Create your own custom shortcut for any application on your Start menu

Let’s suppose you really like the Calculator program. Instead of having to select it from the Start menu or click on some little icon each time you run it, wouldn’t it be useful to be able to use a keystroke and have it pop up automatically? And suppose you have a few other programs you want to be able to launch quickly, without having to open the Start menu. Today’s tip is for you.

You can create your own custom shortcut keystroke for any application on your Start menu. (You can also extend this tip to apply to Web pages, documents, and much more, but we’ll save that more advanced part for a different day.)

Before you start creating shortcuts, make sure you write them down and keep them saved. It’s also a good idea to make an overall plan for what specific keystroke you plan to use for each of your favorite programs, so you don’t try assigning the same keystroke to more than one program.

For our example, we’ll assign a shortcut for the Calculator. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Start menu (with the Windows key or Ctrl-Esc).
  2. Using the arrow keys, find the Calculator program (in your Accessories menu) and select it (but don’t launch it). One way to get there is to hit P to open the Programs menu, then use the up and down arrow keys until the Accessories menu is open, then use the right arrow key to open the Accessories menu, then use the up and down arrow keys until the Calculator program is highlighted.
  3. Open the shortcut menu by either right-clicking on the Calculator menu item, or by pressing Shift+F10 when it’s selected. A shortcut menu appears, as shown here.
    [Image: Screenshot of Calculator Start menu options menu]
  4. Choose the Properties menu item (just press r, since it’s the underlined letter). The Properites dialog box appears.
  5. You’re interested in the “Shortcut key” menu. Press Alt+K to move down to that field, or hit Tab until it’s highlighted.
  6. Now press your shortcut key. I recommend Ctrl+Alt+C. You’re limited to only keystrokes that start with Ctrl+Shift, Alt+Shift, Ctrl+Alt, or Ctrl+Shift+Alt. Ctrl+Alt is easy to type, and “C” for calculator should be easy to remember. Hit the keystroke you want, verify it shows up in that field, then press Enter. The dialog box closes.
  7. Try pressing Ctrl+Alt+C (or whatever you selected) and verify that — like magic! — the Calculator appears.

There’s more we could do here, but give this a try.

13 thoughts on “Create your own custom shortcut for any application on your Start menu”

  1. for some most wanted application, I use run menu (win+R) and type program code in there (quite easy to memorized, especialy if you use it a lot) …
    ‘calc’ for calculator
    ‘charmap’ for character map
    ‘winword’ for word
    ‘excel’ for excel
    ‘notepad’ for notepad
    ‘control’ for control-panel
    For other applications (or most used documents) I use small program, PStart. Assigned a shortcut to open that & then scrolls to find more applications – faster that using ‘start’ menu.

  2. Hi,

    You can assign shortcuts to the items on the Windows desktop too the same way.

    I used that for a quick acces to some of my folders on my machine.


  3. among freeware, quickstart seems better plus its consumed far less memory resources…

    among non-freeware,accelrun and vistaglance offer similar and better features…

    i m looking for a good filename only search for whole comp kind of software better than ifns(instant filename search),a freeware…any ideas..


  4. is it possible in windows to set up shortcut keys to insert specific text into a data entry box? For example, if I am filling out a form and I want to enter my name with just a Cntrl-G or something, is that possible?

    I have a form that I have to fill in several times a day, and while Cntrl-A, C and V are helpful, it would be even quicker if I could just hit Cntrl-whatever and have specific test go in. Any thoughts?

  5. Thanks Ruth!

    Steven, there are a number of shareware products you can use to fill in forms easily — they let you define custom keyboard shortcuts. Also, certain keyboards you can buy cheaply have programmable keys. Depending on your browser, you may also be able to get a Firefox plugin (or just native Firefox) to do what you want (assuming the form is on a web page). I guess to answer your question properly, I need to know what kind of software that these forms are in — web page?

  6. I was able to get it to work for one of my Outlook shortcuts but it doesn’t seem to work for a PuTTY shortcut I want to map.

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