How to Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows

I am a keyboard guy. I realize the mouse has its place, but the more I can keep my hands on the keyboard by using shortcuts, the faster I can get things done.

keyboard shortcut

I recently discovered (unfortunately, it has been around a while) a way to create custom keyboard shortcuts that will launch Windows application shortcuts without using a mouse. Allow me to explain.

Keyboard Shortcuts

You probably already realize that Windows allows you to create shortcuts to applications, folders, and documents. These shortcuts are on your Windows desktop or perhaps in your Windows taskbar. Using the mouse to click on the shortcuts will launch the associated program or open the folder or document.

What I did not realize was that you could create a keyboard shortcut to open the shortcut link without needing to use the mouse. This only works for program shortcuts. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Create a shortcut to an application either by dragging the icon from the Start menu to your desktop or by right-clicking on an executable program file and choosing “Create Shortcut.”
  2. Right-click on the shortcut link and choose Properties. Click in the Shortcut key box, enter your selected keystroke combination, and click OK to confirm. Note that your custom combination has to start with Ctrl+Alt, after which you can add a letter, number, or function key.
  3. Use the key combination anytime you want to launch the program.

Animation for above process

And that is it. A simple little keyboard shortcut trick to save you a little bit of time every day starting the programs you use most often.

What other Windows tricks have you found to be helpful?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “How to Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows

  1. Here at ActiveWords, we have always believed that every time you take your hands off the keyboard to reach for the mouse, you are wasting time, and losing focus. Your example is a good one, but most people once they name say launching an app with a keyboard sequence like ctrl+alt+k, don’t remember it, because it’s not intuitive, nor “semantic”. With our scripting language you can not only do this same thing, but you can “name” it, so then given the illustration that you have used, one can just type say “kin”, “kindle” or say “read”, hit the space bar twice and the app is open.

    Investing a minute to save a moment every day becomes a massive ROI on your time.

  2. It is also possible to create a desktop shortcut that will lock Windows. I can’t explain it here, but you should be able to find a YouTube video that shows how to do this. I can then create a Windows keyboard combination as described in your article to open that desktop shortcut, and program that to a customizable button on my keyboard. So I have button on my keyboard that I can press to lock my Windows account when I step away from my desk.

  3. I am a keyboard guy also, love keyboard shortcuts. I would do a Google search for “Windows keyboard shortcuts”, “Internet Explorer keyboard shortcuts”, “MS Office keyboard shortcuts”, etc. You can find a pretty exhaustive list like that. Then I pick out the ones that look useful to me, give them a try, and remember the ones that help. And I combine that with a keyboard/mouse that offers customizable buttons. So frequently used programs, webpages, etc, I can just launch with a single keyboard button. Even some Windows shortcuts that require 2 or 3 keystrokes, I can combine into just one button. For example: Years ago, you recommended a free screen capture program called Jing. Although I now use it less in favor of Windows’ built-in snipping tool, I do still have some occasional use for Jing. Jing allows me to create a hotkey combination to launch the capturing window, and my keyboard allows me to customize a button with that hotkey combination. So I can press just one button to capture something with Jing, which is sometimes very useful. And I do the exact same thing to open my clipboard manager, or open my password manager, as another examples.