Last week the blogosphere went temporarily insane over a simple GUID that displays a list of Control Panel shortcuts. It's not even close to deserving the "God mode" label, but I'm still hearing about it. As I noted in response, that's only one of 39 GUID shortcuts available in Windows 7. But even those are esoteric and mostly of interest to programmers and geeks.
But there's another, much larger class of well-hidden Windows shortcuts that are useful to everyone, not just techies. I dug through my notes for Windows 7 Inside Out and found a treasure trove of information about these shortcuts. They wound up on the cutting-room floor for that first edition, but are scheduled to be in the expanded second edition in a year or so.
The shortcuts I'm referring to involve the shell command, which is curiously undocumented in the Windows 7 Help files or on Microsoft's web site. The idea is to give Windows programs and users access to common locations using the Windows shell, Windows Explorer. The syntax is simple—you type shell, followed by a colon and the name of the shell folder location. That list of folder locations is hard to memorize, with lots of inconsistencies especially in regard to spacing. For example, the shell shortcut for the shared Downloads folder is shell:CommonDownloads, whereas the equivalent shortcut to the shared Documents folder is shell:Common Documents. And the command will not tolerate typos. If you add a space in the former or leave out the space in the latter, the shortcuts won't work. The good news is that these commands are not case-sensitive, so you can ignore the sometimes odd capitalization.
Despite the syntactic challenges, these shortcuts are very useful for some tasks. They're especially good for fast typists who don't want to move their hands from the keyboard to do a bunch of mouse movements. If that's you, tap the Windows key to open the Start menu with the insertion point already positioned in the Search box. Then type shell: followed by the location.
I've broken the full list of 94 shortcuts into four groups, each with its own page. If you want to dive right in, here are the links to click. But I suggest you keep reading for some examples of shortcuts that I find worth memorizing.
Note that many, but not all, of these shortcuts work with Windows Vista, and a smaller subset work with Windows XP. For this post I assume you're using Windows 7.
- Page 2: Folders from current user profiles Use these Shell shortcuts for fast access to data stores in the currently logged-on user profile and the shared Public user profile.
- Page 3: Other interesting per-user folders These shell: commands help you get to collections of user data outside of your visible user profile.
- Page 4: Virtual folders and Control Panel shortcuts Windows Explorer is capable of displaying all sorts of data from folders that can't be reached by starting at a drive letter.
- Page 5: System and per-machine folders These locations contain data that is available to every user.
The following list includes my favorite Windows shell shortcuts, those that I use regularly:
shell:Profile This opens your user profile folder (on a default installation, you'll find this at c:\users\username). You can get the same results by clicking your account name at the top of the Start menu's right column. This location is also accessible via the environment variable %userprofile%.
shell:Personal Typing this command takes you straight to the Documents folder in your user profile. You can reach the same destination by clicking the Documents shortcut on the Start menu's right column.
shell:SendTo This one solves a real usability problem for Windows users who are used to running with hidden files visible. If you look in your user profile folder, you'll see a normally hidden SendTo shortcut. But clicking that shortcut displays this error message:
That's because this shortcut is actually a junction, created for backwards compatibility. The real SendTo folder is several subfolders deep in your profile's hidden AppData folder. After you use the shell command to open this file, you can add shortcuts that appear on the Send To menu when you right-click a file or folder. Add a shortcut to your favorite text or hex editor and you can view any file by sending it to that shortcut with a right-click.
shell:Public Use this command to open the default collection of shared folders on your machine. If you use Homegroups, these folders act as dropboxes for shared libraries on your system, and this is an easy way to see (and search) their contents in one window.
shell:Common Startup and shell:Startup Which shortcuts are loaded automatically when you start Windows? Program installers often create a shortcut that run automatically at startup. Some even offer the choice of running for just your account or for all users. You'll find these shortcuts in two separate Startup folders, one buried deep in the hidden AppData folder of your user profile, the other in the hidden ProgramData folder, which is in the root of your system drive.
shell:ConnectionsFolder This might not be the most elegant way to get to the Network Connections folder, but it's definitely faster than the official path. Without this trick, you have to stumble to the Network and Sharing Center, then click Change Adapter Settings in the navigation pane.
shell:Programs and shell:Common Programs These two folders (from your personal profile and the ProgramData folder, respectively) combine to create the All Programs list on your Start Menu. The mouse-driven alternative is to click the Start menu, right-click All Programs, and choose Open (for your profile) or Open All Users (for the much more densely populated list available to any user account).
shell:AppData and shell:Local AppData These shortcuts open the Roaming Application Data and Local Application Data folders, respectively. In everyday use, you don't need (or event want) access to these folders, but knowing their whereabouts is handy when you want to work directly with saved settings for a program. You'll find Firefox and Thunderbird user profiles here, and most e-mail programs (including Outlook and Windows Live Mail) store the files containing saved messages and contacts here as well.
shell:Cookies and shell:cache These shortcuts are, without question, the fastest way to see information saved by Internet Explorer. The first shortcut lets you inspect and manage saved cookies; the second opens the Temporary Internet Files folder. The alternative involves much spelunking through the Internet Options dialog box and is not recommended for long-term sanity.
Want to see the entire list? Click that link below.
