Windows: Open any program with a shortcut key

May 16, 2011

Did you know that you can assign a keyboard shortcut to open any Windows software program? It’s very easy to do, but it’s also easy to assign a shortcut that’s used for something else as there’s no message that tells you it’s already assigned to another function (such as a function in Microsoft Word).

To add, remove, or change a keyboard shortcut for an application:

  1. Click the Start button, and display the list of programs.
  2. Right-click on the program’s name, then select Properties.
  3. Go to the Shortcut tab.
    Properties box for a program
  4. In the Shortcut key field, you can:
    • Add a new shortcut: Type a letter, number or symbol. This character is appended to Ctrl+Alt, so you’ll end up with something like Ctrl+Alt+W.
    • Change the existing shortcut: Type a different letter, number or symbol. This replaces the character after the Ctrl+Alt.
    • Delete the existing shortcut: Press the Backspace key to delete the shortcut; it will be replaced with None.
  5. Click OK.


  • Keyboard assignments for programs are automatically prefaced with Ctrl+Alt. You cannot change this.
  • You can only add a single letter, number or symbol to the Ctrl+Alt combination.
  • Only some symbols can be used; from what I can figure out, only the ‘lower’ case ones. If you press Shift to get a $, for example, you’ll get a 4 instead.
  • You can only assign a keyboard shortcut from the list of program files available via the Start button. You cannot do this for *.exe files listed in Windows Explorer.
  • If you assign a shortcut that’s used inside another program, weird things can happen! See https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/change-the-keyboard-shortcut-for-an-application/.

[Links last checked May 2011]


  1. I have assigned a keyboard shortcut to run a program on my machine (win XP), now it will not let me remove the shortcut. I had set ‘Num 0’ on the number pad to launch cmd.exe. When I went to remove the shortcut, the hot key remained, even though the properties window said ‘none.’ I also tried to replace the shortcut with another key, ‘num 0’, but now both keys will launch the program.
    Now whenever I press ‘0’ or ‘1’ on the number pad, the cmd prompt launches. This is quite a nuisance as I prefer the number pad over the number keys above the keyboard.

    Any thoughts? Thanks

  2. Never mind, figured it out. After a system restart, the hotkeys were removed. I just wouldn’t have though I would need to restart the system to make a hotkey take effect. Maybe since it was a system application like cmd…

  3. CTR SHIFT – doesn’t work for me

  4. Hi Charltonlatchford

    You can only type a single character (see Note 2) — it will overwrite the ‘None’ in the Shortcut Key field and become Ctrl+Alt+. You cannot use Ctrl+Shift in this field.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: