Creating shortcuts in the same folder as the target isn’t as stupid as you may think


Commenter Mihai wonders, "Why would I want to keep the original file and the link in the same folder?"

Dragging a file, and in particular right-dragging a file, is not easy for all people. There are people with poor dexterity who have trouble with dragging; for them, right-dragging would be even worse. But even people with normal levels of dexterity have problems with dragging: Just put them in front of a Tablet PC. On a Tablet PC dragging with the fingertip can get tricky because your hand obscures the drag target, and most people don't have very pointy fingers, so the precision of the drop is pretty poor.

There's another group of users, much larger than Tablet PC users, which have trouble with drag and drop, and you are probably one of them: Laptop users with touchpads. Dragging with a touchpad is a very tricky proposition, particularly if you are dragging a long distance that exceeds the size of your touchpad. If you're really clever, you might be able to multitouch the touchpad and let the second finger continue the drag, but at least in my experience this is not a particularly reliable mechanism for dragging long distances. Even if the mouse motion is continuous, you often get a spurious mouse-up event, which ends the drag prematurely.

For users for whom dragging is difficult, it's much easier to create a shortcut in the same folder, and then move it to its final destination.

Comments (18)
  1. John says:

    I once tried creating a recursive junction point in my Start menu, but Explorer was smart enough to only follow it once.

  2. Karellen says:

    Hmm…I’ve never had a problem with drag-and-drop on a touchpad. But I’ve always used one finger to click and hold the separate physical "mouse button" that’s situated next to the touchpad for "picking up/dropping", and just used the "pad" part of the touchpad for "dragging".

    Multitouching the touchpad seems like a terribly inelegant way of going about it.

  3. Doug says:

    As usual, the obvious logical answer is wrong. (Not creating the shortcut in the same folder.)  Usability testing shows issues that you would never think of beforehand.

    Every GUI programmer should suffer true usability lab testing of their creations.  You know, the one where the subject is in another room, trying to perform tasks with your beautiful creation, and completely failing.  Watching your creation fail miserably, in slow motion, is a pain you need to suffer.

  4. Inode Jones says:

    Dragging (or doing anything) with a touchpad used to be difficult…

    …until I got a Mac.

    Apple gets it right: first, the touchpad itself is a button, but there is a solid tactile feedback. You must press firmly to click, and there is a solid "clunk" when you do. Most notebooks don’t give any tactile feedback – you "click" by exerting more than a threshold amount of pressure, which is difficult to control.

    Second, the Apple touchpad supports multi-finger operation, so the click with one finger and drag with the other just works. And Apple openly explains this feature in their new user material.

    This isn’t meant to be an anti-PC rant, or an Apple advert. But PC notebook manufacturers could try to incorporate some elements of the Apple touchpad into their designs. It is the same hardware after all.

  5. argc, argv ? says:

    Beside, it happened quite a lot of times to me to shortcut an exe in it’s own dir (or copy another shortcut) and then afterwards edit its command-line..

  6. DWalker says:

    @James Schend:  Doing this task in two steps is easier than trying to do it in one step, especially on a tablet PC.

    You can right-click the object, select Copy from the context menu, then left-click somewhere else in the folder, and select "Paste Shortcut".

  7. JohnArlen says:

    As argc, argv ? said – a shortcut offers several benefits over an exectutable – changing the icon, which Window Style it starts as, and several others.

  8. Grijan says:

    There are other uses for that. For example, you may want to create a shortcut that opens a program with some command line arguments. In that case, creating a permanent shorcut to a file that is in the same folder (and maybe is next to the shortcut itself) makes a lot of sense.

  9. sushovande says:

    @DWalker59, @JohnArlen

    Exactly what I was thinking. I use both these techniques extensively.

  10. Jonathan says:

    James Schend: My experience is quite different. Most laptops I’ve seen are used with the manufacturer’s Windows install, which includes the touchpad driver.

    Myself, I disable tapping altogether and use my thumb to click (or right-click). With tapping, I can never know when a click is registered. Indeed the Apple solution sounds better.

