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Launching Programs

Traditionally, the most common way to launch programs from Windows has been to click (or double-click) their icons. Vista continues this practice, which applies to both program icons and program shortcuts. The latter are graphical pointers to program files, identified by a small arrow in the bottom-left corner of the icon.

By default, you double-click icons on the desktop or in Windows Explorer, but you single-click icons in the Start menu or the Quick Launch toolbar.

You can also launch programs by quickly searching for them using the Start box in the Start menu, which functions much like an old-fashioned command line from the DOS days.

Programs don’t always put shortcuts where you’d like them. You may find that you use a program often enough that you want access right from your desktop, or from the Quick Launch toolbar. We’ll show you how to do that, as well as how to organize your icons so that they don’t clutter things up.

Add and organize icons on the desktop

Most programs you install will offer to place shortcut icons on a desktop for easy access. Do this often enough, and your desktop can get cluttered. Microsoft encourages users to keep a clean desktop so that when you do a clean install, for example, the only icon that appears on the desktop is the Recycle Bin.

Add icons to the desktop

You can place program shortcuts on the desktop from the Start menu or even from folders on your hard drive by dragging and dropping them, but you’ll need to do it a certain way.

  1. Right-click a program or shortcut icon, hold down the right mouse button, and drag the icon to the desktop.

    If you don’t right-click and drag, you could end up moving the program file or shortcut out of its original location. If you do, Vista may warn you that an administrator’s approval is required.

  2. From the drop-down menu that appears, choose Create Shortcuts Here.

    The program icon is added to the location where you dragged it.

Organize icons on the desktop

Launching programs from the desktop is simple—just double-click and go—but the seductiveness of having your programs that handy can be soured quickly by hunting for them in a crowd. In addition, having lots of icons on the desktop can degrade a PC’s performance.

Instead, try organizing desktop icons in folders, which still offers quick access to programs you use frequently. Here’s how to create folders and add programs to them:

  1. Right-click the desktop, and choose New > Folder from the shortcut menu.
  2. Type a name for the folder, such as Games or Utilities.
  3. Drag the program items that fit the category into the folder.
  4. To customize the icon, right-click it, choose Properties from the shortcut menu, click the Customize tab in the Properties dialog box, and then click the Change Icon button.
  5. In the dialog box that appears, select the icon that matches your folder category, and click OK.

Add and delete Quick Launch icons

You can also launch programs from the Quick Launch toolbar. You may recall that we discussed Quick Launch in Lesson 3; it’s the toolbar that’s integrated into the taskbar, which is located to the right of the Start button.

Add icons to Quick Launch

Adding items to the Quick Launch toolbar is a snap: Just drag the icon you want to add to the toolbar, and release the mouse button. Don’t worry about permanently moving the icon from where it was. Unlike when you drag between folders or to the desktop, when you drag to the Quick Launch toolbar or the Start menu, Windows automatically makes a shortcut; it does not move the file.

Delete shortcut icons from Quick Launch

You can also delete shortcuts to programs from the Quick Launch toolbar without actually deleting them from your computer.

  1. Right-click any icon you don’t want to keep, and choose Delete from the shortcut menu.

    The Delete Shortcut dialog box appears.

  2. Click Yes to confirm and delete the shortcut.

Launch programs from the Start menu

As we discussed in more detail in Lesson 3, almost all your programs will be accessible via the Start menu in one of three ways:

  • Clicking one of the icons in the left pane of the Start menu.
  • Clicking Programs; then navigating to the icon for the program you want to launch and double-clicking it.
  • Typing the name of the program you want to launch in the Search box at the bottom of the Start menu and then pressing Enter or clicking the program name in the search results that appear at the top of the Start menu.
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