How to Manage App Execution Aliases in Windows

An alias is an alternative name for a subject. Similarly, application aliases are also used in Windows to…

App Execution Aliases

An alias is an alternative name for a subject. Similarly, application aliases are also used in Windows to conveniently open applications by using a shorter name version for an app, instead of entering the entire name or path for it.

Application execution aliases can be used in the Windows Command Line Interface (CLI), which includes the Run Command box, the Command Prompt, and Windows PowerShell, to launch applications having a .exe extension directly.

That said, some applications can have the same execution alias. For example, in Windows 11, the older version of Notepad and the newer version both have the name alias “Notepad.exe.” This can cause a conflict, and Windows can then only open one app using the same alias. Now consider wanting to open one app using its alias, but another one opens – this can be quite frustrating.

Thankfully, both Windows 10 and 11 natively allow you to enable or disable using an alias for a specific app. Furthermore, you can also change an alias for an app that already has an alias, or assign a new alias to an executable app that does not have one by default. This can help you launch applications rather quickly.

How to Enable/ Disable App Execution Aliases in Windows 11

If more than one application uses the same alias, you can choose which app the alias works with and disable the other one. Here are the steps to do so in Windows 11:

  1. Navigate to the following:

    Settings app >> Apps >> Apps and Features >> More Settings >> App execution aliases
  2. Here, toggle the slider in front of an app into the on or off position to enable or disable its respective alias.

    Enable or disable aliases for apps in Windows 11
    Enable or disable aliases for apps in Windows 11

That’s it! Once done, only the enabled aliases will work, which you can then use to launch the respective application from either of the command lines.

Note: In the case of Notepad.exe in Windows 11, running the application using its alias will still work, but will open an older version of the Notepad instead of the newer version.

When an alias is disabled, running the alias to launch the app will return the following message:

“Alias” is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.
Alias not recognized when disabled
Alias not recognized when disabled

How to Enable/ Disable App Execution Aliases in Windows 10

Here are the steps to enable or disable app execution aliases in Windows 10:

  1. Navigate to the following:

    Settings app >> Apps >> Apps and Features >> App execution aliases
  2. Here, toggle the slider in front of the app into an on or off position to enable or disable its respective alias.

    Enable or disable aliases for apps in Windows 10
    Enable or disable aliases for apps in Windows 10

If the same alias is used by more than one app, you can keep one enabled whilst the other is disabled. This way, using the alias will only open the selected app.

These methods only allow you to enable or disable existing aliases on a Windows PC. Let us now show you how you can modify these aliases, or create new ones for other .exe applications.

Modify Existing App Execution Aliases using PowerShell

You can modify the aliases to be used to launch specific applications using Windows PowerShell. For example, you can set a custom alias for Notepad, and then use that alias instead of “Notepad.exe” to launch the app.

Note: The following method only modifies an existing alias within PowerShell. Meaning, the modified alias will not work within the Run Command box or the Command Prompt, but only within PowerShell. Therefore, to use the new custom alias, you must enter it in a PowerShell instance, whilst using the default (old) alias on other command lines.

Follow these steps to change the app execution alias using Windows PowerShell:

  1. Launch PowerShell with elevated privileges.

  2. Now use the following cmdlet to assign a new alias to the app. Replace NewAlias with a custom alias for the app and PathToApp with the complete path where the .exe file of the app is located:

    Set-Alias -Name NewAlias -Value PathToApp.exe
    Assign new alias in PowerShell
    Assign new alias in PowerShell

You can now use the new alias to launch the app from within PowerShell.

If you are curious about which alias has been assigned to which app, you can use the following cmdlet to obtain that information in PowerShell while replacing AliasName with the alias for the app:

Get-Alias -Name AliasName
Get alias name
Get alias name

Create New App Execution Alias using Windows Registry

Windows only creates predefined aliases for selected apps, and does not create them for the additional .exe applications installed on your PC. However, for those apps, you can create one yourself. Perform the following steps to create a custom alias for any executable app on your PC:

Note: This process involves manual changes to the Windows Registry. Misconfiguration of critical values in the system’s registry could be fatal for your operating system. Therefore, we insist that you create a system restore point before proceeding forward with the process.

  1. Open the Registry Editor by typing in regedit in the Run Command box.

    regedit
    Open Registry Editor
  2. Now paste the following into the address bar at the top for quick navigation:

    Computer\ HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths
    For quick navigation
    For quick navigation
  3. Right-click the “App Paths” Key, expand New from the context menu, and then click Key.

    Create new key 1
    Create a new key
  4. Name this new key with your custom alias, followed by “.exe”, as in the image below.

    Name the Key
    Name the Key
  5. Select the new Key just created from the left pane, then double-click the “(Default)” value in the right pane.

    Double click Default
    Double click Default
  6. Under the Value Data text field, enter the complete path and name of the application you want to use the alias for, and then click OK.

    Enter path under Value Data
    Enter path under Value Data
  7. Now, right-click the new key you created in step 3 & 4 above, expand New, then click String Value.

    Create new String Value
    Create a new String Value

    Name this string “Path.”

  8. Double-click Path and then enter the complete path to where the application is located under Value Data (Without the app name). Click OK when done.

    Provide path to application
    Provide path to application

That is it! No need to restart the computer. You can now begin using the alias assigned to the Key in step 4 above to run the respective application through the Command Prompt, PowerShell, or the Run Command box.

If you want to change the app to run with an alias, simply change the path and app name in the Default and Path values inside the respective Key using the Registry Editor.

If you want to remove an alias entirely, simply delete the respective Key.

Delete the alias
Delete the alias

Final Thoughts

App execution aliases can be quite useful to run applications quickly when they are needed. Rather than browsing through the directories and searching for an app using File Explorer, you can simply launch the Run Command box using the Windows Key + R shortcut keys and enter the short alias for the respective application to run it.

Also see:

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