Changing Shortcut Properties

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 4, 2019)


Every Windows object possesses properties that control its behavior or use. Shortcuts are no exception. You can view the properties for a shortcut by right-clicking on the shortcut icon and choosing Properties from the context menu. The Properties dialog box appears. The Shortcut tab of the Properties dialog box is displayed by default. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Shortcut tab of the Properties dialog box.

This tab contains information about the shortcut's target, or the file to which it points. In addition, it contains information about how the target should be run.

The first field in the dialog box is the Target field. The information contained here was derived when you first created the shortcut. This is the path and name of the file to which the shortcut points. If you change the information in the field, then you change the nature of the shortcut by changing to what it points. Changing the target also changes the icon that is used for the shortcut, but it does not change the name of the shortcut itself.

The next four fields in the dialog box allow you to control how the target is executed. First, in the Start In field, you can specify what directory to use when starting the program or opening the file. This path does not have meaning for shortcuts to documents, but it can mean quite a bit in shortcuts to programs. By changing the value in this field, you can control what data are immediately available to a program when it is started. For instance, you may create three shortcuts to your accounting program, one each for the years 2016, 2017, and 2018. The only difference between the three may be the value set in the Start In field. In the first shortcut, the field should be set to the path that contains the 2016 accounting data. In the second, the path to the 2017 data is used, and the third contains the path of the 2018 data.

The next field, Shortcut Key, allows you to specify a keyboard combination that runs the shortcut. This combination can also be used to switch to the program window if you have already opened the shortcut. By default, the Shortcut key field is set to None, meaning that no key combination is specified. If you choose to change the value of this field, enter the characters CTRL, ALT, or CTRL+ALT, followed by the key to be used in combination with these. As an example, if you wanted to use the key combination of Ctrl+R, then you would enter CTRL+R in the Shortcut Key field.

When choosing a shortcut key for a shortcut (sounds redundant, doesn't it?), don't use a key combination that is already used by a different Windows program. Doing so makes the shortcut key in the Windows program unavailable.

The next field in the dialog box, Run, allows you to specify how the program that is being indirectly run by the shortcut should begin. You can make three choices here: Normal window, Minimized, and Maximized. You can pick the one that reflects how you want the program to be started.

The final field in the dialog box, Comment, allows you to make a note to yourself that explains something about your shortcut. This can be very helpful for jogging your memory a couple of months down the road when you've completely forgotten why you ever created this shortcut in the first place.

Finally, at the bottom of the dialog box are three buttons. These allow you to make the following customizations:

  • Open File Location. This button opens a folder window that shows the file that is used as the target.
  • Change Icon. This button allows you to change the base icon that is used for the shortcut. Notice that I said the "base icon." Changing the icon does not eliminate the shortcut identifier (the upturned arrow) on the icon. This is included automatically for all shortcuts.
  • Advanced. This button allows you to control a few advanced configuration options for how the program pointed to by the shortcut is run within Windows.

Most of the time you'll only want to modify the properties made available in the Shortcut tab. You can, if you desire, explore the other tabs in the dialog box. Each of them provides a number of pieces of information and controls that affect how the shortcut is used by Windows.

 This tip (10869) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is two less than 5?

2019-09-13 15:18:23

William Knowlton

Hi Allen,

Thank you for this "Changing Shortcut Properties" post!

Do you know if there is a way to change a shortcut's "Description"? The value of a shortcut's "Description" is displayed under the General tab of the shortcut properties, but is appears not to be editable there.



2019-03-05 11:50:34


I tried adding a shortcutkey as described above but am unable to modify the "None" that is present. (I am able to modify other options but am unable to type or otherwise modify this section.) Is a shortcut key only able to be used on certain shortcuts?

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