View Full Version : FAQ #50 - Changing File Associations

30-08-2004, 05:32 PM
FAQ #50 - Changing file associations

Originally written by Graham Petrie

How do I change the program which opens a certain type of file?

Each file-type has a specific program with which it opens. This is called a file association as the program is associated with a specific file-type, and conversely, the specific file-type is associated with a specific program.

Examples are:

Word - *.doc
Microsoft Publisher - *.pub
*.xls - Excel Spreadsheet
*.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

The reasons for changing the association for a specific file-type vary, but it is usually because a hostile program has taken over the task of opening a particular file-type, or you just prefer to use a different program than the Windows default. For instance, you may prefer to use WinAmp instead of Windows Media Player. The other reason may be because you have uninstalled a program, and the file-types it used to open now do not know what program to associate with and so don't open.

There are three main ways to change the file association for a specific file-type.

1. Use the Open With... right-click context menu

This is the easiest and it is quicker for the odd change here and there. The problem is that sometimes the program you want to open the file with is not listed, or you want to change many associations at once in which case, this method gets rather tedious.

a) Locate a file of the type you wish to change the association of.
b) Right-click the file.
c) Select Open With...

If Open With is not available, try selecting the file first, and holding shift while you right-click. If Open With expands showing a list of programs, click the bottom item in the list ‘Choose Program…’

d) A window will open with Open With as the title, and a list of programs in the window. Scroll down to the program you wish to open the file with and select it.

e) If the program you want isn’t displayed, click Browse... and browse to the programs location (usually C:\Program Files\%ProgramDirectory%\Program.exe), then select the program and click Open.
f) Tick the box which says ‘Always use the selected program to open this kind of file’
g) Click OK.

Now when you double-click on the file or any file of the same type, it should open in the specified program provided it supports the file-type.

2. Use the "File Properties" right-click context menu

This method is similar to the first. (May not work with all versions of Windows)

a) Locate a file of the type you wish to change the association of.
b) Right-click the file.
c) Click Properties
A Window opens with the properties of the file. Near the top is a line headed "Opens With" followed by the name of the program currently associated with the file.
d) Click Change…
The Open With window opens as in Method One, and the instructions for changing the file association are the same from here on.

3. Use the "File Type" Tab in the Folder Options Control Panel applet

This method is good for changing the associations of many files at one time, or for specifying associations for files you may not actually have yet. It is also the most configurable and reliable method.

a) Open a folder using Windows Explorer. If you are using Windows 95/98 click on the View menu and select Folder Options… If you are using Windows ME/XP click on the Tools menu and select Folder Options… You can also access Folder Options in the Control Panel. Start>Settings>Control Panel>Folder Options.
b) Click on the File-types tab. You might have to wait a few seconds for the list of files to be displayed.
c) Select the file-type you wish to change the association of and click the Change button. Again you will see the Open With window and you can follow the instructions in the previous methods to select the program you want to use to open the file.

In the file-types window you can also set advanced options for opening the file. Be careful here if you do not know what you are doing. Also, do not change the associations for file-types you do not know as you may end up with serious system troubles.

This FAQ prepared by Graham Petrie. Last Updated: 20/10/2002

What if I am sent a file and don't know what to associate it with?

If you are sent a file and are asked what program you wish to open it with and you do not know what to use, go to this site (http://whatis.techtarget.com/fileFormatA/0,289933,sid9,00.html), look up the extension and you should be able to find out what program is required to open your file and see whether you have it or not.

Original FAQ available here (http://pressf1.pcworld.co.nz/thread.jsp?forum=1&thread=21545&message=56864&q=faq+%2313#56864).