A shortcut to a Word document is useful but can cause confusion
Q I’m a fairly new computer user and certainly what you would class as a novice. Despite this, I have been getting on fairly well with my Windows 7 PC, using Microsoft Word to create and print documents. I’ve taken to saving these on the Windows Desktop because I’m confused by Libraries and, frankly, I just find it easier to locate them there.
Recently, though, I did something that seemed to create a second copy of a document on the Desktop. The documents’ respective icons look almost exactly the same and sit side by side, but one of them has a small curly arrow in the bottom-left corner, if that makes sense.
It doesn’t seem to matter which one I click on because both seem to be the same document, with the exact same content, but I find it confusing to have both there. I’m also afraid that if I delete one, both will disappear. What’s going on and what should I do?
A It sounds to us like you have inadvertently a shortcut. This is an electronic pointer to a real file – usually stored elsewhere within a hard disk’s filing system – and they’re signified by the small arrow you describe.
When you double-click to ‘open’ a shortcut icon, Windows instead finds a little bit of code that tells it where the real file is stored – and it actually opens that. This is why both documents appear to contain the same content: you’re only ever opening the real file, even if you double-click the shortcut.
Now, ordinarily you wouldn’t see the shortcut and the real file side by side – or even in the same location – but all your documents are kept on the Desktop, and you’ve accidentally made a shortcut in the same place. This could happen, for example, by right-clicking and choosing the Create shortcut option.
Regardless, there is no risk in deleting the shortcut – the original document will remain in place and unaffected.
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