Easier Access to Handy Tools

Starting with Windows 2000, Microsoft started making the tools I use most often less accessible. My two favorite tools, Windows Explorer and Command Prompt, were moved to the Accessories submenu, meaning it took more mouse clicks to get to them.

I solve that problem every time I set up a new computer by right-dragging the menu shortcut to the desktop and selecting Copy Here from the menu that appears when I release the mouse button. Then I drag the shortcuts to my Quick Launch toolbar so I can open either program with a single click.

At the same time, Microsoft also changed the way Windows Explorer opened; instead of selecting and expanding the C drive in the left pane, it opens with My Documents selected and expanded. Since my documents folder has a gazillion subfolders, it took a lot of annoying scrolling to get to the C drive, which I then had to expand by clicking the plus sign.

No, thank you, I'm far too lazy and too impatient to do all that work. Besides, I can easily create a shortcut for My Documents, so why do I need to use Windows Explorer for that? Here's a set of instructions you can pass along to your users so they can create a handy shortcut to Windows Explorer and have it open "properly."

1. Click Start, All Programs, Accessories to display the Accessories menu.

2. Right-drag the listing for Windows Explorer to the desktop and choose Copy Here from the menu that appears when you release the right mouse button. (The desktop has to be visible, so before you open the Programs menu, click the Show Desktop icon on the Quick Launch toolbar to minimize any open windows.)

3. When the shortcut appears, right-click its icon and choose Properties to open the Properties dialog box.

4. In the Target field (on the Shortcut tab) add the following at the end of the text that appears: a space, followed by /e,c:. The resulting text should read: %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /e,c:

5. Click OK.

If you have multiple drives (including USB drives, or mapped drives to network folders), you can make copies of your new shortcut and create shortcuts specific to those drives.

To copy a desktop shortcut, right-click its icon and choose Copy. Then right-click a blank spot on the desktop and click Paste. Windows creates another desktop shortcut with the same icon and title, except (2) is appended to the title.

Right-click the new shortcut and replace the c: you entered with the appropriate drive letter (and don't forget the colon after the drive letter).

When you've created all the shortcuts you need to explore drives, right-click each shortcut and choose Rename to name the shortcut appropriately (e.g., Explorer-C, Explorer-D, and so on). Even if you move the shortcut to the Quick Launch toolbar (which doesn't display shortcut titles), you'll see the title when you hover your mouse over the icon.

Another way to make it easier to use shortcuts to multiple drives is to use a different icon for each shortcut. Right-click the shortcut, select Properties, and then click Change Icon (on the Shortcut tab). Select a new icon and click OK.

In Windows Vista, Microsoft moved another useful tool, the Run command, to the Accessories submenu, but this hurdle is easier to overcome, using the following steps:

1. Right-click the Start button and choose Properties.

2. Click Customize to open the Customize Start Menu dialog box.

3. Scroll down to find the Run command, and select it.

4. Click OK twice to exit the Properties dialog box and save your changes.

The Run command now appears in the right pane of your menu.