Productivity Windows

How to Create Windows Desktop Shortcuts the Easy Way

Joel Lee 23-11-2015

Program shortcuts are an essential part of the Windows experience. We’ve all been there, filling up our desktops 3 Better Ways to Store Your Files Than on the Desktop The Windows desktop isn't meant to be a folder for your files. Here are some of the better options to store your files. Read More with them so that all useful applications are available at a moment’s notice. Remember those days?


But even after you’ve gone ahead and cleaned up your desktop by getting rid of all those icons How to Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once and For All Do you look at your Windows desktop and wonder how to clean it up? Here are some decluttering tips that can make you productive. Read More , program shortcuts can still be useful. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they’re worthless relics of a less civilized time, because several Windows tricks 9 Simple Tricks You Didn't Know Were Possible in Windows Windows has many simple tricks up its sleeve that are easily overlooked. Everything we show you here is native to Windows, no gimmicks. How many of these do you know? Read More rely on them.

So let’s go over all the different ways you can create a program shortcut in Windows — there are a lot of them — and see which way is the easiest. You might be surprised!

The Normal Method

The method that most users first learn is rather straightforward and hard to miss. It works anywhere on the system — whether on the desktop itself or in any other regular directory — and provides the most flexibility for customization and control.

All you have to do is right-click an open space, select the New submenu, and then select the Shortcut option:



This makes an empty shortcut with the default name (“New shortcut”) and brings up the Create Shortcut wizard that guides you through the process. Start by typing in the location of the program that you want to launch using this shortcut, or use the Browse button to find it yourself:


Do note that shortcuts can point to any type of file, not just executable ones. That being said, executable shortcuts are definitely the most useful kind.

For the last step, just name the shortcut however you wish, but we recommend going with the program’s full name:



That’s pretty much it. You can use this method to create folder shortcuts too, but what’s really cool about this method is that it can do something that no other method can: create shortcuts to websites.

In the wizard, instead of browsing to the location of a program on your system, you can just enter the URL of a website. Make sure that the link starts with the http:// prefix or else it won’t work properly.

Combined with the trick that lets you launch any shortcut with the keyboard How to Launch Any Windows Program With the Keyboard Did you know you can launch any Windows program you want with user-defined keyboard shortcuts? Read More , you can launch any website with any keyboard shortcut in a browser-agnostic way.


The Easier Method

Going through all of the steps in the default manual method can be quite a nuisance, especially if you want to create many different shortcuts at once. After all, a three-step wizard isn’t exactly efficient.

If you’re ultimately just going to dump all of your shortcuts on the desktop, then save yourself a few steps and just use the “Send to Desktop” method.

Using Windows Explorer, which is now called File Explorer in Windows 10, navigate to any target file or folder and right-click on it:



Select the Send To submenu, then select the Desktop (Create Shortcut) option. This immediately creates a shortcut to that file on your desktop.

Now you can effortlessly clutter up your desktop with more icons than you’d ever need. But if you do go down this road, we recommend using a desktop organizer like Fences Turn Your Windows Desktop From Cluttered To Useful For Free With Fences I'd like to start this post with a small request: Hit Win+D for me. I'll wait here. Go ahead, do it. Okay, done? What did you see? Was it a hot mess of cluttered icons... Read More to help you maintain some semblance of sanity.

The Easiest Method

These final two methods, which are quite similar, are the fastest methods of all. Not only that, but they’re more flexible than the “Send to Desktop” method (which is too much of a one-trick pony for most of us).

Like in the previous method, start by navigating Windows Explorer (or File Explorer) to the file or folder that you want to make a shortcut to, then right-click on it and select Create Shortcut:



Easy, right? It sure is, but it isn’t exactly the easiest. You can speed it up even further — although not by that much — by using the lesser-known drag-and-drop method.

Hold down right-click on any file or folder, drag it somewhere else, and let go:


A new menu pops up where you released the button, and this menu has an option called Create Shortcut Here. Select it and you’re done.

This is the ultimate method because it lets you create a shortcut from anywhere to anywhere with a single click. Learn it, use it, and love it.

Making Program Shortcuts Easily

Windows is chock full of these kinds of lesser-known features: secret taskbar for navigation Use Windows 10's Secret Taskbar to Navigate Like a Pro Finding files and folders on Windows 10 can be a nuisance, so here's a quick way to find them without any navigational headaches. Read More , God Mode for maintenance How to Enable God Mode in Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 Windows has a hidden shortcut to view all system settings at once. Here's how to easily get to God Mode. Read More , custom folder icons from images How to Individualize Folder Icons in Windows with Custom Images Have you ever thought about changing the icons for individual folders on Windows? Here's a simple way to do it. Read More , and tons of nifty Windows Key shortcuts 13 Nifty "Windows Key" Tricks You Should Know By Now The Windows Key can be used to do a lot of neat things. Here are the most useful shortcuts that you should already be using. Read More .

Want to become a true Windows pro? Then you can’t miss out on these amazingly productive keyboard shortcuts Windows Keyboard Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Guide Keyboard shortcuts can save you hours of time. Master the universal Windows keyboard shortcuts, keyboard tricks for specific programs, and a few other tips to speed up your work. Read More . Once learned, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.

What’s your favorite way to create program shortcuts in Windows? Are you a clutter-bug with desktop icons or a minimalist clean freak? Let us know with a comment down below!

Related topics: File Management, Productivity.

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  1. controlsgirl
    May 11, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    I use the right-click drag and drop for copy and move but I never noticed the "create shortcut" option! Love the article.

  2. Anonymous
    November 25, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Since we're talking about shortcuts here, another sort of shortcut does exist. Symbolic Links are well known in the Unix world. Window has only had support for them for about ten years, and because they represent a capability Windows never had before, even IT Pros frequently don't know they exist.

    A Windows Shortcut is, properly speaking, a .LNK file that can be created and moved and is technically independent of the file it points to. This is fine and well and good, but there's no permanent connection between the shortcut itself and its target, so if the target file or folder is moved, the shortcut becomes useless.

    A symbolic link is different from a short by being a second filesystem entry for the target file. If the target file is moved, the symlink maintains its connection. File operations on the symlink impact the target file. This can be amazingly useful for stupid tricks like consolidating storage on multiple drives into a single directory structure for sharing purposes, or for simplifying navigation to an obscure file.

    Many Windows users kind of expect the behavior found in symlinks to be the behavior that Symlinks actually have and using them definitely can be a better option for some needs.

    Symlinks are created on Windows with a command line utility called mklink or with a GUI application like symlinker or Link Shell Extension.

  3. Adis
    November 24, 2015 at 4:00 am

    Hey, sorry for off topic, but there is the article, where author described online service. You can create event and share with friends and they should choose appropriate time. Then most fit time will be chosen. Could you ask about it among other authors and share here, because I googled it for an hour to no avail.