How can I put app shortcuts onto the Windows 11 desktop?

Windows 11 desktop shortcut forbidden
Iconic: Windows won't let you drag apps to the desktop

Desktop shortcuts are a contentious issue. Many favour an uncluttered workspace, unadorned by icons, folders and anything clickable whilst others use desktops as a command centre. If you’re in the latter camp, you may be struggling to drag app icons to the desktop. You’re not alone. Microsoft have made this needlessly complicated, but here’s our quick guide on how to put app shortcuts onto the Windows 11 desktop.

Why do you want app shortcuts on the Windows desktop?

Convenience mainly, but those whose main Windows interface is touchscreen or a stylus tell me that having their most commonly used apps on the desktop is preferable. Given that Microsoft focuses so much development on touch based interaction, you’d think they made it easier.

Spotify app icon on Windows 11 menu

Here’s the problem. The screenshot above shows the Spotify app icon nestled inside the Windows 11 Start Menu. Wouldn’t it be convenient to drag and drop the Spotify shortcut to the desktop?

Windows 11 shortcut not allowed

Unfortunately, Windows 11 doesn’t allow you to do this, giving the user a no entry sign, which doesn’t make sense from an iconography perspective, but there you go.

How to put an app shortcut on the Windows 11 desktop

all apps on Windows 11 start menu

There are a few methods, but this is the easiest, especially for touch and pen users. Click the Start Button to open the Windows 11 menu. Ignore the temptation to drag the app icons, but click All Apps (highlighted in red) near the top of the menu.

Spotify in all apps

All Apps re-arranges your installed programs into a list, so scroll down until you find the one you wish to turn into a Windows shortcut.

Windows 11 desktop app shortcut success

Left-click and drag the icon onto the desktop. The no-entry symbol has been replaced by Link, which means that the shortcut will be created. Release the icon to complete the process.

Spotify app icon on Windows 11 desktop

As you can see, it’s not a complicated process, but Windows 11 makes it an unintuitive one.

Does this work on Windows 10?

No, because it doesn’t have to.

Windows 10 desktop app shortcut drag

Windows 10 does allow the dragging of app shortcuts from the menu to the desktop. Somehow Microsoft managed to make the process harder in Windows 11, but perhaps they’ll fix it soon.

App shortcuts on the desktop may not be everyone’s preference but if it’s yours, then you now know how to do it.

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About the author

Lee Grant

I can normally be found attacking things with screwdrivers in my small computer repair business or writing a column for PC Pro magazine.

I am also trying to solve a mystery involving David Bowie.

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