of the Desktop (or any folder), and select New Shortcut. This four-page wizard prompts you for only two pieces of information: the full path of the object and the name of the resulting shortcut. This procedure is more laborious than the others listed here, but it does have the advantage of allowing you to create a shortcut to a program with command-line parameters.

  • A quick way to create a shortcut to a folder (or drive) is to open the folder and then drag the control icon (the small icon in the upper-left of the window) onto the Desktop or other destination.

  • Right-click any file, system object (such as an item in Control Panel or the Printers and Faxes folder), and select Create Shortcut. A shortcut to the selected object will be created in the same folder; if the folder is a “virtual folder” (like Control Panel) and does not allow new items, you’ll be prompted to create the shortcut on the Desktop. Once the shortcut has been created, it can be moved anywhere you like.

  • Open any web page in Internet Explorer, Netscape, or Mozilla and drag the little icon in the Address Bar (immediately to the left of the http://) onto the Desktop or other destination, as shown in Figure 3-25.

Figure 3-27. Quickly create an Internet Shortcut by dragging the icon from the Address Bar to your Desktop or Favorites menu

Shortcuts are commonly placed on the Desktop and Start menu for quick access to programs and documents, but can really be placed anywhere. One of the purposes of having a central My Documents folder is to enforce the notion that documents and personal files should be arranged by project, not by application. This means that Internet Shortcuts and Windows Shortcuts might be placed in the same folder as WordPerfect and Excel documents, making it easy to group all the resources for a particular project together and decreasing the time spent repeatedly trying to locate files and data.

You can also create a shortcut to a local or network printer. Dragging a file onto the shortcut sends that file to the printer without requiring you to open the associated program, which is handy if you do a lot of printing. Putting printer shortcuts in your Send To menu lets you conveniently send files to printers other than your default printer.



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