A new installation of Windows XP provides a pretty clean desktop. The only icon that appears by default is the Recycle Bin. Figure 2.1 shows a clean install of Windows XP.
Figure 2.1. The clean Windows XP desktop.
Typically (although it is a matter of personal preference), additional program and utility icons are placed on the desktop to make it easier to start applications or other software tools that are used most often. You can quickly and easily add icons to the desktop from the Start menu or add shortcut icons for any program by making a shortcut icon to the software's executable file (the file that actually starts the program).
Let's take a look at adding icons from the Start menu. We can then discuss adding executable shortcuts by locating the executable. We will also examine creating folder shortcuts on the desktop.
Creating Desktop Icons from the Start Menu
You can use the icons on the Start menu to quickly populate the Windows desktop with application and software tool icons. The icons in the right column of the Start menu allow you to place popular icons such as My Computer and My Network Places on the desktop.
So, for example, to place an icon on the desktop from the right side of the Start menu, such as the My Computer icon, right-click the icon and then click Show on Desktop (which appears on a shortcut menu, as shown in Figure 2.2). The icon then appears on the desktop.
Figure 2.2. Add the My Computer icon to the Windows desktop.
You can also add application icons to the desktop using the program icons that appear in the left column of the Start menu. These icons represent shortcuts to programs you use most often (by default six programs are shown).
To add an icon to the desktop for one of your recently used programs, right-click the program's icon on the Start menu and select Copy. Then right-click the desktop (this closes the Start menu) and select Paste from the shortcut menu that appears.
This places the new icon on the desktop. You can use this method to add a shortcut icon using any icon that appears on the Startup menu, meaning any application you have installed that created a Start menu shortcut during the installation process. If you want to rename the shortcut icon, right-click the icon and select Rename on the shortcut menu that appears. You can then type a new name for your icon.
If you decide you don't want a particular shortcut icon on the desktop, you can remove it. Right-click the icon and select Delete.
The icon shortcuts you place on the desktop are not the actual program files. When you delete a shortcut, you are not deleting the actual program. However, if you save a file, move a folder, or download a file from the Internet directly to the desktop, that item isn't just a shortcutit is the actual file. Deleting the item removes it and places it in Recycle Bin. Be sure you know when you are dealing with a shortcut icon (that can easily be replaced if inadvertently deleted) or an actual file that has ended up on the desktop.
If a particular application or utility does not have an icon on the Start menu, you can also add a desktop shortcut icon for the software package by locating the application's executable file. This file (in most cases) resides in the folder that was created when you installed the program.
Typically, each application you install on your computer is installed into a subfolder of the Program Files folder. This subfolder is usually named the same (or similar to) the application name or the name of the software company that makes the application.
The easiest way to browse around in these application folders to find an executable file is to open My Computer (click Start and then select My Computer or double-click the My Computer icon on your desktop). In the My Computer window, double-click the icon that represents your hard drive. This is typically the C: drive, as shown in Figure 2.3.
Figure 2.3. You can use the My Computer window to locate executables you want to create desktop shortcuts for.
After you have opened the hard drive, you can locate the Program Files folder and open it with a double-click. This reveals a list of folders, with each folder specific to a particular software installation on your computer. Double-click to open the folder that holds the executable you want to create a shortcut for. After you locate the executable in the folder, just drag it onto the Windows desktop. A shortcut is created for the application, and you can rename the shortcut icon as discussed earlier in this section.
If you know the name or at least have a good guess for the name of a particular program's executable file, you can use the Windows Search feature to find the file. Click Start and select Search. Then click All Files and Folders. Type the filename or part of the name into the All or Part of the File Name text box in the Search window. Then run the search. If the file appears in the results of the search, you can add a desktop shortcut for it by dragging the file from the Search window onto the desktop. You aren't moving the file, just creating the shortcut.
You can create shortcuts for documents, pictures, and other files you have stored on your computer. It is just a matter of locating the file in Windows Explorer and then dragging the file onto the desktop. This creates a shortcut to the item.