|Internet media type||
|Developed by||Microsoft Corporation|
|Type of format||file shortcut|
File shortcuts (also known as shell links) were introduced in Windows 95. Microsoft Windows uses .lnk as the filename extension for shortcuts to local files, and .URL for shortcuts to remote files, like web pages. Commonly referred to as "shortcuts" or "link files", both are displayed with a curled arrow overlay icon by default, and no filename extension. (The extension remains hidden in Windows Explorer even when "Hide extensions for known file types" is unchecked in File Type options, because it is controlled by the NeverShowExt option in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTlnkfile in the Registry. The IsShortcut option causes the arrow to be displayed.) Shortcut files can be used to launch programs in minimized or maximized window states if the program supports it.
Microsoft Windows .lnk files operate as Windows Explorer extensions, rather than file system extensions. As a shell extension, .lnk files cannot be used in place of the file except in Windows Explorer, and have other uses in Windows Explorer in addition to use as a shortcut to a local file (or GUID). These files also begin with "L".
A link file with the magic name "target.lnk" may be used as the target of "desktop.ini", the folder customization file. A folder customized in this way becomes an alias for the target specified in the lnk file. That is, the customized folder becomes the effective shortcut. This technique is used by Microsoft Windows for items like WebDAV folders.
Generally, the effect of double-clicking a shortcut is intended to be the same as double-clicking the application or document to which it refers, but Windows shortcuts contain separate properties for the target file and the "Start In" directory. If the latter parameter is not entered, attempting to use the shortcut for some programs may generate "missing DLL" errors not present when the application is accessed directly.
Although shortcuts, when created, point to specific files or folders, they may break if the target is moved to another location. Microsoft Windows has standard algorithms for fixing up shortcuts when they are moved. Windows 9x-based versions of Windows use a simple search algorithm to fix broken shortcuts. On Windows NT-based operating systems and the NTFS file system, the target object's unique identifier is stored in the shortcut file and Windows can use the Distributed Link Tracking service for tracking the targets of shortcuts, so that the shortcut may be silently updated if the target moves to another hard drive. Windows Installer introduced in Windows 2000 introduced another special type of shortcuts called Advertised shortcuts.
File shortcuts in Windows can store a working directory path besides the target path. Environment variables can be used. For shortcuts that are located in the Start Menu, a hotkey can be defined in the shortcut's properties. Windows 2000 onwards, file shortcuts can also store comments which are displayed as a tooltip when the mouse hovers over the shortcut.
File system links can also be created on Windows systems, which serve a similar function, although they are a feature of the file system. Windows shortcuts are files and work independently of the file system.
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