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I learned here that I can type "shell:RecycleBinFolder" in the start menu and it will bring up the recyle bin -- and sure enough it does.

But what does "shell:" even mean? in what context does it have meaning?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

shell: is a windows shortcut which permits access to a large number of windows attributes (commands, folders).

Here are some examples of the shortcuts to windows folders:

shell:System
shell:SystemCertificates
shell:SystemX86
shell:Templates
shell:TreePropertiesFolder
shell:UserProfiles
shell:UsersFilesFolder
shell:Windows

Further Information

Reference to various shell: commands

and

MSDN reference

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