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

   Posted 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

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87 Responses to “OS X: How to Change Default Application to Open File Type”

  1. October 01, 2008 at 1:53 pm, Chip Caramel said:

    thank you! I always wondered how that was done!

    Reply

  2. November 13, 2008 at 9:06 pm, Macesz said:

    Thanks!!!!

    Reply

  3. November 15, 2008 at 4:06 am, plusarchi said:

    Thank you.

    Reply

  4. November 29, 2008 at 10:45 am, mojo said:

    thanks. helpful

    Reply

  5. December 23, 2008 at 1:47 pm, anon said:

    Thanks, awesome, succinct.

    Reply

  6. December 24, 2008 at 11:28 am, davak said:

    Thanks for the kind words!

    Reply

  7. February 15, 2009 at 12:07 pm, Hypnos said:

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

    Reply

  8. March 21, 2009 at 8:22 pm, Computermad said:

    Thanks! gd job!

    Reply

  9. May 08, 2009 at 1:48 pm, steeeverb said:

    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.

    Reply

  10. June 02, 2009 at 8:22 am, anon said:

    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.

    Reply

  11. June 20, 2009 at 10:53 am, Matteo De Felice said:

    thanks

    Reply

  12. August 03, 2009 at 12:12 pm, Zinga said:

    Thanks a lot for the tip!!!

    Reply

  13. August 12, 2009 at 9:50 pm, Richie said:

    Thanks!

    Reply

  14. August 19, 2009 at 12:32 pm, Anonymous said:

    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!!

    Reply

  15. August 26, 2009 at 9:31 pm, Anonymous said:

    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!

    Reply

  16. November 12, 2009 at 9:06 am, oops! said:

    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?!

    Reply

  17. December 14, 2009 at 9:28 pm, Dino said:

    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.

    Reply

    • December 19, 2009 at 3:40 am, Anonymous said:

      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)

      Reply

  18. January 15, 2010 at 10:00 pm, Anonymous said:

    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!

    Reply

  19. January 29, 2010 at 6:25 pm, James Parent said:

    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!

    Reply

  20. April 04, 2010 at 1:14 pm, keith said:

    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!

    Reply

  21. May 04, 2010 at 2:15 am, Anonymous said:

    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.

    Reply

  22. June 14, 2010 at 9:55 pm, Anonymous said:

    Very useful. Thank you!

    Reply

  23. June 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm, Caps said:

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

    Reply

    • June 25, 2010 at 7:10 pm, Anonymous said:

      thanks for the kind words.

      Reply

  24. June 27, 2010 at 2:41 am, Bari Sowa said:

    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?

    Thanks!

    Reply

  25. July 12, 2010 at 10:23 pm, Deek206 said:

    Thanks, this is really going to me headaches and frustations

    Reply

  26. August 08, 2010 at 10:11 pm, gabriel said:

    thanks,

    I’ve been trying to figure this for months !

    Reply

  27. August 11, 2010 at 11:31 pm, None said:

    Thank you for Posting this

    Reply

  28. August 15, 2010 at 1:14 am, Ijermyn said:

    Great tip; Thanks!

    Reply

  29. August 23, 2010 at 9:12 pm, Marcel Belivo said:

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

    Reply

  30. September 14, 2010 at 7:44 am, E_onux said:

    Thank you Davak.

    Reply

  31. September 15, 2010 at 3:11 pm, Michael Whitaker said:

    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.

    Reply

    • February 04, 2011 at 12:59 am, Mrsc1990 said:

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

      Reply

  32. October 05, 2010 at 12:54 am, Anon said:

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

    Reply

  33. October 07, 2010 at 6:28 pm, Melusine Abraxas said:

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

    Reply

  34. October 08, 2010 at 10:11 am, Cuddle said:

    Thank you!

    Reply

  35. October 29, 2010 at 10:31 am, timmy said:

    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.

    Reply

  36. November 13, 2010 at 11:42 am, Eric P said:

    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!

    Reply

  37. December 11, 2010 at 9:03 am, cgh said:

    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.

    Reply

  38. March 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm, Mary said:

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

    Reply

  39. April 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm, Preview Preferred said:

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

    Reply

  40. August 28, 2011 at 11:42 pm, Tarun said:

    ThANKS! it works

    Reply

  41. September 04, 2011 at 8:23 am, davi said:

    thank you so much! brilliant!

