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  1. #1
    5 Star Lounger
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    Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000)

    This technique is probably appropriate for advanced users only. I learned about it from David A. Karp's "Windows XP Annoyances" book, although I could not get the method he describes on p. 155 to work. Found a better method...

    Some background. Every (most??) Windows users understands that the disk is organized like a tree, with one direct path to each folder. Sometimes it is nice to have "cross paths" -- a direct route from one folder to another without navigating the whole directory tree. That is typically done with shortcuts -- most advanced users know how to create shortcuts to folders. I typically right-drag and drop a folder onto a location where I want the shortcut to exist. The result is a typical .lnk file. Nothing unusual there...

    There are three problems with this method: 1) the .lnk files are *files*, so they appear in Windows Explorer together with the other files in the folder, not with the folders at the top of the pane. 2) they do not appear in Explorer's left-hand pane (the tree), nor do they appear in the "folder list" dropdown box on every File Open/Save dialog box 3) the .lnk files launch Windows Explorer, so when you double-click a .lnk file that is a folder shortcut, a new instance of Explorer is launched instead of drilling down into the folder.

    The solution is to create "folder shortcuts" as described by Karp since they act like true folders, but creating them is not well documented (despite Karp's best intentions!!). Here's an easy method:

    Open three instances of Windows Explorer. One instance points to your Start Button (right-click on Start, and choose Open). The second instance points to the TARGET folder. The third instance points to the folder where you want the shortcut to APPEAR.

    Drag the target folder and drop it on the Start Button (the actual start button, not Windows Explorer -- they react differently!!)

    An entry will appear in the Start Button and the Explorer that points to that location. Notice that it's type is called "Folder" and it is NOT a .lnk file. If you had dragged the same folder onto some arbitrary folder, then Windows would have moved the folder or created a .lnk file whose type would have been "shortcut" instead of "folder". Notice also if you create a real folder, then its type is "file folder" -- three different animals!!

    Move or copy the folder shortcut to its final destination.

    The key to this method is that the Start Button knows how to create a "folder" which is different than a "shortcut" and is different than a "file folder". In that regard, the Start Button seems to be different than any other folder that I've tried.

    Confused yet? Maybe... but it's a powerful technique very similar to Linux's symbolic links and (IMHO) is worth learning. Besides, you are already using it... what are My Documents, Shared Documents, and My Network Places if not symbolic links to other locations??? This technique puts *you* back in control.

    How do I use it? Two ways: 1) I have a (real) folder named "@@Links" in My Documents, with folder shortcuts that point to a host of common locations across the disk and network 2) some work procedures require me to jump regularly between two distant folders. I put a link in each one, back to the "other" folder so I can jump quickly between the two folders, especially in File Open/Save dialogs.

    Try it out, you might find it useful. BTW - thanks to David Karp for picquing my curiosity in this area!
    --------------------------------------------------
    Jack MacDonald
    Vancouver, Canada

  2. #2
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000

    Jack, thank you for sharing this pearl of wisdom. I have often wished that Windows had true symlinks, but this is a good substitute. Now I can rethink how I organize my file system.

    Edited to add: Does anyone know if this also applies to Win 9x/NT? I have nothing to test this on, but I think it would work...
    -Mark

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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000

    Mark--

    The good news is yes for 9X and probably for NT since he has the same tip is in the 98, (ME p. 123), and XP Annoyances books. I can't actually document this for NT, but I would bet you can. Jack thanks very much for the modification on this tip. There are so many nuggets in these two Karp books and he claws beneath the surface for why and how Windows behaves.

    Windows XP Annoyances
    Windows XP in a Nutshell

    SMBP

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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000

    I'm not exactly sure why "probably" can be considered good news, but I can confirm it works on one of our NT4 servers here <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>

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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000

    SMBP

    I copied one of the winXP-created shortcuts onto a network share visible to my win98 machine. The shortcut was to a UNC name, and it did not work properly from the win98. Also, I was a bit scared to muck with it on win98 because its type was "file folder" when viewed from win98 which is the same as a real folder. Viewing the same shortcut from winXP shows its type as "folder". Strange... Karp goes to great pains to caution the user that deleting the shortcut can actually delete the real folder, so I did not want that to happen. Deleted it from winXP, and let sleeping dogs lie...

