How to run a Windows app or program with a keyboard shortcut

Did you know that you can open a program with a keyboard shortcut in Windows 10, as well as in Windows 7? Yes, these operating systems allow users to start their favorite apps using keyboard shortcuts. Furthermore, you can also use some predefined keyboard shortcuts to launch both desktop apps and apps from the Microsoft Store. Without further ado, here’s how you can create a shortcut key to run a program with Windows’ built-in features, without using third-party apps:

NOTE: All the instructions in this article apply to both Windows 10 and Windows 7. Also note that, although in this tutorial we’re referring to apps and programs, you can use the same steps to open folders and webpages with keyboard shortcuts.

How to open a program with a keyboard shortcut, by pinning it to the taskbar

This trick works in Windows 10 and Windows 7, both for desktop programs and apps from the Microsoft Store. First, you have to pin the app that you want to start with a keyboard shortcut to the taskbar. Regardless of whether you’re using Windows 10 or Windows 7, right-click on the app’s shortcut from your Start Menu, desktop, or anywhere else you might have it. Then, in the contextual menu, click or tap on “Pin to taskbar” or More, followed by “Pin to taskbar.”

Pinning an app to the taskbar in Windows 10

Alternatively, you can pin a program to your taskbar by simply dragging its executable or shortcut onto your taskbar.

Creating a link to an app on the taskbar in Windows 10

Once you’ve pinned the apps that interest you to the taskbar, you can open them by pressing the Windows key along with the number corresponding to the app shortcut on your taskbar. For example, in the screenshot below, we pinned Microsoft Edge, Mail, Office, Netflix, and Spotify.

Shortcut keys to run programs in Windows

To open these apps, we can now use the following keyboard shortcuts:

  • Windows + 1 for Microsoft Edge
  • Windows + 2 for Mail
  • Windows + 3 for Office
  • Windows + 4 for Netflix
  • Windows + 5 for Spotify

You can do this with the first nine apps pinned to the taskbar, each getting their number from 1 to 9, based on their position.

How to open any program with a keyboard shortcut (set hotkeys for shortcuts)

If you prefer to use a custom keyboard shortcut to start an app, you need a shortcut for that app. You can create one yourself, use one from your Start Menu, desktop, or anywhere else on your PC. If you need help with creating a shortcut, read this tutorial: How to create shortcuts for apps, files, folders, and web pages in Windows.

Creating a shortcut to an application

After you have the shortcut, right-click or press and hold on it. In the right-click menu, choose Properties. You can also select the shortcut and press Alt + Enter on your keyboard to achieve the same result.

Opening the Properties of a shortcut

In the shortcut’s Properties, go to the Shortcut tab, and find the field named “Shortcut key.” Unless you’ve already assigned it a Shortcut key, the field next to it should say None.

The shortcut key field from an app’s Properties

Click this field and then press the keyboard shortcut that you want to use.

For example, we pressed Ctrl + Alt + C to start Google Chrome.

Setting the hotkeys that open the app

When done, click or tap OK to save your settings. Next, press the keyboard shortcut that you have assigned to the app to test how it works.

This keyboard shortcut stays valid as long as you do not delete the shortcut whose properties you have changed. As soon as you delete it, the keyboard shortcut becomes inactive. If you want to revert your changes, edit the same shortcut, and, in the “Shortcut key” field, press Backspace to delete the existing keyboard shortcut.

Do you know other ways to start apps with keyboard shortcuts that do not require third-party apps?

Now you know how to use hotkeys to run programs and apps, both in Windows 10 and Windows 7. What’s your favorite way of doing that? How many apps do you launch using keyboard shortcuts? Comment below and let’s discuss.