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Setting Default Programs

Double-clicking a document or file launches the program that’s associated with that program by default, as you learned in Lesson 3. But when you install new software, it may take over the association for a given type of file. Let’s say you have a favorite picture editor, and it launches automatically when you double-click a JPG image file. Then you install a program that manages photos, and it suddenly becomes the program that launches when you double-click a JPG.

Fortunately, in most cases you can control what program is associated with specific file types.

Set default programs at the file level

  1. Right-click the file whose association you’d like to change, and choose Open With > [name of application] from the shortcut menu.
  2. From the secondary menu that appears, click Choose Default Program.

    The Open With dialog box appears, displaying several programs in the Recommended Programs list.

  3. Do one of the following:
    • Select the program that you want to associate with this type of file, make sure that the Always Use the Selected Program to Open This Kind of File check box is selected, and click OK. Vista uses the selected program to launch the file with this program now and each time you double-click a file of that type.
    • If the program you want to use is not listed in the dialog box, click Browse, and navigate to the executable file’s program icon for the program. Click that file, and then click Open. The Open With dialog box reappears, with the program now included in the Recommended Programs list. Select the program, make sure that the check box at the bottom of the dialog box is checked, and click OK.

Set default programs from the Control Panel

You can also change the defaults for some programs in the Set Default Programs module of the Control Panel.

The Set Default Programs module (which exists because of Microsoft’s antitrust settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice) features programs that have been involved in legal disputes, including Internet Explorer and other browsers; Windows Media Player and other media players; and Microsoft’s Mail, Contacts, and Calendar programs. Microsoft agreed to make it easier for users to set programs other than its own as the defaults for browsing, listening to music, watching video, or reading email.

Suppose that you want Mozilla Firefox to be your default Web browser, so that it launches when you click a link in an email message or a Web page saved to your desktop. Here’s how:

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. In the Start menu’s Search box, type default programs; then press Enter.

    The Default Programs dialog box appears.

  3. Click Set Your Default Programs.

    The Set Default Programs module appears.

  4. In the left pane, select the program you would like to set as the default.

    The right pane shows you the program icon, a brief description, and two options.

  5. Do one of the following:
    • Click Set This Program as Default to designate the program you’ve selected as the default program for that activity. If you selected Firefox in the left pane, for example, it will be your default Web browser.
    • Click Choose Defaults for This Program to be taken to another module that lets you choose subcategories of actions the program may perform. Scroll through the list, select the types of files and actions you want the program to control, and then click Save. You’re returned to the Set Default Progams Module.
  6. In the Set Default Programs module, click OK.
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