Everything You Must Know About The Run Dialog & Most Useful Commands

Tina Sieber 11-12-2013

The Run dialog is a much neglected Windows feature that provides super quick access to programs, folders, documents, and other resources, provided you know the respective launch command. It has little to do with the Windows command prompt A Beginner's Guide To The Windows Command Line The command line lets you communicate directly with your computer and instruct it to perform various tasks. Read More , except that it is used to launch it.


The Run dialog is typically used to access Control Panel items in a single step. Since most users rarely have a desire to dabble with system applications or don’t know the appropriate Run commands to launch items they are using, this powerful shortcut usually gets ignored.

This article highlights the benefits of the Run dialog, shows how it can be used, including a short list of useful commands, and most importantly, a way to create your own commands!

Why The Run Dialog Is Important

As mentioned above, the purpose of the Run dialog is to open applications and documents. Now why would you need an alternative way to do that?

How To Launch The Run Dialog

The easiest way to open the Run dialog is by clicking the keyboard shortcut [Windows]+[R].

In Windows 7 and previous versions of Windows you can add the Run command to the Start Menu. In Windows 8.1 you will find Run among the options in the power menu that comes up when you right-click the desktop Start button or when you click the keyboard shortcut [Windows]+[X].


Windows Run Dialog

10+ Most Useful Run Commands You Have To Know

  1. [application name]
    Generally, many applications can be opened simply using the application name, for example Firefox, Excel, or Wordpad. Sometimes, the command to open an application is not intuitive, for example to open Microsoft Word, you have to type winword. Find out the suitable commands for opening the applications you use most by trial and error or simply set them up manually (see below).
  2. shutdown or logoff
    To restart, type shutdown -r into the text field and hit Enter.
  3. control panel
  4. taskmgr
    To launch the Task Manager.
  5. osk
    Launches the on screen keyboard.
  6. desk.cpl
    Will open display properties.
  7. control keyboard or control mouse or control printers
    To access the respective properties.
  8. appwiz.cpl
    Quickly access Add/Remove Programs.
  9. cleanmgr
    To launch the disk cleanup utility.
  10. %appdata%
    Will open the application data folder.

A full list with hundreds of commands can be found on EightFire.

How To Create Your Own Run Commands

You will run into programs that don’t have a default Run command or maybe some of the existing commands are just too long to be useful. That’s when you should create your own Run commands.

Create desktop shortcuts for the programs or documents you wish to open via the Run dialog. You can manually create a new shortcut from your desktop…


Create Desktop Shortcut

…and browse for the respective file or application.

Create Shortcut

Or you can right-click a file or application and go to > Send To > Desktop (shortcut).


Send To Desktop

Keep in mind that the name of the shortcut will become your command, so make it something short and memorable. Edit shortcut names before proceeding. Once you have all the shortcuts you need, collectively move them directly into the Windows directory.

Windows Run Dialog WinDir

The next time you need to open one of your frequently used tools, simply type your custom command into the Run dialog box and it will magically appear.


What do you use the Run dialog for and which custom shortcuts did you create for yourself?

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  1. Eben G
    December 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    this is a very helpful article. i will use the run command from now onwards

  2. Ti?n Uy
    December 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Windows 8/8.1 Start screen is very useful, as you say. But sometimes, it takes me more times than Run dialog.

    So, I think Run dialog is the simplest, easiest way to run anything.


  3. Mike Merritt
    December 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Wow - I've been using DOS command since I was a little boy - and now I simply use them as "Run" commands ... but I never knew of the OSK command for an onscreen keyboard. It even works on my XP. Is it any protection from keyloggers when typing in a password on a site ?

    • Tina S
      December 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      From Wikipedia:

      Most on screen keyboards (such as the onscreen keyboard that comes with Windows XP) send normal keyboard event messages to the external target program to type text. Every software keylogger can log these typed characters sent from one program to another.[27] Additionally, keylogging software can take screenshots of what is displayed on the screen (periodically, and/or upon each mouse click), which means that although certainly a useful security measure, an on-screen keyboard will not protect from all keyloggers.

    • Caroline W
      December 13, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      I use the OSK when entering sensitive details and/or passwords to keep them extra protected from keyloggers. I usually have it pinned to my taskbar, but now that I know I can get it up so easily and quickly via Run - I'll be using it!. Thanks!

  4. Kurt D
    December 12, 2013 at 5:31 am

    Thank God someone finally took the time to explain this in way that normal people can understand. I was beginning to think that this whole had permanently lost.

  5. Kevin M.
    December 12, 2013 at 2:44 am

    msconfig should be at the top of this list. Personally I would not know how to run a computer without run commands. I use them for everything but I guess that is because I am a Linux guy at heart where it is a must to know them...;)

  6. Stephen Nutbrown
    December 11, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    The comment box destroys formatting by the way, that was all nicely on new lines etc. It mashed it all into one paragraph :(.

    • Tina S
      December 12, 2013 at 11:51 am

      The formatting of your comment is fine; it's just messed up in the unformatted preview.

  7. Stephen Nutbrown
    December 11, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    This post seems misleading to me. All of these can be done with less clicks and faster, without using "Run". Below, I have detailed how.

    Lets test if it can save time, and if everything in this list can be done without a keyboard using other methods. Using the latest windows, with the discontinued windows feature...

