OS X: How to Change Default Application to Open File Type

   Posted August 26, 2007 by David Kirk in Apple Mac

If you click on a file and the wrong app opens it, you can change the default application to open that file or file type. These are the steps to both change the default app to open one specific file or to change the default app to open all files of one file type.

I frequently work with images on my MPR. Typically I just want to view an image instead of edit it so having Preview as my default app makes sense.

However, some images I know I am going to edit and edit and edit. By changing the default application to photoshop for that file, I can save a bunch of time.

Anyway, here is how to do it for one specific file only first. Below I’ll show you how to change the default application for all files of one file type.

Change Default App for One File:

1. Ctrl-click on the file you want to open
2. Click Open with
3. Select Other

4. Select the applcation you want to open the file
5. Select Always Open With
6. Click Open button

Now that one file will always open with the application you picked.

If you want to change the default app that opens all the files of one particular file type, you can do that too.

Change Default App for All Files of a File Type:

1. Ctrl-click on the file
2. Click Get Info

3. Under Open With pick the app that you want to become the default

4. Click the Change All button
5. Confirm your decision


About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
View more articles by David Kirk

The Conversation

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  • http://moveanimation.deviantart.com Chip Caramel

    thank you! I always wondered how that was done!

  • Macesz


  • plusarchi

    Thank you.

  • mojo

    thanks. helpful

  • anon

    Thanks, awesome, succinct.

  • http://blogs.tech-recipes.com/davak/ davak

    Thanks for the kind words!

  • Hypnos

    Thank you for the solution. I was wondering about the latter case, as as recent OS switcher.

  • Computermad

    Thanks! gd job!

  • steeeverb

    I’ve been looking for this answer — perfect. Why I cannot find this answer on apple.com is beyond me. They obviously made the functionality…
    Thanks so much.

  • anon

    This fails and instantly reverts to the previous application. Try giving complete informaiton next time.

    Some applications forbid you from changing the type and there is no known bypass,

    Microsoft office, and The unarchiver both will not allow you to change their types after wet w/o uninstalling the applications. Try it out install comical, then the unarchiver, then try to set cbr files back to comical. It’s impossible till you uninstall the unarchinver, same with office.

  • Matteo De Felice


  • Zinga

    Thanks a lot for the tip!!!

  • Richie


  • Anonymous

    I’ve just done this, but the trouble is every document i download has .html added to the end of it, so my computer thinks everything is the same!

    How can I fix this? It’s driving me mad!!

  • Anonymous

    Really?!!? That easy? I simply can’t believe I didn’t figure that out on my own. Off & on for the last 2 months I’ve been searching around system preferences and what not, trying to find a way to set a default app for all .avi files.. all the while doing the normal “angry at my computer” dance.
    Thank you for making my life a little easier!

  • oops!

    Thanks a lot man! These Ctrl-Clicks, alt-Clicks,… are killing me! Can’t apple just put it somewhere so that everyone knows how to do it?!

  • Dino

    This is a weak explanation and doesn’t even include instructions for removing any associations created by the steps above. A more accurate answer to this question would be:
    Modify the file “~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.LaunchServices.plist”

    You could then go on to explain different ways of editing that file. For example, Finder’s “Get Info” dialog, which offers no way to REMOVE the associated application.

    I love this OS, but it’s frustrating when Google comes back with nothing but useless information. Here’s another example: how do you set a folder’s appearance based on an icns file? Good luck trying to figure that out! If you think you know the answer, don’t forget that an icns file contains multiple images, each at a different resolution.

    • Anonymous

      I agree that the explanation is not complete.

      While it often works as described, there are alternatives and there are also undescribed side-effects.

      One such (free) alternative app is RCDefaultApp .

      The un-described and un-desired side effect is that the Mac OS then goes and physically changes ever-so-slightly every single matching type file on your computer, adding a resource fork where there was none before, or adding to the existing resource fork. At least, this is how it has almost always behaved on my Mac OS X Tiger. And being a stickler for keeping source data in original form, the addition of resource fork data is not acceptable.
      (I am planning to test on Snow Leopard, but have not done so yet — fearful of the changes to all my files)

  • Anonymous

    Greatly appreciated! I am new to Mac after 10 years of being an MCP. Mac is SO easy to use, and the help sites like this provides is awesome!! Thanks so much!

  • James Parent

    Thank you! Very useful… had figured out how to change the default app for a single file but the prospect of changing thousands of .pdf from Adobe to Preview individually wasn’t enticing.
    Thanks for the guide on how to do it for all files at once!

