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Pinning Files in Windows 8

February 21, 2013 Comments off

A Windows 7 feature I use once in a blue moon (but find extremely handy on those few occasions) is the ability to pin documents to the programs you use to open them in the Start Menu’s recent programs list.

Windows 7 Start Menu showing pinned documents

Windows 8, as you probably already know, has an extremely different Start menu, and those lists aren’t on it. How can we get this feature back?

For one thing, the list of pinned and recent items in the Start menu is the exact same list as the Jump Lists that appear when you right-click a taskbar button in Windows 7. Those jump lists also appear in Windows 8. All you have to do is drag your document to the taskbar button

Just one little problem: I don’t pin programs to the taskbar. I prefer using Quick Launch buttons, because I don’t like having to right-click the button to open a new instance if the pinned application is already open. Yes, I’m picky. The good news is that you don’t have to leave the program pinned for this to work. (Pinning the document to the program pins the program to the taskbar, but you can unpin it when you’re done without hurting anything.) The bad news is that if you don’t leave the program pinned, you have to have an instance of it open before you can access the jump list, and opening the pinned file generally opens a new window rather than using the existing one.

Jump list in Windows 8 with a pinned file

Pinning to jump lists might be all you need if you use the taskbar the Windows 7/8 way, but for me, it wasn’t satisfying.

I already admitted to being stubborn and picky, and willing to put in extra work to get my Windows experience just so. To get this up and running on Windows 8, I’ll have to take that to extremes.

It would be child’s play to create a shortcut to a document and just pin that to the Start menu. (You generally can’t pin the documents themselves.) That still doesn’t satisfy me, though, because I might want to open the file in something other than the default editor (e.g. opening an HTML file in a text editor).

You could easily download a program to accomplish this. A little digging might turn up an app that will let you create a tile that opens a document in a particular app. If I really wanted to, I could just download Classic Shell, have my Windows 7-style Start Menu back, and be done with it. But that’s quitter talk; I want to see what I can do on my own. Besides, I’d prefer not to have to download and install yet another program.

But there is a solution! You start by creating a shortcut—not to the document, but to the program you want to use. Then you edit the shortcut to feed the file’s location to the program as a command-line parameter. In many cases this is as simple as adding a space and the file’s path and filename to the end of the Target field, but sometimes you’ll need to look up what command line parameters the program takes and whether it will let you pass in a file.

Properties window of a shortcut showing the document's filename added to the Target field

So there you have it: If you really, really want to, you can have tiles on your Start screen that open your favorite documents in your favorite programs.

Shortcuts, pinned to Windows 8 Start screen, that open a file in various programs

I think most people will be better off sticking with the jump lists.

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