As a programmer, I'm always looking for good places to make something more efficient. Very often, that means looking at places where some action is repeated frequently. This post isn't meant to bore you with such details, though; I'm looking at something we all do on our computers: start programs.
I start programs a lot in the course of an average day. Of course, the standard way to do that is to open the Start Menu, browse to the program's icon, and click it. Seems easy enough, right? Sure, but Windows 7 gives you an easy way to make it faster and easier. And a way that does not require moving your hands from the standard typing position on your keyboard (much less moving all the way to the mouse!). Click on the photo to the right to see how easy it can be.
When you press the Start button on Windows 7, the typing cursor will be located in the Search box. Start typing part of the name of a program you have installed, and you will start to see what I'm getting at here. If you type [Start]-notepad, you will find that Notepad.exe is selected at the top of the Start Menu, which has morphed into sort of a search results window. Press [ENTER], and you are on your way.
If you are a reasonably fast typist, this is a notably easier way to start a program than moving your hand to the mouse, and navigating the Start Menu heirarchy to find Notepad - or any program that you haven't pinned to the Start Menu or Task Bar. But I use it to run everything, much of the time - even programs that I do have pinned - because it's still faster for me.
But there is one problem; Not all programs will work as neatly as Notepad did. Let's try Visual Studio 2010, which I will try to run by just typing visual studio.
Click on the photo to the left to see the result; Visual Studio comes with many shortcuts it installs that have "Visual Studio" in the name; I also have Visual Studio 2008 (and 2005... And 6)... installed. It's showing the top few possible options,
but what I want is at the bottom of the programs shown. It would be easier, here, just to click the pinned shortcut to Visual Studio 2010 that I have. Ahh... but I can make this better...
Just Rename It
Keep in mind that the "Programs" results here are based on the names of the shortcuts contained in your Start Menu heirarchy. Anything which contains what you have typed (not "starts with", but simply "contains") will be a possible result for that portion of the menu. So the trick is to rename the Start Menu items for your frequently-used programs such that they contain some short, unique string you can search on.
So, what you want to do is open the Start Menu, and navigate to a program you wish to start in this manner. In my case, it's Visual Studio 2010. I right-click on the name and choose "Properties", and then in the resulting properties window, switch to the "General" tab. In the box at the top, I simply add to the title a shortcut bit of text; "vs2010" in this case.
Once that is done, it's very fast for me to start Visual Studio 2010: I simply type [START] vs2010 [ENTER] and off it goes!
If you do this with a few of your frequently-used programs, you can start them up very quickly via the keyboard. You can even use this trick to quickly go to a website, by adding web shortcuts to your Start Menu and using this trick on them.