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Yes, Windows is Dumb: Making shortcuts work

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

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Excerpted from
Yes, Windows Is Dumb
Easy Ways to Master Your PC
Copyright © 1997, Al Fasoldt


Making shortcuts work for you

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1997, Al Fasoldt

Modern versions of Windows allow any user to create icons that are pointers to files, folders and other objects. These icons are shortcuts to the items they represent.

Shortcuts are easy to make, and there are many ways to create them. A simple way is by right-clicking on an object and dragging it with the right button held down a short distance. When you let go, a menu pops up asking (among other things) if you want to create a shortcut.

Users typically put shortcuts on the desktop. That's what it's there for, after all. But shortcuts can be placed in folders, too, to keep them out of the way until you need them. The best example is the Start Menu, which is actually a folder full of shortcuts.

What I'm proposing in this article is another way to use shortcuts. It's a trick that most users probably have not tried. The idea? Use shortcuts to let your programs navigate from one area of Windows to another.

Let me explain. You probably know that you can use shortcuts to navigate to another folder or drive. You simply create a shortcut to a folder and put that shortcut where you can reach it quickly, so that a folder on your CD-ROM drive or on another other separate drive is just a click away.

Extend this idea a little. Suppose your main folders held something besides files and other folders—suppose they held shortcuts, too? Then, no matter which of those main folders you had open, you could quickly open any of the other folders by double-clicking a shortcut within that folder.

If this seems like too much icing on the shortcut cake, think again. Those shortcuts within folders—those pointers to your other main storage locations—aren't limited to the things you do when you're navigating within file and folder windows. They can be a big help when you're working with programs, too.

Suppose you are writing a letter using Microsoft Word. You decide to save what you've written, but when you go to the File menu and choose Save, Word opens a dialog (a small window) that shows the wrong folder. It shows the My Documents folder, but you want to save your letter in a folder you've created called My Letters.

You could navigate out of My Documents using the small button within the Word dialog, then locate the main folder that holds My Letters, then click to get into the My Letters folder—if you can get to it that easily.

Or you could double-click on a shortcut to My Letters within My Documents and get there instantly.

Let's say you're now working within the My Letters folder and you write a reminder to yourself. You want that note to be on the desktop. You could, of course, navigate out of the My Letters folder and get to the desktop the standard way—if you can get to it easily. (A lot of users become confused trying to find the desktop; it's at the top of the list of all drives and folders.) Or you could double-click on a shortcut to the desktop from within the My Letters folder and go there instantly.

You get the point. Placing shortcuts within the folders you use most often saves time and effort. There's no trick to it, either; you just drag the shortcuts into those folders.

Don't overdo it. Don't put shortcuts to all other folders inside each folder. That would just clutter up your file-and-folder windows and lead to confusion. But you should consider putting shortcuts to these folders inside all your main folders:

    • Desktop
    • My Documents
    • Windows
    • Program Files
    • Favorites
    • Start Menu
    • Any special folders (My Letters, Download Files, and so on)

Don't forget to make the shortcuts complimentary. If you have a shortcut to My Letters from My Documents, make sure you have a shortcut to My Documents from My Letters. You'll need to be able to cut corners in both directions.

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