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Forget Launchers, Just Do It With Windows! - How To

There are lots of nice launcher apps out there (Launchy, SpeedLaunch, Executor, etc.), but why bother with them when you can do the same thing with functions already built in to Windows? Explorer's running anyways, so you may as well get something out of it.

First, create a new folder that will contain your shortcuts. If you've got a data drive or partition, put it there so it'll stick around after a reformat. Next, right click my computer, and open system properties.

Click the advanced tab, then click the environment variables button. In the bottom box, find path and click the edit button. Now scroll all the way to the right, add a semicolon to the end, and input the path to your new folder.

Windows is smart enough to launch a .lnk (shortcut) file from the run box without the extension. Modifying the path variable to include your new folder means it'll launch without the path as well.

Now for your shortcuts. Set yourself up a lazy man's dual-pane explorer: close all other windows, right click the start button and choose explore all users, and then open a second explorer window in your shortcut folder. Right click the taskbar and choose tile windows vertically.

Click and drag your shortcuts into the new folder and do some renaming. For example, I've created a link to FileZilla and then renamed it FZ. Now to launch it, I can just Windows+R to open the run box, type FZ[enter], and there it is. While you're doing this, you may as well set up some hotkeys, too.

If you've never done that in Windows, right click an icon, choose properties, and click in the shortcut key box. Press your desired key combo, and click ok to confirm. Windows, unlike most hotkey apps, will only allow Ctrl + Alt + [key] combinations, but it'll do the job.

The bonus is you can also create a launchbar for yourself by right clicking the taskbar, selecting toolbars and new toolbar, and then browsing to your shortcut folder. I've dragged mine to the top of my screen and set it to autohide and always on top, no titles, no text.

That's all there is to it. Now you've got three more quick, easy ways to access your favorite apps without giving up 40+ mb of ram in the process.

Tags: howtos