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You may not know this if you haven’t used Windows XP (or earlier) in a while, but all Windows versions have a killer feature that lets you launch applications quickly without having to install memory-eating launcher apps. Read on to see how you can start typing away in Microsoft Word faster than ever before, and more.

The principle
To launch applications quickly, we’re gonna use Windows’ Run feature. You can bring it up by pressing Windows key + R. Alternatively, you can hit the Start button and click Run (in Vista or Windows 7 you may need to enable this through the Start Menu properties) but I recommend using the hotkey to save time.

The commands
Here are a couple of frequently used commands to get to applications like Firefox, Paint, the Command Prompt and so on. It takes a while to learn these but believe me, it’s worth it.

Command What it launches
Default Windows applications
mspaint Paint
wordpad Wordpad
calc Calculator
notepad Notepad
sndvol32 Volume Control
regedit Registry Editor
iexplore Internet Explorer
wmplayer Windows Media Player
cmd Command Prompt
msconfig The startup program manager
moviemk Windows Movie Maker
snippingtool Snipping Tool (works in Windows 7 only by default)
Microsoft Office
winword Word
excel Excel
powerpnt PowerPoint
Control panel
appwiz.cpl Add or Remove Programs
desk.cpl Display
Popular third-party apps
firefox Mozilla Firefox
itunes iTunes
winamp Winamp
notepad++ Notepad++
mplayerc Media Player Classic (from the K-Lite Codec Pack bundle)

Most of the applications mentioned above take arguments so that you can pass along a file to open. This comes in very handy when I have a URL of a video I want to open in Media Player Classic. To do this, I can type mplayerc http://this/is/a/pasted/url to open the specified URL in my media player immediately.

Creating your own launchers
Of course, this list of commands is non-exhaustive. You can create as many launchers as you want for just about anything including files, folders and URLs. This can be done in two ways. The easiest way is to put shortcuts in C:\Windows\. Whatever the name of your shortcut is will be the command to launch it from the Run window. So if I create a shortcut named ‘prf’ in C:\Windows\ to the Program Files folder, typing the command ‘prf’ in the Run window will bring up that folder.

Now, I can imagine you not wanting to put truckloads of shortcuts in the Windows folder. There is an alternative method involving some Registry Editor witchcraft where you create new registry keys in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths, but doing that is a lot more complicated than creating plain old shortcuts.