    BUT - the win98 installation on that machine is totally FUBAR, so it's not a good test-bench. Bottom line -- I am glad to hear you say it works on win9X, but I haven't pursued it far enough to confirm independently. I will try creating some exclusively on win98.
    --------------------------------------------------
    Jack MacDonald
    Vancouver, Canada

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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000

    The good news was Win 9X--, and confirmation of every flavor except NT. I didn't have an NT machine or time to search the web to confirm it in NT. I'll tweak my phrasing. I figured since Karp has been using the same page in his annoyances books 98, ME, XP that it probably applies to Win 2K and NT but you never know. But now we have every flavor of Windows confirmed since from 98 through XP. Thanks for adding NT to the list. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>

    SMBP

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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000

    I tried doing this on my Win98 SE machine, but all it did ultimately was create a shortcut to the folder, unless I missed a step somehow. This is what I did.
    1. I opened a Windows Explorer window for my Templates folder. A subfolder, Add-Ins, was my target.
    2. I opened a Windows Explorer window for the Start Menu.
    3. I opened a folder where I wanted the shortcut to appear (called Phil Docs).
    4. I dragged Add-Ins from 1) above to the Start button. It appeared on the Start Menu & in the window in 2) above.
    5. Then I dragged it (moving it) to Phil Docs.

    However, it just appeared as a .lnk file in Phil Docs. Did I follow your steps correctly or does it just not work in Win 98?
    Thanks,

  8. #8
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000)

    It works well for me on Windows XP. I'll be making use of this one, Thank you,

    StuartR

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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000

    I haven't tried it personally on Win98 (my Win98 machine is flakey, and I would not trust any results from it), so I can't respond first-hand. Others have reported that it works, so there you go.... My *impression* before seeing those first-hand success reports was that it was only applicable to WinNT-based OS's, and I was surprised to hear that it worked on Win9X for some people.
    --------------------------------------------------
    Jack MacDonald
    Vancouver, Canada

  10. #10
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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000)

    I just tried this with WinXP SP2 and could not get it to work.

    I dragged a folder to the Start Menu button. The folder shortcut appeared at the top left of the Start Menu (XP style) above the bar separating recently used programs. The Explorer window showing the start menu never displayed the folder shortcut. I could not find it in my start menu and could not find it in all users. If I look at its properties in the Start Menu, I get "File Folder" instead of the predicted "Folder". When I do a search of the entire disk, I only find the original instance of the folder name. If I right-click on the Shortcut in the Start Menu, I get an option to "Remove from this list" rather than delete. I have Explorer set to view hidden and system files.

    Am I doing something wrong?
    Do I need some special settings to work with the shortcut?
    Has Windows changed to block this capability?

    BTW, I am trying to do this to get around an Open File dialog that will only open in My Documents. I wish to get from My Documents to the desired folder with a minimum of key-strokes or clicks. If I can get a shortcut to appear with the folders, I can get it to show as the first item. If the shortcut is treated normally, the user must scroll through the folders to get to it or type in part of the folder name.

    Thanks,

    Joe M

    ------------------------------------

    Addendum:

    FYI, shortly after my post I found an alternate way to get a folder shortcut into My Documents. I don't know if this was Karp's original method -- I haven't seen the book.

    I first created the shortcut in My Network Places. The target information was <MyComputerName>c$<TargetPathAndFolderName> for the target folder on my C: (=c$) drive. I was then able to drag this shortcut to My Documents. I prepended and "!" and the shortcut now shows at the start of a My Directory listing. It seems to work as desired.

    If you try this, be careful. You can create a loop in the file naming structure (unless Windows checks for and blocks this) if the shortcut is under the target directory somewhere. More loop possibilites if you create multiple shortcuts.

    Also, do not live or die on this. Loops in the naming structure can be dangerous. If Microsoft blocked Jack's original method to avoid loops, they may block this method at some point.

  11. #11
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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000)

    Yeah, I think something changed with SP2. The trick continues to work on my desktop (SP1) machine, but I need a "trick to the trick" on my notebook computer (SP2)

    Go into the properties of the taskbar, and choose the Start Menu tab. Change the radio button from Start Menu to Classic Start Menu and apply the change. Then do the drag-n-drop routine as described earlier. When finished, revert the start menu back to its original configuration.
    --------------------------------------------------
    Jack MacDonald
    Vancouver, Canada

  12. #12
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    Re: Cool trick with folder shortcuts (XP Pro, 2000)

    Two years later, I'm using this technique to map remote server drives to my local PC "My Documents" Folder. There is some interesting and welcome behavior; it seems that either local copies of the files are being made, or handles to the files are being held - accessing the files this way is much faster than the mapped drive on the remote server. (Or maybe my VPN is having a good day.) Any comments on why this might be so?

    Access is so quick that when I deleted some test attempts, I was worried that I had deleted the remote files, but that wasn't the case.
    -John ... I float in liquid gardens
    UTC -7ąDS

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