Set Default Programs in Windows 7

Windows 7 associates almost every file on your computer with a specific program. For example, Word 2007 files with the *.docx file extension are naturally associated with the Word 2007 application. However, you can manually change the default program with which various files open. Read on to learn how to set default programs in Windows 7.

What are Default Programs?

Most files on your computer have a file extension that is normally a three or four letter designation following the last dot in the file name. File extensions help Windows 7 associate the files with the appropriate program or application.

However, some files can be opened with multiple programs. For example, Rich Text Format (*.rtf) files are readable by just about every word processing program. To make life easier for you, Microsoft automatically associates files with programs for you.

In fact, Windows 7 will actually warn you if you try to change a file’s extension. Luckily, you can manually change the default programs and applications with which files are associated.

Windows 7 File Extension Renaming Warning

Change Program Default in Windows 7

To change the program defaults in Windows 7, begin by clicking on Start>All Programs and then locate and click on the Default Programs icon at the top of the list. If you can’t find this icon, you can search for Default Programs in the Search Programs And Files search box on the Start Menu.

Click on the Default Programs Icon

In the window that opens, click on Set Your Default Programs to open the programs default options window.

Choose Set Your Default Programs

In this window, you will notice on the left hand side there is a list of the programs you have installed on your computer. Click any of the programs and notice that you instantly get two options.

The first option allows you to automatically make this program the default application for files that are normally associated with it. Web browsers normally have files with *.htm, *.html, *.xhml, etc. extensions associated with them.

Clicking on the Firefox program on the left and then clicking Set This Program As Default would associate all web type files with Firefox. Of course, which programs appear on the left hand side of your window depends on which applications you have installed on your computer.

Windows 7 Set This Program as Default

There is a second option available to you that is much more configurable. You can actually associate some file extensions with one program and other file extensions with another.

Click on WordPad on the left hand side of the window and then click on Choose Defaults For This Program. In the window that opens, notice that you can split the normal file extension associations between or among multiple programs.

Windows 7 Set Associations for a Program

For example, *.docx and *.rtf files are both normally associated with Word 2007. However, you can use this window to associated only *.rtf with WordPad while leaving *.docx files associated with Word 2007. In this way, you can completely customize which files open with which programs by default.

Although Windows 7 does a good job of associating files with programs, you can customize which files open with which programs on a file extension by file extension basis. This allows you to set up your computer in a way that is most efficient for you.

Comments [1]

  1. I am trying to find how to associate the “edit” of a html file to a text editor. The thing is, if I change the program associated to html (browser) then I won’t be able to browse, so all I want to achieve is set the edit.

    It use to be possible on Windows NT. I am able to edit files from my local disk but I am trying to edit html files over ftp using FileZilla, and FileZilla simply lauch the files on the browser (default for opening and editing).

    So to summarise, I want to set the “edit” default program for html files to “my favorite text editor” and leave the “open” default to IE, for instance.

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