    Reply

  42. September 08, 2011 at 12:51 pm, Zakk Forchilli said:

    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!

    Reply

  43. October 18, 2011 at 3:15 am, Graeme B said:

    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.

    Reply

  44. October 23, 2011 at 1:37 am, Z said:

    Thanks for this, really helpful!!

    Reply

  45. December 06, 2011 at 1:37 pm, Crystal Sargent said:

    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!

    Reply

  46. January 23, 2012 at 6:59 am, Chris said:

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

    Reply

  47. April 06, 2012 at 8:42 pm, Will said:

    Cool!!! Thanks!!

    Reply

  48. April 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm, Lia said:

    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!

    Reply

  49. May 20, 2012 at 10:58 am, Sue said:

    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?

    Reply

  50. June 12, 2012 at 11:14 am, Arnav said:

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

    Reply

  51. June 18, 2012 at 9:16 am, Raghav Reddy said:

    Thank You ! it helped me

    Reply

  52. July 02, 2012 at 11:57 am, Lize said:

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

    Reply

  53. July 03, 2012 at 2:29 am, locke said:

    Thank you very much.

    Reply

  54. July 07, 2012 at 6:23 pm, Todd Carpenter said:

    Thank You!

    Reply

  55. July 08, 2012 at 3:42 am, LiquidBeef said:

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

    Reply

  56. August 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm, donfun said:

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

    Reply

  57. October 10, 2012 at 7:56 am, Ben said:

    Thanks!!!!

    Reply

  58. October 21, 2012 at 11:42 am, Florian said:

    Awesome, thanks!

    Reply

  59. November 06, 2012 at 9:20 am, George Pearson said:

    Thank you David – very helpful.

    Reply

  60. November 15, 2012 at 5:25 am, Nick said:

    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!

    Reply

  61. November 22, 2012 at 7:29 pm, Yehia Farouk said:

    many thanks , that was driving me crazy

    Reply

  62. December 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm, John A Ellis said:

    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,=.

    Reply

  63. January 18, 2013 at 4:10 am, Anoop said:

    This was exactlly what i was looking for

    Reply

  64. January 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm, Terry said:

    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

    Reply

  65. January 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm, Terry said:

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

    Terry

    Reply

  66. January 29, 2013 at 7:50 pm, Rachael said:

    Thanks so much! Been looking for that for days!

    Reply

  67. February 01, 2013 at 10:28 pm, R. Fennimore said:

    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.

    Reply

  68. February 07, 2013 at 9:03 pm, AAron said:

    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…

    Reply

  69. February 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm, Missy said:

    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.

    Reply

  70. February 20, 2013 at 2:21 am, Darlene Noesen said:

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

    Reply

  71. March 10, 2013 at 11:21 pm, Paul Sastroutomo said:

    Very clear instruction. Thank you.

    Reply

  72. April 02, 2013 at 7:34 am, Greg Johnson said:

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

    Reply

  73. April 02, 2013 at 12:24 pm, Dean said:

    Thank you.

    Reply

  74. April 05, 2013 at 12:31 pm, stacey said:

    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!

    Reply

  75. April 14, 2013 at 11:02 am, Dmitrii Kouznetsov said:

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

    Reply

  76. May 01, 2013 at 6:44 pm, annebarnes said:

    THANK YOU! UR A LIFE SAVER. THIS HELPED A LOT

    Reply

  77. May 25, 2013 at 1:41 pm, Maria Melendez said:

    thanks……..

    Reply

  78. October 27, 2013 at 9:16 am, Graziano said:

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

    Reply

  79. November 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm, Kendall said:

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

    Reply

  80. November 28, 2013 at 10:52 pm, Susanna said:

    Awesome! Thank you!!

    Reply

  81. January 08, 2014 at 11:05 am, Jack said:

    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…

    Reply

  82. January 12, 2014 at 11:50 pm, NSD said:

    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…

    Reply

  83. March 17, 2014 at 1:01 pm, Thomas_dog said:

    Thnx, it is great for coding!

    Reply

  84. March 21, 2014 at 8:54 am, Nick said:

    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.

    Reply

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