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Montage Shortcuts are the principal objects within a Montage Desktop window.  Similar in a number of respects to Windows shortcuts (aka links) on the Windows desktop, Montage Shortcuts have icons and titles representing documents and executable programs that can be opened or launched by double-clicking.  Just as one uses Windows Explorer to manipulate Windows shortcuts, you can use Montage to arrange, move, and copy Montage Shortcuts by dragging and dropping, right-click to invoke the Shortcut context menu, or open a Shortcut Properties dialog.  Also, the global Shortcuts dialog allows you to perform actions and control options affecting all Shortcuts within a montage.

Shortcuts can be created either via the New Shortcut command or by dragging and dropping files, folders, links, and hyperlinks from Explorer, or from another instance of Montage.  While Shortcuts are similar to their familiar Windows counterparts, there are a number of fundamental differences between Montage Shortcuts and Windows links.  For example, Shortcuts support unique monitoring and highlighting features, and whatever Shortcut changes you make are saved and restored from the montage that contains them.

Tip: "Shortcut" (with a capital "S") always refers to a Montage Shortcut, as opposed to a Windows "shortcut" (lower case), for which the preferred terminology is a "link".  Similarly "Desktop", with a capital "D", refers to a Montage main window, whereas "desktop" in lower case means the Windows desktop.

Anatomy of a Shortcut

A "standard" Montage Shortcut has an icon, and below it a title consisting of one or more lines of text, similar in appearance to what you might see in Explorer's "Large Icons" view mode.  When you move a Shortcut by dragging it across the Desktop, the icon and title move together.  Also, as with a Windows link, a Shortcut can be selected by clicking on it, it displays a Shortcut tip when you hover the mouse over it, and you can edit the title in place.

Transparent Shortcuts

An alternative style of Shortcuts is available for use in graphical montages, where the Montage Desktop contains a background image (wallpaper) over which "transparent" Shortcuts are superimposed.  To maximize background visibility, transparent Shortcuts have no icon and avoid the standard opaque highlighting modes, using a different, but functionally equivalent scheme.  Options are provided to control the degree of visibility of transparent Shortcuts, ranging from being completely hidden to being visible at all times, by virtue of displaying their borders and/or titles.  The color of Shortcut titles and borders is user-selectable, to assure good contrast against the chosen wallpaper.  When borders or titles are hidden, a handy mouse-over option (Shift+F4) highlights each Shortcut as the mouse passes over it, so it behaves like an invisible "hot spot" on the background graphic.

Highlighting modes

Montage supports a number of standard and transparent highlighting modes to indicate each Shortcut's current status.  (Also see the Miscellaneous, Standard Style and Graphical Style commands for more about settings pertaining to these modes.)  Shortcut highlighting relates to the following aspects, which may occur in various combinations:

  • unselected and selected modes of standard Shortcut highlightingSelection
    When a standard style Shortcut has been selected, e.g. by clicking on it, the title's background changes to gray, and a 1-pixel border appears around its icon.  For unselected Shortcuts, the title assumes the Desktop's background color, and there is no extra border around the icon.

    unselected and selected modes of transparent Shortcut highlightingFor the transparent style of Shortcuts, selection is indicated by a second, thin border, just within the Shortcut's outer border.  (The outer border for closed Shortcuts is governed by the Show Borders option.)  The inner border always has the same color as the title (if there is any title text, which is optional), whereas the outer border color depends on whether the Shortcut is open, and its current zoom state.  When the Shortcut is closed, the outer border (if shown) also has the same color as the title text.

  • title editing mode of standard Shortcut highlightingEdit mode
    Clicking once on the title of a selected standard Shortcut puts you into title editing mode, as indicated by a purple background color for the title area.  The entire title is initially selected, with reverse video and a dark blue background on the selected text.  Note that an editing context menu is available in this mode.  Clicking outside of the title area exits from edit mode, whereupon the title reverts to its normal appearance.

    title editing mode of transparent Shortcut highlightingIn-place editing of transparent Shortcuts uses a similar mode of highlighting to that for standard Shortcuts, i.e. purple background, reverse video, and dark blue for the selected text.  Normally, however, it is more convenient to disable the feature of automatically entering into edit mode when you click on the title area of a selected transparent Shortcut, because there is no separate icon to click on when you don't want to edit the title.  Instead, you can enter into edit mode via the Rename command of the Shortcut's context menu, or use the Shortcut Properties dialog.

    Tip: Use Style, Edit on Click in the global Shortcuts dialog to enable or disable in-place editing according to your own preference.

  • open standard Shortcut highlighting for various zoom statesOpening and zoom state
    After launching a Shortcut, e.g. by double-clicking on its icon, Montage detects and monitors the state of its associated target window, with the help of a built-in timer.  Upon detection, a colored border or box is displayed around the Shortcut, with the color indicating one of three possible zoom states: normal (red), minimized (green), or maximized (blue).  When the application window is closed, the outer border highlighting disappears (unless the Show Borders option is turned ON).

    open transparent Shortcut highlighting for various zoom statesThe same colored border highlighting conventions apply to transparent Shortcuts.  It also is sometimes useful to display a thinner border (of user selectable color) around each closed transparent Shortcut, especially when Shortcuts have no title text.  In the examples on this page, we've chosen yellow as the default color for transparent Shortcuts, to stand out against the black background.

