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The Start-Run Line
The "Run" line in the Start menu can be used to speed up access to a whole variety of functions. Some examples of the shortcuts that are available are discussed here.

Introduction to the Run Line

The Run command line may be one of the least utilized functions in the Start menu. This is a pity since it can be very useful. It is often the quickest way to launch programs or to open folders and documents. The figure below shows the Start-Run entry for Windows XP. Windows Vista/7 do not display the Run line on the Start menu in the default setting but the Run line can be accessed in all current versiions of Windows by pressing the keyboard combination Windows key + R. Adding the Run line to the Windows Vista/7 Start menu is discussed at the end of this article.

Clicking the entry "Run" opens the box shown below, where commands may be typed and entered.

Opening applications in Run

Although applications can be opened in a variety of ways, the Run line often provides the quickest route. Desktop shortcut icons are also a quick route but you have to know how to create a shortcut for all the applications and you may end up with dozens of icons.

The best candidates for the Run line are applications that are in the "path" environment. (Go to this page for more discussion of the path.) The path environment is a set of folders whose names do not have to be included when entering a command. The path environment variable normally includes \Windows\ and \Windows\system32\. Many common accessories and Windows applets are in these folders and can be opened by entering just the executable file name. Several that I use constantly are the Registry editor (regedit) and the System Configuration Utility (msconfig). Note that neither of these frequently used system tools has an entry in Start- All Programs. The Run line is the standard method of accessing them.

A table listing some applications that can be opened in the Run line is given below.

Entry for Run Function
calc Opens calculator
cmd Opens command prompt window
explorer Opens Windows explorer
magnify Screen magnifier accessory
msconfig System Configuration Utility
mshearts Opens Hearts game
msinfo32 System Information applet
mspaint Opens graphics accessory Paint
notepad Notepad accessory
regedit Registry editor
sol Opens Classical Solitaire game

Programs not in the path require their full address, including the root folder and all subfolders. Actually typing long path names is not required since a "Browse" function comes with the Run line. This provides a way to search for files of interest and to enter them directly without typing. If desired, frequently used programs can be added to the path environment using the methods that are discussed in a section below.

Opening Management Consoles

Some of the functions that I find convenient to open by means of the Run line include various Management Consoles. For example, the disk defragmenter is opened by entering "dfrg.msc" . I find this easier than the multi-step process involved otherwise. A list of the appropriate file names for opening some of the various services is given in the table below. A more complete list is on this page.

Entry for Run Function
ciadv.msc Manages the Indexing Service
compmgmt.msc Computer Management Console. It contains a number of the other consoles
devmgmt.msc Device Manager
dfrg.msc Disk Defragmenter
diskmgmt.msc Disk Management
gpedit.msc Group Policy Editor. Not available in Windows Home editions
services.msc Manages the many services involved in Windows and installed software

Opening Control Panel Applets

It is also possible to use Run to open the applets that appear in the Control Panel. A full discussion of shortcuts to Control Panel applets is given on this page. For example,entering "main.cpl" launches the mouse properties window.

Rundll32.exe

There are a number of commands employing Rundll32.exe that can be entered into Start-Run. A full discussion can be found here.

Opening folders in Run

Not only files but also folders can be opened in the Run line. Folders contained by a folder in the path are in this category. Examples are folders within \Windows\ and \Windows\system32\ such as the folders Fonts and "Drivers". Folders that are in \Documents and Settings\{Current User}\ can also be opened in Run. An example is SendTo (written as one word). Being able to open this folder in Run is convenient for editing. It makes it easier to add functions to the "Send To" entry in the right-click context menu. (See this page) Another example of a folder from the same location that can be entered is Cookies.
Note about Vista: Certain system folders like SendTo and Cookies are not directly accessible in Vista. See the page on the Shell command.

There are also some interesting shortcuts to folders that are available in Run. Typing the backslash (\) in the run line and entering it brings up the root folder, usually the C: drive. Typing and entering a period (.) brings up the folder \Documents and Settings\{Current User}\ in Windows XP (or Users\(Current User} in Vista). Entering two periods (..) opens the folder \Documents and Settings\ (or Users in Vista).

Dragging and dropping folders and files into the Run line

If the Run line is open (make sure it is empty) folders or files can be dragged and dropped on it from an open folder window. The full path of the dropped object will be inserted into the Run line and clicking "OK' or pressing the "Enter" key will open the dropped file or folder. Although this feature presents no particular advantage in general, it can be helpful to those who have trouble with double-clicking the mouse.

Adding applications to the Path

The ability to enter a short file name into the Run line to open a program can be extended to any program by putting the folder containing the program executable into the path. Adding folders to the path is described here.

Alternatively, the Registry can be edited to explicitly contain the path to the desired executable file or files. The Registry key involved isHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths

  1. Create a new sub-key with the name of the executable file that you wish to add to the path. e .g., HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths\somefile.exe
  2. In this new key, add a string variable named "Path" containing the value of the the path to your new executable file, e.g., C:\Program files\newprogramfolder\
  3. The new key will already have an empty variable (Default). Edit it to have the string value of entire address of the new program executable , e.g., C:\Program files\newprogramfolder\somefile.exe
You can now enter "somefile.exe" into the Run line to open the program. An example of what the Regedit entries look like is shown in the figure below. I have added a chess game with the executable "winchen.exe" to the path.

A number of files are likely to have already been added on your system. Many applications place themselves here when they are installed. Examples are Microsoft Office components. It is sufficient to enter "winword" into the Run line to open Microsoft Word or "excel" to open Microsoft Excel.

Add to path in the Registry

Internet Applications

If you are connected to the Internet, entering an URL into Run opens Internet Explorer (or other browser if it is properly associated) and takes you right to the appropriate web site. The "Browse" function can be used to go to your Favorites folder and you can then click on a link. (Be sure the Browse function is showing "All files" as the file type.) On some systems it will even initiate a Web connection if you are not already on-line. You can also start e-mail by entering “mailto:someone@somewhere.com”. This will open a blank new e-mail with the address already entered. If you want to use an e-mail client other than the Microsoft application Outlook Express, it will have to be associated with the “mailto” function. Many e-mail clients do this automatically when they are installed. (As far as I know, this does not apply to AOL.)

Google supports a command line function that allows for simple searches on on a single term. Enter "www.google.com/search?q=%1" into the Run line, where %1 is the term that is being searched. A dash can be used to combine words. For example, try "www.google.com/search?q=windows-registry" (Omit the quotes.)

Comparison of Run with the Command Prompt

Although a great many commands can be executed in either the Run line or a command prompt, some commands will run directly only in one or the other. Commands which are built into the command interpreter cannot be entered in the Run line without first invoking cmd.exe. They are listed here. These include commands like "dir" and "del". Certain special features of the Run line such as the direct way of opening folders or the Internet shortcuts discussed above do not work in a command prompt unless prefaced with the command "Start".

Accessing the Command Shell from Run

The command interpreter can be invoked to carry out a command from the Run line by entering cmd /c some_commandWith the switch "/c", some_command will be carried out and the command shell will then close. If you want the command shell to remain open, use the switch "/k". Enter cmd /k some_command

The Run Line in Windows Vista or Windows 7

The Start menu in Vista has no Run line in its default setting. Many of the functions of Run can be carried out in the new Search function that is at the bottom of the Vista Start menu but I still like to use Run sometimes. You can get Run back temporarily by using the keyboard shortcut Windows key+R. To put Run permanently back in the Start menu :

  1. Right-click on the Start button and choose "Properties"
  2. Select the "Start Menu" tab and click on the "Customize..." button
  3. Check the "Run command" option
  4. Click "OK"

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