Quick Tip: How To Launch Any Executable With a Keyboard Combination

Do you want to launch any executable file by the press of a few keys on your keyboard, without having to use the mouse? Do you want to do this without installing any third party tools in Windows? There a few ways you can make this work, even if you don’t have a keyboard with programmable keys, by using default Windows functionality. This tutorial shows two ways you can do this in Windows.

To illustrate how things work, I’ve chosen to create a keyboard combination that I can use to launch the Steam service.

The Easy Way: Pin it to the Taskbar

The quickest way is to pin the Steam service to the Windows 7 or Windows 8 taskbar. This allows you to launch quickly it not only with the mouse but also with the keyboard.

All the programs you pin to the taskbar, can be launched also with the press of two keys: the Windows key followed by number of the shortcut. For example, Steam is the second shortcut on my taskbar and I press Windows + 2 to launch it.

This tip along with other useful tips about using the taskbar can be found in a previous article we published: Taskbar Productivity Tips & Shortcuts.

The Alternative: Create A Shortcut with Shortcut Keys

There is another way: to create a shortcut and configure a keyboard combination to launch the shortcut.

First, I created a shortcut for the Steam service. If you don’t know how to create shortcuts in Windows, check this guide: How To Create Shortcuts.

Next I need to edit the properties of the shortcut. Make a right click on the shortcut and choose Properties.

In the Properties window, check for the Shortcut key field, found in the Shortcut tab.

There you can make keyboard combinations that consist mostly of pressing Ctrl+Alt followed by a number or a letter. Experiment until you find a combination that you are comfortable with.

Unfortunately this keyboard shortcut won’t work unless you move the shortcut file to the Desktop with a Cut & Paste or you pin it to the Start Menu.

Even then, it might not work immediately. Most probably you will need to log off and log on again, so that Windows indexes this shortcut and its properties, including the assigned keyboard shortcut.

As annoying as this is, the limitation is documented by Microsoft here: Shortcut key for shortcut does not work.


This tutorial can help you build your own system for launching different applications with a few key presses. For other interesting tips, don’t hesitate to read the articles we recommend below.