When you double click an icon on your desktop, Windows will typically open the correct program. It does that because of file type associations. Many programs can open many file types and you have the choice of which one Windows will open. Here’s how to associate file types with programs in Windows 10.
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For example, say you double click a .jpg file and have Paint.net, Photoshop, Paintshop Pro and Paint installed on your computer. Which program do you want to open the file with? You have two options, you can set a default program or use the right context menu.
Most programs will ask you at the point of installation if you want it to be the default handler for particular file types but you can change it afterwards too. You can either use Control Panel or the Windows 10 settings menu to set the default. You can also select on the fly with a right click.
How to identify the file type
Before we get to changing the default program to open a particular type of file, we need to identify that file.
- Right click on the file and select Properties.
- Look at the Type of file in the new window. This will tell you what it is and provide the suffix for it.
- Look at Opens with underneath to identify the current default program for that file type.
If you want to always see the file type, you can configure Windows Explorer to display it.
- Open Windows Explorer.
- Select view.
- Check the box next to File name extensions.
This will display the file types in Explorer so you can quickly identify what each file is.
Associate file types using Control Panel
Control Panel is still the main way to control what happens on your computer. Our first method uses it to quickly associate file types with programs.
- Open Control Panel and navigate to Programs.
- Select Default Programs and Associate a file type or protocol with a specific program.
- Find the file type that you want to change on the left and highlight it.
- Select Change program in the top right.
- Select the program from the new window that appears and click OK.
Depending on the file type, you may only have one option to select. If you don’t see the program you want to use, select More apps in the selection window. Not all apps that feature in that list will be able to open the file but you can select them anyway.
Associate file types using the setting menu
If you are more comfortable working in the Windows 10 settings menu that’s fine too.
- Open the settings menu and navigate to System.
- Select Default apps.
- Make your selection from the main list on the right. Click on the current program and a dropdown list will appear. Select your program and it will become the default.
- Scroll down to Choose default applications by file type or Choose default applications by protocol for more association options.
Like the Control Panel method, this allows you to quickly set the default program for different file types. These are not set in stone and can be changed at any time. Just repeat the steps above if you want to change the default application.
Open with in Windows 10
If you have a file type that you would occasionally like to open with a particular program but don’t want to set it as default, you can do that too. This is useful for trying out a program before setting it as your go-to app.
- Select a file with the mouse and right click.
- Select Open with… and choose an option from the slide menu that appears.
- Select Choose another app if the one you want isn’t in the slide menu. Choose it from the new window that appears.
This only works with files and not with folders, drives or executables but can be useful if you want to apply a special effect to an image or want to test something in a different program without changing the program you usually use to work with that file.
You may see some file types that don’t have alternatives. That is normal as many program developers also create proprietary file types that can only be opened with that program. These are relatively few though as every time a proprietary file type comes along, a third party application is configured to allow free access.