1. Computer Skills

Quick Tip: How to Change the Default Application to Open Files

Scroll to top
Read Time: 4 min

In a previous article, Removing Duplicates in ‘Open With’ Using Terminal, I’ve covered how to clean up your options for opening files with different applications. In this Quick Tip I will show you how you can change the default application that opens your files.

I won't be using Terminal or any third party applications, so you won't need to dive into any code, nor download any applications. Read on to see why you might want to change the default application and how you can do so easily.

Why Change the Default Application?

Before I explain how to change the default application, it’s important to know why you might want to. Apple’s OS X comes shipped with some great software -- applications that allow you to watch movies and open pictures, and more! It is meant to allow you to be able to use your new Mac immediately.

There are apps, however, that are sometimes better suited to a person’s needs, and they wish for more than the default app. For example QuickTime is the default player for viewing movies, but you may prefer MPlayerX or VLC. If that’s the case, then you don’t want to have to right click (Alt click) and select your new app from the Open With drop-down every time you watch a movie - you want to know that every MP4 file will open with your preferred app.

Alt Open Image

Alt Open Image

Some of you may have noticed that when viewing the ‘right click’ menu for a video or image file, if you hold down Alt it will swap Open With to Always Open With. This will only change the application to open for this specific file - meaning this file will always open in the app you choose, regardless of what you set as the default opener for that file type. There are times when this is necessary, just as there are times when you want to open just one file in a different application - where you simply right click and select that from the Open With option. Yet sometimes you need to change what application is opened by a file type, and in this tutorial I’m going to explain how.

Changing the Default App

If you want to change the default app that opens a certain file type, you need to find a file that has the correct file type. So if you want all PNG files to open in a new app, you will need an PNG image to perform this.

Step 1

Locate your file and right click (Alt click) on the icon. This will bring you a menu with a number of actions on it. Click on Get Info

Get InfoGet InfoGet Info

Select Get Info

Step 2

You will be presented with a window that looks like the image below. Here is all the information about the file you selected, including where it is located on the Mac, the size of it and much more. What I am interested in is the section in the red box.

get Info viewget Info viewget Info view

The Open with: section shows the current app that this file type opens with, and the clicking on it reveals a drop-down that hosts the different application types you can choose. Click on it to reveal the drop-down

Step 3

Drop down of application choices

Drop down of application choices

You will now be presented with something similar to the image above - a list of all the applications that can open this file type. Select which one you wish to be the new default application.

Tip: If your application is not in this list, you can select Other at the bottom of the list to browse through all your applications on your Mac

Step 4

Setting the new default application

Setting the new default application

Having selected your new application, you will need to select Change All for the effects to come into play.


Press Continue in the popup dialogue and you are all set!

Having changed the default application, for any given filetype, each time you open that filetype your new chosen application will be used. You can, of course, change this at any time by following the instructions in this quick tip, again.


In this tutorial I have shown you how you can change the default application to open certain file types. For many the basic Mac setup may be just fine, but for those more advanced users who work in Photoshop for example may wish for all PNG files to bring them there, rather than Preview. Hopefully this tutorial has helped you customise your Mac more to your liking, and if you have any questions, drop a comment below and I’ll try to answer your queries.

Did you find this post useful?
Want a weekly email summary?
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Computer Skills tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.
Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.