The “Run” dialog box from the Windows Start menu is a handy way to open an application or document. Usually you would select it from the Start menu, but a shortcut is to press the Windows key and R.
Once you’ve got the Run dialog box open, you can type in the name of a program and then Enter. Here are some popular ones:
- cmd: Command prompt for running DOS-style commands
- notepad: The Notepad app
- sol: Solitaire
- winword: Microsoft Word
- calc: the Calculator
You can also open directories by pressing Win+R, then typing the directory name (such as C:\TEMP) and pressing Enter.
More recent versions of Windows also let you type in a URL, such as www.google.com, and it will open in a browser automatically.
EDIT FOR FEB, 2012: Megan asked in the comments how you know what to type. There is not an easy way, because there’s no definitive list. What happens is that Windows will look through a list of directories (known as your “path“) for an application (that is, a program file ending in .com or .exe) that matches the name you typed. If you view the properties of the shortcuts, you can find the program name. If you look in your Microsoft Office folder (such as C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14) you will see Applications, such as POWERPNT.EXE. So then you know what to type next time.
EDIT FOR JUNE, 2013: From the comments below, a lot of you are getting suspicious calls telling you to run various commands using the Win+R key. As a rule of thumb, even if the command is safe, NO ONE FROM A COMPANY CALLED “WINDOWS” WILL EVER CALL YOU ABOUT A VIRUS. Just hang up on them and ignore the call. Most likely the caller is a scam artist who will try to convince you that your computer has a virus or is otherwise doing bad things, and then magically they happen to know this information somehow, and also magically they happen to be able to sell you a solution. You should never trust people who cold-call you with such information. Instead, get someone you trust to check out your computer.
- Never trust anything that is being told to you over the phone/email from someone contacting you about your computer.
- Never run commands that you don’t know 100% what they do (especially if a stranger is telling you to run them).
- Never give your credit card over the phone to any stranger who called you.
EDIT FOR JAN 2015: It’s amazing to me how long this scam has been running and how many comments this post gets. I stand by the advice of just hanging up, or saying “please remove me from your list and don’t call me again” and then hang up.