Power user tip: Add global hotkeys to launch your favorite applications in Windows 8.1

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. Have you seen the following text box in the shortcut properties?:

This is where you are able 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 handy!
But Windows 8.1 does not have the Start menu any more, so you can be a bit confused how to assign hotkeys. Today we will learn how to add global hotkeys to launch your favorite applications in Windows 8.1 and use them like a Pro.

Here are simple instructions to assign a global hotkey to your favorite application in Windows 8.1. Note this will not affect so called "Modern" applications, because Modern apps cannot be opened by launching their EXE or shortcut, Modern apps can only be opened by their App ID.

  1. Open the Start screen via the Charms bar or by just pressing the Win key.
  2. Right click on your favorite desktop app tile on the Start screen if you have the app pinned and then click "Open file location" at the bottom. If you don't have the desktop app pinned to Start, then click the Down arrow and locate the app in the "Apps" view (you can also use Ctrl+Tab key to switch between the Apps view and "Start"). After you have right clicked on the shortcut in Apps view (or by searching), click "Open file location".
  3. The Explorer window will appear and the shortcut of your desired app will be selected there. Right click the shortcut and choose Properties.
    Bonus tip: Instead of right click, you can also double click on the shortcut while you hold down the Alt key. It will open the properties window directly! (Alt+Enter also works).
  4. That's it! Set your desired hotkey, and you will be able to launch the app quickly at any moment!

Power user tip: 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 in the Run dialog: (Read here what are shell commands and a list of available shell commands)

  • 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.

See the video tutorial below if you have any questions. It will explain you everything.

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Author: Sergey Tkachenko

Sergey Tkachenko is a software developer who started Winaero back in 2011. On this blog, Sergey is writing about everything connected to Microsoft, Windows and popular software. Follow him on Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube.

One thought on “Power user tip: Add global hotkeys to launch your favorite applications in Windows 8.1”

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the tutorial.
    In order to logoff the user in Kiosk mode we use “Windows Key 5 Times”. The same should be implemented in custom application. I have a custom application which runs in Kiosk mode so if i would like to logoff the user i want to use the same “Windows Key 5 times” since only windows key is available after the application opens.

    I tried with short cut key but its indicating with only CTRL +ALT+ Keys Please guide me to proceed further.


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