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About Windows Shortcuts

What is a shortcut?
A shortcut is a small file containing a link to a target program file, folder or URL that the shortcut represents. The shortcut might additionally specify parameters to be passed to a target program when it is run. Shortcuts are very commonly placed on a desktop, in an application launcher panel, or in the main menu of a desktop environment. Shortcuts are normally shown with a curled arrow in the corner of the icon and no file extension.

shortcut icon

How do I create a shortcut?
In the Windows OS, the simplest way to create a shortcut is to drag the target to the location where you want the shortcut to appear using the right mouse button. Upon the release of the right mouse button, a context menu will appear, with one option being "Create Shortcuts Here" (you can also drag with the left mouse button while holding down the Alt key).

context menu

Opening a Shortcut
"Opening" a shortcut by clicking or double-clicking on it will open the target item in the program that the operating system has associated with the target, or in the case of a target being a program, open the program.

Moving a Shortcut
When a shortcut is created, it normally contains the full path to the target. Because of this, relocating a shortcut should not affect its use. Note that relocating a shortcut does not relocate or in any other way affect the target item. A shortcut can be copied or moved just like any other file.

Renaming a Shortcut
Renaming a shortcut affects only the text that the shortcut displays. Note that renaming a shortcut does not rename or in any other way affect the target item.

Locating the Target
The simplest way to locate the target of a shortcut is to right-click on the shortcut and select "Properties" from the context menu. A "Find Target..." button is in the lower left section of the Shortcut tab of the Properties dialog box.

properties window

Changing a Shortcut's icon
You can change the icon of a shortcut by right-clicking on the shortcut and select "Properties" from the context menu. A "Change Icon..." button is in the lower middle section of the Shortcut tab of the Properties dialogue box.

Deleting a Shortcut
Deleting a shortcut will delete only the shortcut itself. Note that deleting a shortcut does not delete or in any other way effect the target item.

Target File relocation or deletion
If a target file is relocated by you, Windows will update a shortcut to reflect the new location (dependant of version of operating system). However, if another user has relocated the target file, a "Missing Shortcut" dialogue box will appear when you launch a shortcut and the system will attempt to find the file. While it is searching, you may click on the "Browse..." button to specify the location of the target file. When the search is complete, it will either ask you to confirm a match (if it has found a file that has been assessed as a close match), delete the shortcut, or cancel the operation.

file missing