  • auto-detected standard Shortcut highlightingAuto-detection
    In certain cases, Montage will detect that an application or document has already been opened, even though it was not launched through this Shortcut.  This auto-detection behavior, controlled by the global Auto-Detect option, applies to Shortcuts that point to other montages, whose openings are automatically detected.  For Word documents, Montage employs lazy auto-detection, where the fact that the document already happens to be open is not recognized until you attempt to launch it.  In either case, the auto-detected mode for standard Shortcuts is indicated by a gray background color encompassing both the icon and the title.  As with normal openings, the current zoom state is indicated by the color of the surrounding border, and the target application window can be controlled directly via the Shortcut context menu.  In cases of auto-detection, however, the target is not closed automatically, except by closing the parent montage that actually launched it.

    auto-detected transparent Shortcut highlightingFor transparent Shortcuts, where opaque highlighting modes are to be avoided, the difference between normal and auto-detected cases is discernable by the width of the colored outer border.  A thin (1 pixel) outer border (red, green, or blue) indicates auto-detection.  The thicker (2 pixel) border indicates a normal opening, i.e. launched by this Shortcut.


You can drag and drop Shortcuts into or out of Montage from or to another Windows application, or between two different instances of Montage.  Either the left or the right mouse button works in conjunction with a drag-and-drop; when using the right mouse button, a context menu appears upon releasing the mouse button (the drop), giving you an opportunity to choose an action or cancel the operation.  (Also see more about drag and drop issues in the Montage Knowledge Base.)


Every Shortcut has a corresponding graphical icon that is displayed in a Desktop window.  (For transparent Shortcuts there is an associated icon, but it is not visible because it is sized to 0 pixels.)  The default icon size for standard Shortcuts is 32 X 32 pixels, but this can be adjusted to a different value (over a continuous range, unlike Windows) for each montage.  Montage automatically selects a default icon when you create a new Shortcut, and you can change the choice of icon via the Icon specification in the Shortcut Properties dialog, or with the Icon... command in the Shortcut context menu.  (The Icon, Reset Icon to Default command restores Montage's default icon choice.)  Supported image file types for Montage icons include: .ANI, .BMP, .CUR, .DIB, .GIF, .ICO, and .JPG.  The image is scaled, if necessary, to fit into a 32-pixel square, or whatever other default icon size has been specified for this montage.

Icons are not actually stored in Montage metafiles: they are only referenced.  Montage extracts icons as needed from programs and other files residing on your computer, and it stores these extracted icons in its icons subdirectory.  This directory serves as a cache to speed up subsequent references, but icons may be absent (or deliberately deleted, e.g. via Clear Icon Cache), forcing Montage to re-determine and obtain the icons it needs.  If a Shortcut's designated icon is found to be missing, it is automatically re-initialized to an appropriate default icon.  This dynamic icon initialization logic allows montages to be compact, portable, and distributable free of copyright restrictions.

Default icons

In most cases, Montage will automatically find and extract the most appropriate default icon for each Shortcut on your particular machine, based on the Shortcut's target, information from the Windows Registry, and installed application programs.  For Shortcuts to image files, the global Image is Icon option causes a thumbnail of the target image itself to be used as the default icon for each image, or the more selective Icon is Target option can be applied to individual Shortcuts.  Otherwise, Montage uses one of the following built-in default icons, which are located in the Montage program directory.

  • dynamic Explorer iconsdynamic Explorer icons
    For Shortcuts to folders in the Windows filing system, Montage supports a special dynamic icon, whose appearance corresponds to the current TreeView mode for an instance of Windows Explorer.  When the "magnifying glass" is present, the Shortcut opens a split-paned Explorer window (with TreeView of folder hierarchy at the left).  Montage's timer monitors this attribute while the target Explorer window is open, dynamically switching between the two built-in folder icons according to whether the window is currently in TreeView or "Cabinet" (single-pane) mode.

  • generic default iconsgeneric default icons
    When no more specific determination can be made, Montage uses one of its built-in generic icons.

  • Montage iconMontage icon
    This is the default icon that represents a Shortcut to another montage, i.e. a file with the .MO3 extension.

  • internal form iconsinternal form icons
    These are the default icons for Montage's built-in viewers and internal forms.

  • invalid image iconinvalid or missing image icon
    If the file designated as a Shortcut's icon is missing, or it exists but is invalid or not a supported image file type, the icon displays as a grayed-out box with a large X through it.  Montage normally attempts to supply an appropriate generic icon, even if the Shortcut's target is missing, except in certain cases.  When the target is missing, but its extension indicates it is a supported image type, Montage displays the missing image icon if the global Image is Icon setting is turned ON or if the Icon is Target option is selected for this Shortcut.  Also, if the specified icon for this Shortcut is missing but fetchable, the missing image icon is used, rather than substituting a generic image icon.  This feature is useful in connection with dynamic Internet fetching, to provide a visible indication as to whether the file has been downloaded yet.

Keyboard Actions

Montage supports the following actions that can be performed by pressing certain special keys, in addition to various main menu actions and their corresponding hot keys.

Differences between Montage Shortcuts and Windows links

Although Montage Shortcuts are in many ways similar to Windows links (.LNK and .URL files), there are a number of differences.  The fundamental difference is that Windows links are separate files, whose internal format is known to Windows, whereas any number of Montage Shortcuts may reside within a single Montage metafile, whose internal organization is understood by Montage, not Windows.  The differences in behavior between Montage Shortcuts and Windows links are as follows:

Shortcut Options context menu

Right-clicking on a Montage Shortcut brings up the Shortcut context menu, which presents the following commands and options pertaining to that Shortcut.  (Menu options appearing in dark green apply only when built-in viewers are enabled.)

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Montage Help page, last edited: 12/31/10 16:20
Copyright SpaceTime Systems 2003-2011