Adding Custom Shortcuts to the Windows 8/8.1 Start Menu

You can add shortcuts for applications missing on your Start Menu or shortcuts with additional parameters.

Windows 8 Start Menu

I’ve recently started developing Firefox extensions and ran across a minor, but annoying problem.  I created a new shortcut for Firefox to open using a different profile so I can test my extensions without disrupting my workflow in my other FF profile (I have an ungodly amount of tabs and tab groups working right now), but the minor yet annoying problem was that I had to go to my desktop to access the shortcut.  I’m not a fan of putting icons on my taskbar — I usually have so many applications open that the additional clutter is unwelcome.

I’ve been using Windows 8 for over a year now, so at this point I’m accustomed to hitting my Windows key and clicking on whatever program I need (which, IMO, is much more preferable to the old start menu way of doing it).  I found myself going through that motion as a reflex, only to get annoyed that I needed to go to the desktop to get what I was looking for (first world problem, right?).  I did some digging around and here is how I was able to get around that.

Step 1: Locate your Start Menu folder

First thing you want to do is go to the folder that holds all of your Start Menu shortcuts.  Most you will find it in C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs, but if you’ve done some customizations to Windows it may be elsewhere.  I would expect that you know where it is if you were savvy enough to move it.

Start Menu Shortcuts

Step 2: Add shortcut to Start Menu folder

It’s as simple as it sounds.  Take that shortcut you want added to the Start Menu, copy it, and paste it directly into the Start Menu directory.  It won’t show up as a pin on your Start Menu (yet), but when you hit the down arrow you will see it highlighted with the words “New” next to it.

Start Menu - New Shortcut

Step 3: Pin to Start Menu

Just right-click that shortcut and pin it to your Start Menu the way you would with any other shortcut.

This may not be that helpful for the average person, but those of us that need to create shortcuts for various purposes, whether it be for created dev shortcuts for Firefox or opening an application with specific parameters, this should come in handy.  Also, there are useful applications out there that aren’t fully compatible with Windows 8.  I use Advanced IP Scanner pretty frequently at work, but when that application installed there was no shortcut icon on my Start Menu at all, and using the search function on the Start Menu didn’t pull it up.  I created a shortcut on my desktop for it, and then added it to my Start Menu using the same method.