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Creating Your Own Shortcut Keys in Windows1

In a previous issue, we told you about Windows shortcut keys, and promised to tell you how to establish your own. In this issue, we'll tell you how to establish a shortcut key to activate a program.

In this article, wherever we tell you to "click", we mean left-click, otherwise we will specify "right-click" explicitly.

Start ChainThe program must have an entry in the "Start chain". The Start chain consists of: the menu that appears when you click the Start button, and the submenu that appears when you put the mouse pointer on "Programs" in the Start menu. Both are shown in the illustration at the right.

Suppose that you want a shortcut key for the program "Mixer", which is listed in the Programs submenu in the illustration.

Right-click the Start button. In the resulting menu, click "Open". That opens the Start folder; one of the items in that folder will be "Programs". Right-click Programs, and choose "Open". You will then see a window containing icons for all the programs in the Programs menu.

Right-click the icon for the desired program ("Mixer" in our example), and in the resulting menu, click "Properties". In the resulting window, if the Shortcut tab is not uppermost, click it to bring it to the front. That should produce a window like the one shown below. (If you don't get a window that looks like the one shown, the program was not referenced properly when it was placed in the Start chain, and you cannot establish a shortcut key for it.)

Properties Window Click inside the text box labeled "Shortcut key".  The box will not change appearance, and the entry will still be "None", but you will now see a flashing cursor at the end.  Just press the desired key combination.  In our example, we would have chosen Ctrl-Alt-m.  (Why not use just plain m?  Because if we made that assignment, whenever we try to type an "m" thereafter, we would instead activate the Mixer program.)

Click the "OK" button.

You may have to reboot the machine for the assignment to take effect, but after that, the key combination will activate your desired program.  In our example, Ctl-Alt-m would start the Mixer program.

In a subsequent issue, we'll tell you how to define shortcut keys to perform functions within Word and Excel that would otherwise require multiple mouse actions and/or keystrokes.

1Note: This article has been slightly revised from the printed version in the newsletter. In particular, the portion in italics is new.

W. A. Shapiro


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10/30/2001 815