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Windows 7 changed one of the ways to create desktop shortcuts from IE. I'll look at what's changed and how to create shortcuts that can be modified.
I recently purchased a new PC - HP with Windows 7. I would like my shortcuts (ex. Google) to show the Google square as red, white, and green, as opposed to the IE world. I ran Windows XP previously, and they had a place to change icons with several from which to pick. It's the same with files; it shows just an open manilla folder on the desktop, which I would like to change. Any info on this would be appreciated. I love your newsletter - I read it from top to bottom and could not find this anywhere.
That functionality's still there, but Windows 7 has thrown a curveball into the mix; this makes one of the most common ways to create desktop shortcuts result in a shortcut that's much harder to customize.
I'll show you what changed.
Then, I'll show you how you can still create a desktop shortcut with an icon that can be customized.
Websites have the ability to provide a "default icon" that can be used for several purposes. They do so by placing a file called "favicon.ico" in the root of the site. For example, Ask Leo!'s favicon is at http://ask-leo.com/favicon.ico.
When you bookmark a site or add it to your Favorites, the favicon is typically used as the icon that then appears in the Favorites toolbar or menu - hence, the name: favorites icon. "ico" is the file format used for icon images.
Depending on your browser or your system, you may see the favicon in the browser address bar while you're visiting a site:
If a site doesn't provide a favicon, it's up to the browser to pick one. Usually, it picks its own icon - IE's 'E' icon, Firefox's fox, and so on.
When using Internet Explorer in Windows 7, you can click and hold on the favicon in the address bar and drag it to the desktop to create a shortcut to that page:
Visit the page that you want the shortcut to go to, click and hold on the site's favicon, drag that to the desktop and then, release. Windows will create a shortcut using the favicon supplied by the website or the default browser icon, if the site doesn't provide one.
The problem is that what Windows creates in this situation is a special kind of shortcut called a "Pinned" shortcut. And while it is possible to change the icon by hand-editing certain files buried in your system, Windows apparently doesn't show any user interface for the process.
In other words, there's no super easy way to change the icon. However, because the icon is that of the site, perhaps you don't want or need to change it by this point.
What's worse is that the icon used when you run a Pinned shortcut will actually appear in Internet Explorer and in the Taskbar as Internet Explorer's icon when you run the browser via that shortcut - even after you browse to another site:
In this example, I simply clicked the Pinned shortcut to Google that I created above to fire up Internet Explorer, and then I browsed to http://ask-leo.com. Note that the Google icon remains. It also remains as the application's icon in the Taskbar.
Personally, I consider this to be a bug, but it is what it is.
Another approach to creating a desktop shortcut is to simply right-click on the desktop and click New and then Shortcut:
After that, you'd type or paste in the URL that you wanted the shortcut to go to - say http://google.com - and you'd be done.
Shortcuts made this way are typically given the icon of the program that would open them. In other words, it would be IE's icon if it's the default browser or Firefox's icon if it's the default.
If you want something else, then the advantage of this method becomes clear:
This shortcut's icon can be changed.
Right-click the shortcut icon that you created using New->Shortcut above and click Properties.
Note that in the Web Document tab, there's a Change Icon ... button:
Icons are typically stored inside of .exe or .dll files. As you can see here, the default icon for the shortcut that I've created is a Firefox icon. That's because Firefox is the default browser on my system and it comes from firefox.exe itself.
A very popular place to get alternate icons is c:\windows\system32\shell32.dll:
On my machine running Windows 7, that one .dll file contains over 300 different icons to choose from.
Alternately, you can also download or create ".ico" files and specify them.
If you want the actual site's icon, you'll need to download it to use it. With Google as our example, go to http://google.com/favicon.ico in your browser; that should display the favicon image. Right-click that image and click Save picture as..., navigate to the folder where you want to save the file, and save it with the name google_favicon.ico.
You can then specify it as the icon for the shortcut to Google:
With 300 icons to choose from in shell32.dll, you may not need to do this, but it's nice to know that you can.
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