I’m constantly amazed that people think that putting shortcuts to programs on the desktop makes accessing that program "easier".
For the second time in about a week, I’ve encountered people asking how to put shortcuts to programs on the desktop.
The desktop is ill-suited for this. To start with, items located on it are often not visible because other windows are placed in front of the desktop. Depending on the current window layout, you might have to make one or more mouse or keyboard operations to select the desktop item you want.
To make matters worse, the location of the items will shift positions as screen resolutions change (because of games, connecting monitors, etc.) and items are added.
While oftentimes commercial software will litter the desktop with shortcuts, the purpose is to increase visibility, not ease of use.
Why not use the Start Menu? If WordPad is a program you use often, just "Pin" it to the Start Menu and it’ll always be there, available in less keystrokes than trying to use it off the desktop.
If you really want quick access, pin the item to the Start Menu and then modify the item’s properties to have a shortcut key assigned.
Only items in the Start Menu can have shortcut keys assigned to them.
Update 9/4/2007: My bad, shortcut keys can be assigned to shortcut file that are located on the desktop. My initial test of this failed, and since I knew that only certain locations respect shortcut keys, I figured that the desktop was not one of them. I’ll try to find a definitive list, but it appears that any of the Start Menu locations and the Desktop are valid places for a shortcut file to have a shortcut key assigned. Interestingly, shortcut keys for items in the Quick Launch toolbar location are not respected.