  11. James Schend says:

    For everybody defending the trackpad: the tablet PC example still applies. Believe me, it’s awkward to drag an icon on a tablet, and it’s a lot more awkward to do a right-click-drag that’s required to make a shortcut in one step.

    Speaking briefly of "things Macs do better than Windows" though, and this bugs me because it looks like even Windows 7 hasn’t fixed this yet:

    Trackpads and Mouses are different input devices. They should have different control panels, with different options (i.e. "disable tap-to-click, which is relevant to a trackpad and not a mouse. And "disable trackpad when mouse is plugged-in".) and different sensitivity settings.

    It really bugs me when I get my trackpad sensitivity just perfect, then plug in a USB mouse and suddenly the pointer’s flying all over like crazy, because the trackpad sensitivity is way too high for the mouse sensitivity.

    *If* you install your trackpad drivers (and from my experience, very few people do), you can change some of the trackpad-related options. But a lot of computers don’t even ship with trackpad drivers, nor do they make it easy to find what trackpad make/model is in the laptop to find your own.

    End rant. Sorry, Raymond.

  12. Ian Argent says:

    The apple touchpad is new, within the last year (maybe last 2). It’s pretty awesome, as is the multitouch.

  13. I use shortcuts in the same folder as bookmarks. Say I have a bunch of AVI files I’ll watch over a period of time; I’ll create shortcuts to them all and delete the shortcuts as I watch them, so I can keep track of those I haven’t watched yet.

  14. Wound says:

    I am the only one who hates trackpads? They’re too small and awkwardly located. I can’t use one for more than a few minutes without getting a sore arm or wrist.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Actually I think the problem with dragging on a touchpad isn’t that it’s hard to do but that people are too scared to do it right. If the touchpad is set up properly you can move the cursor from any point on the screen to any other point with one sweep if you just do it quickly enough, thanks to mouse acceleration. Sure, it’s not going to be very accurate, but once you’re there you can still position the mouse precisely to the pixel with slow movements (unless you have long fingernails, which really makes touchpads next to impossible to use).

    Usually if I watch people use a touchpad they move their finger in slow motion and have to use multiple sweeps to get anywhere. And because they’re trying to be extra careful they end up tapping (ie clicking) everywhere.

  16. Ray says:

    Maybe I just luck out with exceptional hardware/drivers (most my laptops are Acers with Synaptics touchpads) or I just explore the options more than most here, but I can’t believe there’s no love going on here for drag locks.

    Tap-Drag starts things off, then you can move the cursor about as much as you like, lifting your finger as much as you like, and the touchpad tells the OS that the virtual button is still held down. Tap again to sent the mouse up event.

    Works extremely well for me, and I’d never think of using or buying a laptop that couldn’t do the same.

    Can’t figure out all the multitouch hype at the moment – phones and trackpads alike. Why use just one finger when you can use two! Or more! Heck, get the family to join in, the more fingers the better!

  17. James Schend says:

    Jonathon:

    I said "a lot" of computers don’t ship with trackpad drivers, not "most". (Or even "many.") In any case, my MSI Wind doesn’t ship with trackpad drivers, and it was trial-and-error to find the right one to use. (Turns out my specific model has a Synaptics trackpad, but other Wind models have trackpads from other vendors.)

    But even with the Synaptics driver installed, setting the trackpad sensitivity also sets the mouse sensitivity. Maybe it’s a bug with that particular driver, but I’ve found no option for trackpad and mouse to have completely different settings. (And have the computer switch between them automatically when you plug in a USB mouse.) That is something that comes built-in to Mac OS X.

    And imagine I was a naive user who received an MSI Wind. I know from experience that most laptops let you disable tap-to-click, but a naive user wouldn’t. They’d just assume that trackpads are unnecessarily hard to use, and it would make their experience with the laptop that much worse.

  18. Mihai says:

    Some good points, indeed.

    But I have tried to create the shortcut in the same folder, then drag it. The dragging part is as difficult as dragging the original, it does not save anything.

    Create it, cut and past to target works well (although I normally go with copy/paste-shortcut).

    But I see some reason to have it there, that’s enough for me :-)

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