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Desktop icons with shortcut arrows indicate that you are not acting on the program itself, but on a shortcut to the program. The arrow can be removed or made transparent.

When I create a shortcut on the desktop, it has an arrow in the bottom left corner of the desktop icon. How can I get rid of that arrow? Thank you.

In this excerpt from Answercast #74, I look at the importance of the "shortcut arrow" that appears on desktop icons indicating that it is not the program itself, just a link to use the program.

Desktop icons with shortcut arrows

Well, first, I will caution you that the shortcut arrow is an important indicator to help people realize that they are acting on a "shortcut" to the program rather than the program itself.

You haven't indicated what version of Windows you're running, but I will start you with the Windows XP solution, which is a utility called TweakUI. In fact, I have a link to it on a couple of articles on my site.

Adjust Windows XP settings

TweakUI allows you to adjust a number of settings in the user interface of Windows XP. One setting is the presence of that little arrow icon (or sub-icon if you will). You can actually change it to:

  • Not be there at all;

  • Or to be kind of semi-transparent (so it's still there; it's just not as prominent.)

As it turns out, when I run Windows XP, I usually set it to be somewhat less "in your face;" a bit more transparent so that I can actually still see the full icon of the shortcut underneath.

I still leave it there. To me, it feels important to understand whether I'm acting on a program itself or a shortcut to the program. But I'll leave that distinction to you.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Next from Answercast 74 - How do I record a streaming video?

Article C6078 - November 28, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

November 30, 2012 4:24 PM

I was wondering about this. Some may consider that arrow a distraction. But the way I do things I don't give half a hoot if it's shortcut or the actual program as long as I can click on it and get things done.
What's the difference if it works and why do you consider it important? Is there a reason beyond personal preference? You know a LOT more about computers than I do.

November 30, 2012 5:06 PM

I think it's important to know if it's a shortcut or not. Someday you might be cleaning up your desktop. It's very safe to delete shortcuts because that won't delete the program or any files. If you don't have an easy way to distinguish you might end up actually deleting the real thing.

December 1, 2012 2:35 PM

Right click the short cut icon. Click shortcut tab.
Click 'find target' which will be the highlighted exe file.
Copy and paste the exe file to desktop and the short cut arrow will not appear.Then right click the original shortcut & delete.

Mark J
December 1, 2012 3:00 PM

Making a copy of the .exe program isn't a feasible solution. A shortcut is only 4KB, whereas a .exe file can be several megabytes, which you would have residing in 2 places. It's also possible that the .exe file won't run from the desktop or anywhere other than its original location, as it wouldn't be in the same folders as some of the link libraries and other support files it has to interact with.

December 1, 2012 3:17 PM

Please disregard my previous post. The method described often does not work correctly.
Unfortunately to my knowledge my post can't be edited or deleted from here.

ramesh sanghi
December 1, 2012 9:09 PM

right click and rename it with just the program name.

Mark J
December 2, 2012 1:30 AM

That's useful for removing the "Shortcut to" portion of the link, but the arrow would still remain.

December 2, 2012 11:59 AM

I've used TweakUI for many years and like it. Does Microsoft have something similar for Windows 7? I'm leery about 3rd party programs which want to tweak everything in the registry.

Not that I'm aware of, but many of the items that were exposed in TweakUI are now in various and sundry places in the Windows UI. Sadly there's no mapping of "what used to be here is now there" that I'm aware of either.

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