Internet Explorer 9: Pinned Site Shortcuts vs. Internet Shortcuts

imageYou may have noticed that with Internet Explorer 9, dragging a site’s icon to your desktop results not only in a link being created, but also the IE window being refreshed. 

Why does that happen?  (And is there a choice?)

A Tale of Two Shortcuts

Pinned SiteBy default, when you click and drag a site icon to desktop, you’ll create a Pinned Site Shortcut.

The page is relocated to a new window, which will show it as a pinned site.  For example, you’ll see the navigation buttons take on the key color of the site icon (or the msapplication-navbutton-color meta element.)  More on pinned sites in a moment.

The Alternative

Site Without PinningJust want a basic link without the extras? 

Hold down Shift then drag & drop the site icon to the desktop.  This will create an Internet Shortcut.  You’ll notice IE does not move or change in this case.

You may be asking “So… why the two options?”

The Differences

Pinned Site Shortcuts use the .website file extension, and Internet Shortcuts use the .url extension.  They look the same when a site has a favicon, and slightly different without:

With FaviconWithout Favicon

“Um, that’s fascinating, Chris, but what’s the practical difference?”

Certainly the most substantial difference is that one gives you a pinned site, along with the many features they support – Jump Lists, Notifications, Thumbnail Toolbars, etc.  Links for learning more are at the end of this post.

Let’s look at some other differences.

Firing up the right mouse button, here are the right-click menus for each (Internet Shortcut on left, Pinned Site Shortcut on right):

Internet Shortcut MenuPinned Site Menu

Mostly the same, except the Internet Shortcut offers “Print”, and the Pinned Site Shortcut offers to pin to the Start Menu and Taskbar.  Speaking of which…

A Stroll to the Taskbar

Dragging (or pinning) the shortcuts to the Taskbar has different effects by shortcut type:

  • Pinned Site Shortcut – Adds a new, separate pinned site to your taskbar.  This will give you easy access to that site, plus the features mentioned earlier.  Right click on shortcut in the Taskbar to see some of those features.
    Pinned Site on the TaskbarChannel9 as a Pinned Site


  • Internet Shortcut – Pins the site to Internet Explorer itself, not as a new entry in the Taskbar.  Right-click on IE’s Taskbar shortcut and the site is listed under “Pinned”:
    Links Pinned in IELinks Pinned in IE

Learning About Pinned Sites

This post focused on the differences in shortcut features, but there’s much more that pinned sites can do (and generally don’t need much work to enable.)  Here’s where to find more:

Enjoy making those shortcuts!