Assign global hotkeys to launch any app in Windows 10

Since Windows 95, we have an amazing feature: native global hotkeys for every installed application, yet it seems not many people are aware of it. A specail text box in the shortcut properties allow you to to specify a combination of hotkeys which will be used to launch the shortcut. If you have set those hotkeys for the shortcut in the Start menu folder, then they will be available in every opened window, every application!

The secret is the Explorer shell - as long as the Explorer shell is loaded: hotkeys will work globally regardless of the active application. That is very useful.

The Start menu of Windows 10 does not allow you to open shortcut properties directly, so you can be a bit confused how to assign hotkeys. Today we will learn how to assign global hotkeys to launch any app in Windows 10 and use them like a Pro.

Here are simple instructions to assign a global hotkey to your favorite application in Windows 10. Note this will not affect so called "Universal" applications, because Universal apps cannot be opened by launching their EXE or shortcut.

  1. Open the Start menu in Windows 10.
  2. Find the desired app in "All apps" and right click on your favorite desktop app icon in the Start menu to open its context menu. Tip: How to navigate apps by alphabet in Windows 10 Start menu.
  3. After you have right clicked on the shortcut,  click More -> Open file location. Windows 10 Start menu - more - open file location
  4. The Explorer window will appear and the shortcut of your desired app will be selected there. Windows 10 Start menu opened Right click the shortcut and choose Properties. Windows 10 shortcut properties context menu
    Bonus tip: Instead of right click, you can also double click on the shortcut while you hold down the Alt key. See How to open file or folder properties quickly in Windows File Explorer. Windows 10 shortcut properties
  5. Set your desired hotkey in the Shortcut key textbox, and you will be able to launch the app quickly at any moment using the hotkeys you specified: Windows 10 shortcut properties hotkey

You can also quickly open the folder locations where Windows stores its Start Menu shortcuts.
Press Win + R keys on the keyboard, and type one of the following shell commands (read here what are shell commands and a list of available shell commands in Windows 10) in the Run dialog:

  • To open the current user's Start Menu shortcuts folder, type:
    shell:Start Menu
  • To open folder with common shortcuts for all users, type:
    shell:Common Start Menu

This method should be faster.

You can do the same trick in Windows 8.1 and Windows 8, which has the Start screen instead of the Start menu.

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