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May 20, 1996

You can stamp out the `Shortcut to' link in Windows 95

Shortcuts are one of the new little conveniences in Windows 95. Shortcuts are the command lines behind most of the items in your Start menu and represent some of the objects on your Desktop.

Like the icons in the old Windows 3.1 Program Manager, shortcuts consist of commands to open a particular application or document. To create a hotkey to launch a shortcut, first right-click the shortcut. Then click Properties, Shortcut, click inside the Shortcut Key box, and press any letter.

But unlike Program Manager icons, shortcuts can be placed in almost any folder. They even have a limited capability to track a file when you happen to move the target of a shortcut (although generally not if you move it to a different drive).

Windows 95 displays an odd behavior each time you create a shortcut. You can see this for yourself if you right-click an icon on the Desktop, such as the Recycle Bin, then click Create Shortcut. Win95 places another Recycle Bin icon on your Desktop, but with the longer title Shortcut to Recycle Bin.

The extra verbiage is unnecessary, because the Shortcut icon bears a little arrow inside a box to indicate that it is a shortcut.

Some people have suggested that Windows would stop adding on the "Shortcut to" if you renamed several shortcuts to delete the extra words. After you did this five or six times, the stories went, Win95 would stop adding the prefix. Finding out the real story involved an interesting look behind the curtains of Win95. As is the case with many other aspects of Win95, the full truth is neither as simple nor as easy as you might think.

The "Shortcut to" work-around is an experiment by Microsoft Corp. to add adaptive behavior to Win95. In other words, the OS "notices" what the user is doing and adjusts its behavior to fit the user's preferences.

The implementation of such adjustments is maintained in the Registry. When you start Win95 for the first time, a value named "link" is set to a default value of 20. Every time you create a shortcut, this value is increased by 1 and written to the Registry. If you created the Recycle Bin shortcut I mention here, you should be able to fire up Regedit.exe and see the value of "link" by selecting Hkey_Current_User, Software, Microsoft, Windows, Current Version, Explorer. Because the value of "link" is stored in hexadecimal math, the number 21 will look like 15, etc.

Each time you rename a shortcut to remove the "Shortcut to" prefix, the value of "link" is reduced by 5. When "link" equals zero, Win95 stops adding the prefix to your shortcuts.

So far, so good. But a bug in the adaptive behavior prevents this from being a permanent fix. If "link" equals zero and you restart Windows, the value is set back to 20 -- as if you'd just installed Win95.

Fortunately, there's an easier way to defeat this behavior than manually renaming shortcuts every time you start Windows. The free PowerToys program I wrote about in 1995 (Nov. 6, page 35; Nov. 13, page 38; and Nov. 20, page 31) includes a Control Panel applet called TweakUI that turns off the behavior from a dialog box. To download PowerToys, just set your Web browser to

I learned about the link value from Ronald Beekelaar, a Dutch consultant who wrote about it in Woody's Underground Office, a Web-based newsletter about Microsoft Office applications. Subscriptions cost $59.95. Call (800) 659-4696 or (314) 965-5630, or check out Woody's Goodies available at

Brian Livingston is the coauthor of the new Windows 95 Secrets and author of three other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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Copyright © 1996 by InfoWorld Publishing Company


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