Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Windows tip: Use “junction” for easy access to deeply nested folders

At work, I have a particular folder on my Windows PC that I access many times per day to open and save various documents for the project that I’m working on.  I have two conflicting needs for where in the filesystem that folder should be located":

  1. C:\.  As I prefer using the keyboard to the mouse for quick and easy tasks, the ideal location for this folder is directly off the root directory of the C: drive.  It’s pretty easy to type, for example, “c:\proj\todo.txt” into an application’s Open dialog, or from the command prompt.  I can do that more quickly than switching to the mouse, clicking “My Computer”, double-clicking “C:”, double-clicking the “proj” folder, scrolling “todo.txt” into view, and then double-clicking on that file.
  2. My Documents. My office’s automated backup policy only picks up documents that are located under the “My Documents” folder.  While I could locate my “proj” folder under My Documents rather than under the C:\ root directory, typing “c:\documents and settings\jschneid\my documents\proj” 30 times a day rather than just “c:\proj” obviously becomes very inefficient very quickly.

So, to summarize the problem: I want my use-it-all-the-time “proj” folder to be at “c:\proj”, but I needed it to be under “My Documents” in order for it to be picked up by my office’s backup scheme.

The solution: The Junction utility, part of Microsoft’s Sysinternals suite of tools.  The Junction utility allows the creation of a folder at a particular location in the filesystem which is really a symbolic link (shortcut) to another folder, which the command prompt and Windows Explorer respect.

In my case, I created my “proj” folder under My Documents (so it would be picked up by my office’s backup process).  Then, I used Junction to create a symbolic link to that folder at “c:\proj” for easy access to that folder via the keyboard.

This solution has worked out great for me.  I type “c:\proj” many times every day – saving a couple of seconds over using the mouse to access that folder every time.  I wanted to share this tip for anyone else out there who might be able to benefit from having an easy-to-access shortcut to a deeply-nested folder on their filesystem – and for those that might not have been aware that it’s possible to set up Unix-style folder symbolic links on Windows.

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