Home > Posts > more IE9 RC issues – Tale of two Internet shortcuts

more IE9 RC issues – Tale of two Internet shortcuts

Can you spot any difference at the following two Internet shortcuts on my desktop?


I can’t either. Note that the two files have the same “name”, but different file extension (invisible when using default Windows Explorer folder view settings). The one uses “.url” (classic Internet Explorer webpage shortcut), while the other one, created by Internet Explorer 9 RC when I drag-dropped a page’s icon from the address bar onto my desktop, uses the file extension “.website”. That’s why although they seem to the user to have the same name, they can still co-exist on the same folder (the desktop).

However, there are important differences on how these two Internet shortcuts behave. If you open the .url one with IE9 RC you get the window at the 1st image shown below, whereas if you open the “.website” one, you get the window at the 2nd image shown below. Notice the difference on the address bar? The Back and Forward buttons now have a different color (they get their color from the page icon somehow, maybe calculating the dominant color or something from there) and there’s also the page icon showing up at the start of the address bar (can click on it to go back to this page if you’ve navigated away from it).

Note that when you drag-drop the webpage icon from IE9 RC address bar onto the desktop you also do notice a different behaviour (than you were used to) from IE9, in that it closes that page and opens it up in a new window, with that modified address bar, 2nd image as shown below.


Right-clicking each of those two files (the .url and the .website ones), and selecting “Properties”, you get the displays shown below on the left and right sides respectively. You’ll notice that the “.url” file is called an “Internet Shortcut”, whereas the “.website” one is called a “Pinned Site Shortcut”.


Note that the “.url” file’s “Properties” action takes you directly to a tab other than the “General” one, called “Web Document” (a custom property page) with more info on the URL, a tab that is missing (I’d consider this a bug) from the “.website” file properties dialog. That way you can’t edit the URL from the properties dialog, neither can you set a “Shortcut key” for launching the shortcut using the keyboard.


Right-clicking the “.url” file and selecting “Send to > Notepad” (assuming you have installed “SendTo tools” or similar utility, or created a shortcut to “Notepad.exe” at your SendTo folder), you see the following contents:


Right-clicking the “.website” file and selecting “Send to > Notepad” (assuming you have installed Send To tools or created a Notepad shortcut at your SendTo folder), you see the following contents:

Prop4=31,The revenge of trickle-down economics | Richard Wolff | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

I find the new IE9 RC behaviour non-intuitive, esp. the action of closing old tab and popping up a new window when you drag-drop the page icon from the address bar onto the desktop. This violates the UI design principle of “least surprise” for the user.

Moreover it refreshes the page when doing that (which can result in loss of data if you were filling-in something online and hadn’t submitted yet – hope it does at least respect webpages that use closing event handler to warn the user they haven’t saved and allow them to cancel the page closing).

You can see more info on Pinned Site Shortcuts at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/ie/dd797411 (as a reader of my previous blog post pointed out).

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  1. Jurgen
    2011/04/03 at 12:43

    I have just upgraded from IE8 to IE9, and almost immediately noticed this ridiculous behaviour. It’s counter intuitive, not user friendly and different from past behaviour. I can’t find anything in the settings to change this. Major bummer…

  2. Steve
    2011/04/17 at 15:18

    Yes, this is a big problem. It’s enough to keep me from using IE ever again. What is the fix for turning off this ‘pinned site’ stuff? Terrible decision to make, when millions of people are using it one way and you (MS) determine that it’s going to change the entire behavior. Not an improvement on your part!

  3. Manuel Alves
  4. 2011/05/19 at 17:12

    unfortunately though this disables pinning not only for when drag-dropping on desktop and folders (which is the most annoying part) but also for when dropping on taskbar (can only pin page as item under pinned IE if that workarround is applied).

    Haven’t tried if page still refreshes after pinning (as it does now sadly) which can lead to data loss if you were entering something in a form or editing a web document etc.

  5. annonymous
    2011/06/12 at 11:51

    To create a normal internet shortcut:
    PRESS SHIFT while dragging url icon to wherever you want it.
    If you still want to disable website pinning view info here: http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/151853-internet-explorer-9-enable-disable-ability-pin-sites.html

    • 2011/06/14 at 20:53

      Thanks for the tip. Very badly implemented workarround though, IF YOU DON’T PRESS SHIFT at start of drag and hold it down later on before drop, it doesn’t work. Breaks rule of least-user-surprise to introduce such variation from common drag-and-drop patterns that are being used on Windows (e.g. for Copy the CTRL and for Move the SHIFT can be held down just before drop)

  6. 2013/08/06 at 00:55

    Moreover, I recently found out that the Details pane of Windows Explorer allows rating a classic Internet Shortcut, adding a Description, editing the URL (yes, from the Details pane that you can show using Organize/Layout menu of Windows Explorer)… No such functionality is available for Pinned Site shortcuts, they seem to be just some IE9 hack

  7. 2014/05/21 at 13:33

    “if one opens a .url and .websiite file in notepad, one can see that the .website file conatins information that is a superset of the info contained in a .url file. So, I speculated that one could change the extention of a .website file from “.website” to “.url” so that double-clicking it will produce the old “Internet Shortcut” file behavior. I tested that, and it seems to work. That would “fix” any old .website files that one had created when one would’ve rather created a .url file. Web shortcuts created henceforth would be best using the “CLICK AND OLD THE SHIFT KEY” solution whenever one wants a .url rather than a .website file.” Copying from: http://channel9.msdn.com/Forums/Coffeehouse/How-to-disable-IE9s-Pinned-Sites-feature

  8. Bob Sherman
    2015/02/03 at 05:33

    I ran into this behavior on IE11 and solution recommended above (disabling Pin functionality) solved the problem. Many thanks to George for pinning down the problems and to those that posted solution options.

  9. J R
    2018/07/09 at 00:11

    In IE11 on Windows 10 the Shift+Drag approach does not work.
    Two workarounds:
    1) Right click on webpage background, and choose “Create Shortcut” in context menu.
    2) Drag site icon (on left of URL) into the Favorites Bar. Then drag from Favorites Bar to desktop.

  1. 2011/02/18 at 11:08

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