A file shortcut is like a signpost. It references an original file that dwells elsewhere in the PC’s storage system. That way you can have multiple copies of a file in different folders, but not overstuff the primary mass storage device with wasted space.

For example, if you were an author, you could have a copy of your current biography in two folders on your PC. The first folder could contain personal information and such. The second folder could be a PR folder, which contains bios and photos and such. The PR folder would hold a shortcut to the original biography found elsewhere.

Here are some things to keep in mind when using file and folder shortcuts:

  • Shortcuts are most commonly used to reference programs installed on your computer. For example, you can create a shortcut to the Microsoft Word program and put it on the desktop for easy access.

  • All the Program files listed on the Start menu are really shortcuts. The originals are installed in one spot in the mass storage system. Every other reference to that original program file is a shortcut.

  • To quickly create a shortcut on the desktop, right-click an icon and choose Send To→Desktop (Create Shortcut) from the pop-up menu.

  • Shortcuts are often named with the suffix Shortcut. You can edit out the Shortcut to part, if you like.

  • It’s important to remember that shortcuts work only on your computer. If you email someone a shortcut, they have only the tiny file stub, not the original file. Likewise, don’t copy shortcuts to external media.

  • Have no fear when you’re deleting shortcuts: Removing a shortcut icon doesn’t remove the original file. In fact, the original file couldn’t care less.

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Dan Gookin is a gizmo geek who's been writing about technology for over 25 years. In 1991, his DOS For Dummies became the world's fastest-selling computer book and launched the For Dummies series. Dan's 130+ books have been translated into more than 30 languages. Visit his website at www.wambooli.com.

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