    [application name]
    Just press windows button> type in the name, press enter. By my calculation, that's less clicks than opening up run and doing the same.

    shutdown or logoff
    Windows button -> type Shutdown -> enter. This one is the same.

    control panel
    Windows button -> Type control panel -> press enter.
    To launch the Task Manager.
    Windows button -> type task manager -> press enter. Lets also note that we don't need to remember taskmgr, we can just type in task manager.
    Launches the on screen keyboard.
    Assuming i'll forget keyboard.cpl, I guess, windows button, type onscreen keyboard, press enter.
    Will open display properties.
    Windows button, type display properties, press enter.
    To access the respective properties.
    Windows button, type programs and features, press enter.
    Quickly access Add/Remove Programs.
    Windows button, type remove programs and features, press enter.
    To launch the disk cleanup utility.
    Windows + S, type "%appdata%, press enter.

    "Wean yourself from that now discontinued Windows feature." -> Windows 8.1 bring back the windows start menu.

    • car
      December 12, 2013 at 5:26 am

      I actually use the run command frequently because it does save time. Busy in excel, and want to quickly pull up the calculator to double check a formula is calculated correctly, it takes far less time to press [win] [r] "calc" then it does to navigate with mouse to start screen and find the calculator.

      Ditto if I am busy researching and looking for a quick place to make notes [win] [r] "notepad" calls up notepad.

      Keyboard shortcuts are still the fastest way to access apps when one is actually busy typing up reports, analyzing data or creating spreadsheets. And the run command is a quick, ugly one stop shop for exactly that.

    • Stephen Nutbrown
      December 12, 2013 at 9:00 am

      I don't understand how [win][r][calc] is any faster at all than [win][calc][enter]. The windows button brings up the start menu, you don't need to navigate the mouse to it. The whole point of my reply was that it can also be done without a keyboard.

      Again with notepad, [win][notepad][enter], although for me I prefer notepad++ but that's just my preference and due to my area of work.

      I type up an awful lot of reports, i'm a PhD student, and I find still the start menu works. I think perhaps the reason people aren't using it is because they aren't used to the differences and the new search capabilities.

      The part it actually makes a step ahead in becoming more useful than run, is that you can also do the same for your own files. So, right now, I want to open up some results I have, I know they are named DecResults, so:
      That's easier than:
      [Win + r][Excel][Open -> Find the file in recent files][enter]

      Please, really do try out using the windows 8 or 8.1 start menu if you get the chance, you'll find it really is a life saver. I will admit though, I never... never actually look at the start menu to browse apps etc, I only use it by pressing windows, then typing whatever it is I want. Alternatively, you c an also do this using Windows + S, but I prefer just the windows button, then type away.

    • Tina S
      December 12, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Thanks for this thorough analysis, Stephen.

      You wrote twice that your point was that it can be done "without the keyboard". I'm pretty sure you mean "without the Run dialog" because without a doubt, you need your keyboard to click the Windows key and / or type something.

      Windows 8.1 did bring back the Start button and it can be used to launch the Start screen or Apps screen from the Desktop, both of which can function somewhat like a Start Menu. Anyway, if your point was that it doesn't require the Run dialog, you're right. I guess it's even better in Windows 7, where your method actually works within the desktop Start Menu, meaning there is no distracting switch to another screen.

      Meanwhile, your description of how this works in Windows 8 is somewhat incomplete. The Windows key has the same functionality as the re-introduced Start button: it is used to switch back and forth between the Modern interface and the Desktop. Try to change the properties of what "going to Start" does, i.e. "Show the Apps view". The Windows key will adopt the same behavior.

      While you're on the Start or Apps screen, typing away automatically opens the Search menu. You can also open the Search menu by clicking [Windows] + [S]. On the Desktop, that keyboard shortcut is the quickest way to open the Search menu and it's no quicker than opening the Run dialog.

      So maybe I exaggerated when I said the Run dialog was the quickest way to access any application or document. It can be the quickest way to open frequently used applications and documents after some thought was put into adding custom commands.

      And Windows 8 certainly offers some worthwhile alternatives of its own. That's not what this article was about.

    • Bryan P
      December 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Keyboard entry can be quite fast, especially for us old farts who have been using command lines exclusively in other environments (TRS-DOS, DOS, OS/2, Xenix/Unix/Linux, and I won't go into mainframes which would consist of console and punched card commands...).

      And from what I've played with in Vista and Windows 7, there really isn't much difference between hitting the Win key and Win+R, because I can still type the command name and hit enter in either, and it just works. I do like Win+R because it will autosuggest commands that I have already typed, and I don't have to retype the whole command again. re gets me regedit, and I'm there, for example. But smashing the Win button and typing regedit gets me there, all the same.

  8. Hildy J
    December 11, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Don't forget MSINFO32, a great source of information on your system, hardware, devices, drivers, software.

  9. David Johansson
    December 11, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Tina, you pretty much said it yourself, "Sometimes, the command to open an application is not intuitive". The run dialogue won`t be for newbies. You are far better of going with something like a quick launcher like PopSel. I can jump to any run dialogue location using that faster than actually using the run dialogue.

    • Tina S
      December 12, 2013 at 11:05 am

      I also explained how to manually create a more intuitive / memorable command. Anyone who was curious enough to open this article is able to go ahead and do that.

    • Stephen Nutbrown
      December 12, 2013 at 11:28 am

      This is actually new to me (I didn't know run picked up shortcuts from the desktop), and I think that's a great suggestion Tina, I have learnt something :).
      I do think this is a great post by the way (I realised my last comment maybe sounded critical), I just still think there has to be something about the windows search, since it can open anything and maybe just as fast (or faster) as using run.

      My use of run is mainly when helping other people, who don't have windows 8 (or 7 as that has a similar thing with the search). I'll ask them to go to run, and tell them what to type in. It's often easier than the conversation of "click x, click y, press x, find control panel, find this particular option". Oh, you can't see it, make sure it's in list view... no it should be just above this one.. oh, hmm... I'm sure we have all been there.