What Users Need to Know

Useful Shortcuts

During a coffee break at a seminar, I was chatting with some IT pros about user productivity. Most of the participants expressed amazement, as well as dismay, about the extra work users go through to perform simple tasks. For example, to navigate to a data file or open software, users might frequently take multiple actions--opening dialog boxes or menus, expanding drive and folder trees, and so on. IT pros who understand the concepts of folders, files, and file associations find it hard to believe that users don’t "get it." Instead, users perform long series of memorized keystrokes and mouse clicks to get where they need to be.

The conversation moved to a lively debate about whether the problem arises because corporate training neglects conceptual instructions or because most users aren't capable of understanding the concepts. My own experience is that many users are capable of learning concepts so they can become more efficient—they just don't want to learn the concepts. I often hear, "Don’t explain it to me, just write down the steps." I don’t understand how anyone with reasonable intelligence can adopt that attitude, but I’m afraid it’s rather prevalent.

Putting shortcuts on the Quick Launch toolbar, or on the desktop, would save most users lots of work. Some of the IT pros said they spend a lot of time creating shortcuts for users. But why not teach users how to create their own shortcuts? As long as you provide specific instructions, complete with numbered steps, you can present such a lesson even to users who don’t want to tax their brains with conceptual information. Here are some sample instructions that use conceptual statements disguised as numbered steps to teach your users about shortcuts. You can adapt these instructions and conceptual statements to apply to Vista, XP, or any OS you happen to be working with.

1. The secret to creating shortcuts easily is to make sure some part of the desktop is accessible, which means keeping folder and application windows reduced in size (not maximized).

2. To create a shortcut to a folder, including a mapped drive, open the Computer folder, and drag the folder’s icon to the desktop. Release the mouse button and select Create Shortcuts Here.

3. To create a shortcut to a file, open the folder that contains the file and drag the file’s listing to the desktop while holding down the right mouse button. Release the mouse button and select Create Shortcuts Here. This also works for files that are in folders you see when you work in the Network folder and then double-click the listing for a remote computer to display its shared folders.

4. To create a shortcut to software, drag the program’s listing from the Programs menu to the desktop while holding down the right mouse button. Release the mouse button and select Create Shortcuts Here. (This is great for users who have been using multiple clicks to get to Freecell.)

5. To copy a useful desktop shortcut to the Quick Launch toolbar, drag the desktop shortcut’s icon while holding down the left mouse button.

6. To personalize your shortcuts, right-click the shortcut icon, choose Properties, and select Change Icon. Select a graphic that pleases you and click OK twice.

7. To remove a shortcut you no longer need, select it and press the Delete key. You are deleting only the shortcut, not the folder, file, or program it represents.

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