Ever wondered how desktop shortcuts work? They seem to work differently than other files on your computer, and for good reason; they are unique files that work differently than others.
Let’s explore what makes shortcuts special and how they work.
What is a shortcut?
A shortcut is a set of instructions that prompts your computer to open a file on your computer. When you activate the shortcut, it enters these instructions on your computer, locates the file, and runs it.
Files on your computer have special “homes” where they live. If you’ve ever dug into the Program Files folder on your computer, you’ve already seen these homes for yourself.
Typically, when a program is at home on your computer, it places all the necessary files and information in its folder. If you delete a program from a folder, it will not find executable files and will throw an error.
As such, if you want to run a program, you must go to its home operating system and run an executable file (.exe) that runs it. In the early days of computers, you had to do this manually every time you wanted to run a new program. It involved a lot of clicking on directories in folders to get you where you want to be.
However, keyboard shortcuts make the process much easier. They are packages of instructions that perform all the directory washing and executing tasks for you. When you double-click one, it automatically goes to the location of the program and executes it for you.
They’re not very smart because if you move a program out of a folder, the shortcut won’t update itself. However, because programs tend to stay in one place, shortcuts do not need to update themselves.
In a way, it’s like if you want to drive your friend home, but you can never really remember how to get there. Whenever you drive, you have to check the map manually and decide which direction you need to turn.
On the other hand, a shortcut is like if you typed your friend’s address into GPS and let it guide you to your friend’s home. You don’t have to worry about where your friend lives and what roads take you there; you follow the instructions.
In fact, if you want to stretch this metaphor further, the shortcut is like entering your friend’s address into GPS, and your car will drive there automatically without your help. You do not have to do anything; just let the car take you all the way.
Deleting a hotkey will delete the program?
You may have noticed that the program is still on your computer even though you have removed the shortcut. Some people make the mistake that removing a shortcut is equivalent to removing a program, but that’s not true.
The shortcut is not the main part of the program. It’s just a set of instructions that tell your computer where the target program is running. When you delete the instructions, it does not affect the main program at all.
In our car analogy, it’s like deleting your friend’s address from the GPS of a magical self-propelled car. Deleting an address from the car’s memory does not mean that your friend’s home has been erased from existence.
In fact, if you delete the address from the GPS, you can still get your friend home. You can either drive there yourself or re-enter the address in the GPS.
In the same way, you can still use the program if you delete its shortcut. You can either go through the file system on your computer to where the program is installed, or you can create a new shortcut.
If you want to get rid of the program, you have to remove it from Windows 10. A good delete also removes the shortcut, but sometimes one remains. It will give you an error message if you try to run it, so remove the shortcut after uninstalling the program.
How to Create a Shortcut in Windows 10 |
If you want to create a shortcut to a program, you can easily do so in Windows 10.
First, you need to go to the directory of the software for which you want to create a shortcut. Now you need to find an executable file that launches the program; it is an EXE file.
When you find it, right-click on it and select Send> to desktop (create shortcut). It’s a little confusing because you don’t actually send the executable file anywhere. You are about to create a shortcut that leads to an executable file.
When you click this option, you will see a shortcut on your desktop.
You can also create a shortcut by right-clicking a space on the desktop or in Windows Explorer. Right-click in the menu New> Shortcut.
You can now either copy and paste the directory of the file to be opened or browse it with the button on the right.
Create a desktop shortcut for macOS is a similar process.
How to see where a shortcut goes in Windows 10
Sometimes you want to use the folder where the software is installed. For example, some programs and games have a configuration file that you can use to customize the behavior of the program.
Unfortunately, because we’re used to working with shortcuts, it’s easy to install a program without ever knowing where the program’s files are. Fortunately, there is a way to find out without visiting a computer directory.
Remember how shortcuts are small help packages about the location of a program? We can use this information to find out where the program is installed without having to run it on your computer.
To do this in Windows 10, right-click the shortcut, and then click Open the location of the file. The computer then moves to the file as instructed, but it does not start the program. Instead, it opens the inbox so you can see what’s in there.
Customize your desktop with shortcuts
Now you know how shortcuts work and how to make your own. You can now make a lot of shortcuts to the programs you need in your daily life.
If you want to further customize your desktop, you can add a nice theme to it. A theme is a great way to customize your computer and make it truly yours.
Photo credit: Stokkete / Shutterstock.com
A surprising number of Windows users do not change the desktop background. Don’t you believe us? Just peek over the shoulders of a couple of people the next time you’re at a coffee shop or airport.
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