  • http://www.itsallart.com/ keith

    Oh…. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I have been having a problem with JPGs opening with colorsync (and was about to delete colorsync!) forever…. finally, you have answered my prayers with this solution!

  • Anonymous

    This is nice do you know why Quicktime set itself as an AVI reader. I “Change All” to VLC and sometime later (probably after Apple updates), Quicktime is back, lame as ever, unable to play sound of an AVI file.

  • Anonymous

    Very useful. Thank you!

  • Caps

    Many thanks! WIthout your write up I would have missed the last step!

    • Anonymous

      thanks for the kind words.

  • Bari Sowa

    I need help!

    I am new to mac, and after trying unsuccessfully to download PhotoScape, I am trying to open and run Photoshop. I have The Archiver installed on my mac and it won’t let me run certain programs, saying that the files cannot be extracted. GAH! How do I get around Extractor, which I use frequently for unzipping music files?


  • Deek206

    Thanks, this is really going to me headaches and frustations

  • gabriel


    I’ve been trying to figure this for months !

  • None

    Thank you for Posting this

  • Ijermyn

    Great tip; Thanks!

  • Marcel Belivo

    The “Get infos” thing works for me. Thank you very much !!

  • E_onux

    Thank you Davak.

  • Michael Whitaker

    Ok, so what if, after clicking “Change All” it reverts back to the original application? I can’t get mine to stick once I click on “Change All”, even after following all your instructions.

    • Mrsc1990

      This is exactly the problem I’m looking to solve. Have you had any answers? Why won’t it save the setting?

  • Anon

    Thank you! I keep forgetting how to do this one. Great explanation.

  • http://twitter.com/Zlakerbeetch Melusine Abraxas

    thank you XD I was opening them one by one it was really frustrating 😀

  • Cuddle

    Thank you!

  • timmy

    Nice, but what if the app is on a network drive? There is no way to browse to the location in the mini finder that comes up.

  • Eric P

    Actually there is a shortcut to “Always Open With”. When your right click the file (or after you right click)…hold down the option button. The menu will change from “Open With”, to “Always Open With”.

    I found this completely by mistake, I might add!

  • cgh

    thanks for that. simple yet effective. this had been bugging me for ages as I use BB Edit but occasionally I’d get a file that’d open Dreamweaver and I’d waste time shutting it down.

  • Mary

    Very helpful — exactly the info I was looking for. Thanks a bunch!

  • Preview Preferred

    Awesome help – who needs the heavy and cumbersome acrobat for viewing pdf’s anyway?

  • Tarun

    ThANKS! it works

  • davi

    thank you so much! brilliant!

  • http://twitter.com/zakkforchilli/ Zakk Forchilli

    This is incredible. FINALLY a simple guide getting to the point.

    No need for a 3rd party app or anything.

    This also works with ALL versions of OS X after 10.4.
    INCLUDING, Lion!

  • Graeme B

    Thanks. Worked a treat. And aside from those negative replies above, people should realise that any advice given is open to glitches or occasions where it may not work. I and most others appreciate your effort to respond to our needs.

  • Z

    Thanks for this, really helpful!!

  • Crystal Sargent

    My computer wont save the setting. What am I doing wrong? All my picture files are wrong, I can’t change them one by one! Please help!

  • Chris

    This does not work for files of type *.webloc. They will always be opened by Safari.

  • Will

    Cool!!! Thanks!!

  • Lia

    Wow, that was so simple, logical, and easy to follow.
    Thank you for making the ish storm that is the internet a slightly better place!

  • Sue

    The Changing All default – didn’t work for me it keeps snapping back to the newer CS5 app, i want CS3 as default app. I have made sure permisssions are unlocked – anything else i’m missing?

  • Arnav

    Thanks a Lot…. Wondered why the open with option doesnt work !

  • Raghav Reddy

    Thank You ! it helped me

  • Lize

    Thank you so much – it is sooo easy and finally I got it right.

  • locke

    Thank you very much.

  • Todd Carpenter

    Thank You!

  • LiquidBeef

    Thanks. Selecting ‘Always Open With’ wasn’t working for all files of the same type. Your second method worked. Hoorayyyyyyyyyy!

  • donfun

    Thanks!!! I was about to get really annoyed with OSX and quicktime player… but now vlc takes care of all my media 🙂

  • Ben


  • Florian

    Awesome, thanks!