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Folders from Current User Profileshell:Profile User Profile folder of logged-on user
shell:UsersFilesFolder Same as shell:profile
shell:Personal Documents folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:My Music Music folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:My Pictures Pictures folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:My Video Videos folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:Contacts Contacts folder from profile of logged-on user (deprecated)
shell:Desktop Desktop folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:Downloads Downloads folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:Favorites Internet Explorer Favorites folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:Searches Searches folder from profile of logged-on user; contains saved searches
shell:Links Links folder from profile of logged-on user; contains shortcuts from Favorites node in Windows Explorer navigation pane
Folders from Public User Profileshell:Public Public User Profile folder
shell:Common Desktop Public\Desktop folder
shell:Common Documents Public\Documents folder
shell:CommonDownloads Public\Downloads folder
shell:CommonMusic Public\Music folder
shell:CommonPictures Public\Pictures folder
shell:CommonVideo Public\Videos folder
shell:SampleMusic Sample Music folder (by default in Public\Music folder)
shell:SamplePictures Sample Pictures folder (by default in Public\Pictures folder)
shell:SampleVideos Sample Videos folder (by default in Public\Videos folder)
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Other Per-User Foldersshell:Start Menu Start Menu folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:Startup Startup folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:Programs Start Menu\Programs folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:Quick Launch Quick Launch folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:Recent Recent folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:SendTo Send To folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:User Pinned All shortcuts that have been pinned to the Taskbar and Start Menu by the currently logged-on user
shell:ImplicitAppShortcuts In User Pinned folder, contains shortcuts to system-managed Start Menu items, including Control Panel, Help and Support, and auto-published applications from Windows Virtual PC
shell:GameTasks Custom Games Explorer shortcuts for logged-on user
shell:Administrative Tools Administrative Tools subfolder from Start Menu\All Programs
shell:Ringtones Ringtones folder stores custom files created by Windows ringtone editor using a compatible phone in Device Stage
shell:Templates Templates folder from profile of logged-on user (rarely used)
shell:Gadgets User-installed Windows Gadgets, including those that have been removed from the desktop but are still available
shell:Playlists Playlists subfolder, in Music folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:PrintHood User-created printer shortcuts
shell:CD Burning Burn folder, used to store temp files before burning to disc
Internet Explorer and Securityshell:Cache Internet Explorer Cache (aka Temporary Internet Files)
shell:Cookies Internet Explorer Cookies (open Low subfolder to see cookies for sites with Low Integrity Level)
shell:History Internet Explorer History
shell:SystemCertificates Signed copies of digital certificates for system; use Certificate Manager to view details and add or remove certificates
shell:CryptoKeys Crypto folder, stores machine keys
shell:dpapiKeys Protect folder, holds user keys for data encryption, including Encrypting File System
shell:CredentialManager Credentials folder
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Virtual Foldersshell:MyComputerFolder Opens Computer Folder
shell:RecycleBinFolder Opens Recycle Bin
shell:Fonts Settings for installed fonts and font families
shell:Games Opens Games Explorer
shell:Libraries Displays contents of Libraries node in Windows Explorer
shell:UsersLibrariesFolder Same as shell:Libraries
shell:DocumentsLibrary Opens default Documents library
shell:MusicLibrary Opens default Music library
shell:PicturesLibrary Opens default Pictures library
shell:VideosLibrary Opens default Videos library
Shell:HomeGroupFolder Displays contents of Homegroup node in Windows Explorer
shell:NetworkPlacesFolder Displays contents of Network node in Windows Explorer
shell:NetHood User-created network shortcuts
shell:ConnectionsFolder Network Connections
shell:PrintersFolder Printers and Faxes
shell:AppUpdatesFolder Installed Updates, including those delivered by Windows Update and Microsoft Update
shell:CSCFolder Offline Files folder
shell:SearchHomeFolder Opens Search Results window with focus in search box (same as pressing Windows logo key+F)
Control Panel Foldersshell:ControlPanelFolder Opens Control Panel and displays All Control Panel Items (icon view)
shell:AddNewProgramsFolder Install a program from a network location on a managed Windows network
shell:ChangeRemoveProgramsFolder Programs and Features folder
shell:SyncCenterFolder Sync Center, used mostly with Offline Files and Windows Mobile Device Center
shell:SyncSetupFolder Sync Center\Sync Setup
shell:SyncResultsFolder Sync Center\Sync Results
shell:ConflictFolder Sync Center\Conflicts
shell:InternetFolder Opens 32-bit Internet Explorer
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System foldersshell:Windows Windows installation folder
shell:System Windows\System32 folder
shell:SystemX86 On 64-bit Windows systems only, opens Windows\SysWOW64
shell:UserProfiles Users folder, which contains profiles for all local users and a Public profile
shell:ProgramFiles Program Files folder
shell:ProgramFilesX86 On 64-bit Windows systems only, opens Program Files (x86) folder, which stores 32-bit programs
shell:ProgramFilesX64 On 64-bit Windows systems only, opens Program Files folder
shell:ProgramFilesCommon Program Files\Common Files folder
shell:ProgramFilesCommonX86 On 64-bit Windows systems only, opens Program Files (x86)\Common Files folder
shell:ProgramFilesCommonX64 On 64-bit Windows systems only, opens Program Files\Common Files
Application Datashell:AppData Roaming Application Data folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:Local AppData Local Application Data folder from profile of logged-on user
shell:LocalAppDataLow User Local Application Data (Low Integrity Level) folder from profile of logged-on user
Per-machine Foldersshell:Common AppData ProgramData folder, which holds global settings saved by applications
shell:Common Start Menu Start Menu folder, containing shortcuts and subfolders for all users
shell:Common Programs Start Menu Programs for all users
shell:Common Startup Startup folder for all users
shell:Default Gadgets Default Windows Gadgets
shell:ResourceDir Resources folder, which contains Windows themes, including Aero and ease-of-access themes
shell:CommonRingtones Stores default ringtones for use with Windows ringtone editor using a compatible phone in Device Stage
shell:PublicGameTasks Custom Games Explorer shortcuts for all users
shell:Common Templates Templates folder for all users; rarely used
shell:device Metadata Store DeviceMetadataStore folder, which contains digitally signed files, downloaded from Microsoft, with icons and custom settings for Device Stage items