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Take the Lazy Way in Windows 8 with Desktop Shortcuts

Windows 8 tries to keep the Start screen and the desktop in two separate worlds, but you’ll constantly find yourself jumping between them. When you grow tired of meandering through the woods to find a program, folder, disk drive, document, or even a website, create a desktop shortcut — an icon that takes you directly to the object of your desires.

Because a shortcut is a mere icon that launches something else, shortcuts are safe, convenient, and disposable. And they’re easy to tell apart from the original, because they have a little arrow lodged in their bottom-left corner, such as the Calculator shortcut shown in the margin.

To skip the Start screen, follow these instructions to create desktop shortcuts to your oft-used items:

  • Folders or Documents: On your desktop, right-click a favorite folder or document, choose Send To, and select the Desktop (Create Shortcut) option. The shortcut appears on your desktop.

  • Websites: On the desktop version of Internet Explorer, see the little icon in front of the website’s address in Internet Explorer’s Address Bar? Drag and drop that little icon to your desktop for quick access later. You can also add websites to Internet Explorer’s handy list of Favorites.

  • Control Panel: Found a particularly helpful setting in the desktop’s Control Panel, the mammoth switch box in Windows 8? Then drag that helpful setting’s icon from the Control Panel onto your desktop, the Navigation Pane’s Favorites area, or any other handy spot.

    The icon turns into a shortcut for easy access. (An easy way to access the Control Panel from the desktop is to right-click in the screen’s bottom-left corner and choose Control Panel from the pop-up menu.)

  • Disk drives: Open File Explorer from the Start screen. From the Navigation Pane along File Explorer’s left side, right-click the drive you want and choose Create Shortcut. Windows immediately places a shortcut to that drive on your desktop.

Here are some more tips for desktop shortcuts:

  • For quick CD or DVD burning, put a shortcut to your disc drive on your desktop. Burning files to disc becomes as simple as dragging and dropping them onto the disc drive’s new shortcut. (Insert a blank disc into the disc drive’s tray, confirm the settings, and begin burning your disc.)

    Want to send a desktop shortcut to the Start screen? Right-click the desktop shortcut and choose Pin to Start; the item appears as a new Start screen tile. Click that tile on the Start screen to switch to the desktop, where your item awaits you.

    Feel free to move shortcuts from place to place but don’t move the items they launch. If you do, the shortcut won’t be able to find the item, causing Windows to panic, searching (usually vainly) for the moved goods.

  • Want to see what program a shortcut will launch? Right-click the shortcut and click Open File Location (if available). The shortcut quickly takes you to its leader.

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.

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