  • George Pearson

    Thank you David – very helpful.

  • Nick

    Thank you SO much! I knew how to change the program that opened a single file and thought it was weird that I couldn’t make it open all files of that type. You have spared me much aggravation!

  • Yehia Farouk

    many thanks , that was driving me crazy

  • John A Ellis

    Thanks! This was driving me nuts, as I just recently bought a Mac Mini with Mountain Lion, but prefer to open images with Picasa. Cheers,=.

  • Anoop

    This was exactlly what i was looking for

  • Terry

    Hi, when l am asked to choose an application to open a file, l usually don`t know which one to choose……….

    In this case guessing seems a bit haphazard, It would be nice if l wasn`t asked at all and the optimum one was chosen without me having to find out which was best

  • Terry

    By the way l just stumbled across your site and like it a lot.


  • Rachael

    Thanks so much! Been looking for that for days!

  • R. Fennimore

    I am running Mac OS X 10.8.2 (Mountain Lion). Tried both methods to change the default app for WAV files from VLC to Audacity. If I go to Get Info now, it shows Audacity under Open With, however if I right click on a WAV file and select Open With, it still shows VLC as the default app. It’s as if it’s stuck on VLC and will not change the default app!! This is very frustrating. I’ve already looked under Security and Privacy in System Settings, and I have Allow applications downloaded from anywhere selected, so it’s not that.

  • AAron

    dose anyones change back the very millisecond you change it … mine dose and its ultra annoying… like it dosnt want to use vlc or anything…

  • Missy

    Thank you for sharing. But I am using Mac Mountain Lion and there is no “open with” after I click on the “go to”.

    How do I change the default media player setting in Mountain Lion? I can’t find this info anywhere.
    Help Please.

  • Darlene Noesen

    I can’t thank you enough for the perfectly clear directions, with visuals, that actually solve the problem!!

  • Paul Sastroutomo

    Very clear instruction. Thank you.

  • Greg Johnson

    Thank you David. This was just the tip I needed today. Kudos for all of the knowledge you have shared on this site.

  • Dean

    Thank you.

  • stacey

    i accidentally changed the outlook .pst file to open with word…it changed it across our whole network. When i right click on the file, it does not give me the option of “get info”. Ronald J Sowards

    I do have Outlook (2003) on my computer, but i accidentally changed the .pst file to “open with…always” to Word. It changed all the Outlook .pst files to open with Word across our network. How in the world can i change it back to open (import/export) as a .pst file? I tried the “open with” screen and it gives me several options, except outlook…or whatever program is used to “open” .pst files.

    Am i making sense??? I am in a panic!

  • Dmitrii Kouznetsov

    Thank you, David!
    It affects also the command line; I could specify, which command should be used to open the *.tex files.

  • annebarnes


  • Maria Melendez


  • Graziano

    Thank youuuuuuu. Even my daughter will be happy for stop to “open with…” (VLC) the films every time!

  • Kendall

    omg thank you!!! this has driven me nuts until now!

  • Susanna

    Awesome! Thank you!!

  • Jack

    we have a mac her that has two versions of office installed, 2008 and 2011. how do i do tell the .xls that they need to be opened with excel 2008, when i change it, it pops back to excel 2011.
    The documents always open with excel 2011, i cannot change the behavior here…

  • NSD

    That did the job, thanks! But doesn’t seem to be friendly when using Illustrator CS6 and CS3. I wanted to keep the CS3 as default, for I use CS6 occasionally. But after doing what you said, it still opens in CS6. But works with other files. Something to do with Illustrator I suppose…

  • Thomas_dog

    Thnx, it is great for coding!

  • Nick

    Apple is using the same kind of “power grab” with Pages 5.1 and Numbers 3.1, new versions that come with Mavericks. After you upgrade to Mavericks the new versions insinuate themselves into the default slot. The approaches described above don’t work because when you change the default app to the old version, the change reverts to the new no matter how you exit the change window, and there’s nothing to be done about it at that level. The fix is to drag the app files to the trash. It really feels good to do this because, the new versions are so different the change is a lot of work (with no real improvement), Apple has not included compatibility with the older versions and they kept the same extensions which gives no indication of the mess you’re about to get into. I think that’s really deceitful, profit driven and not user friendly as I have come to expect from Apple.

  • Brand7

    I forgot about that solution, it works well especially for .asp files that need to be opened in Dreamweaver CC, for me the default application was Photoshop CC which I thought was odd.