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Using keyboard hotkeys to open Web pages, Part 2
technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
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Using keyboard hotkeys to open Web pages, Part 2


Bit Player for April 18, 1999

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers

Last week I told you how you can get Web sites to open up just by pressing a key or combination of keys. These are called keyboard shortcuts or hotkeys.

They work in a simple way. First, you create a shortcut to a Web site. Then you assign a key or combination of keys to that shortcut in the Properties window. (You get at the Properties window through a right mouse click.)

"Shortcut to a Web site" might sound like something new. But it's not. In Windows, it's called a Favorite. A Favorite is a shortcut to a Web site. It's a URL. It's a bookmark.

With me so far?

Unlike the bookmarks that Netscape uses, the Favorites in Windows are standard Windows shortcuts. That's what makes them so special, because standard Windows shortcuts can be assigned to hotkeys.

Internet Explorer, Microsoft's Web browser, uses Favorites. You can get at your Favorites from a menu in Internet Explorer or by a few other ways. Does that mean you're out of luck if you use Netscape's browser or the excellent browser from Opera Software?

Not at all. Here's the trick: Any browser will work with Internet shortcuts. All you need to do is make sure the browser you want to use is the default browser in Windows -- no big deal, since all browsers have a menu item for that. Then you create an Internet shortcut and assign a keyboard hotkey to it.

The hotkey part is a snap. I explained that last week. But making an Internet shortcut will seem like a mystery if you've never done it before.

Here's the trick: Open the Web site in your browser and click once inside the address line. It should become highlighted. Then press Ctrl-C to copy it. Click the right mouse button on the Desktop and choose New and then choose Shortcut. Press Ctrl-V, then click the Next button. Finally, give the shortcut a name that means something to you. (Never accept the names that Windows suggests unless Windows is smarter than you are -- and that, my friends, is just never going to happen.)

The shortcut you created is now on your Desktop. A little later, I'll show you how to move it off your Desktop and into the Start Menu. (The Desktop is great for temporary storage, but it's the world's worst place to keep things for more than a day or two.) Go ahead and use the same method to create all the other Internet shortcuts you want to use. Don't forget, the idea is to make shortcuts so that you can open Web sites by pressing hotkeys. You don't need special shortcuts otherwise.

Once you've made your shortcuts, create hotkeys for each one using the method I explained last week. Then create a folder on your Desktop (right click, New, Folder) and call it Hotkeys. Select all the shortcuts you created and drag them into that folder.

Now you need to move that folder into your Start Menu. It doesn't have to be at the top level of the Start Menu -- you want it out of the way -- but it does need to be in the Start Menu somewhere for the hotkeys to work. My advice is to put it in the System Tools folder. Open that up this way: Click Find and type "system tools" in quotes. Press Enter. In the Find window, click once on the System Tools folder, open the File menu and choose Open Containing Folder. Double click on the System Tools icon in the folder that opens up, then drag your Hotkeys folder into the System Tools window.

Close all the windows. You're all set. The Web sites you entered into the shortcuts will open when you press the hotkeys you assigned to those shortcuts.


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