Tutorial Thursday

In Windows when you right-click on a file there will likely be an “Open With” menu that lists the various applications that can be used to open that specific file. I use it all of the time because there’s never really just one application that I want to open a file. For example, with HTML files the operating system naturally want to open them in a browser by default, but you may need to open them in Dreamweaver or Notepad to make some changes. The Open With menu makes that possible.

Today we’re going to show you how you can add or remove programs in the Open With menu. In the end you’ll truly appreciate how much easier it is to open files in several different applications that are installed on your Windows computer.

vista open with 

–Add Programs from Open With Menu–

Adding an application to the Open With menu is a pretty easy task, and can actually be done in a few different ways. The easiest way is probably to right-click on the type of file that you want to alter, go to the Open With menu, and click the Choose Default Program option pictured above. You should now see a window similar to this one:

vista open with browse
(Click to Enlarge)

The applications listed underneath the Recommended Programs section are the ones that already appear in the Open With menu, and then underneath those are some of the other apps installed on your computer. If the program you want to add to the menu is listed just select it and hit the OK button. Otherwise you can use the Browse button to hunt down the program on your computer.

One thing that you may want to think about before hitting the OK button is whether you want to make the new application the default for that specific type of file. If you don’t you’ll want to uncheck the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file box.

Any programs that you select from this window will be added to the Open With menu until you decide to remove them.

–Remove Programs from Open With Menu–

Unfortunately there is no fancy interface for removing programs from the Open With menu like there is for adding items. To do this you’ll need to fire up the Registry Editor by opening the Run command (Windows Key + R), and then typing regedit into the box. Messing with the Registry Editor is not for the faint of heart, and I recommend that you understand how it works before diving into it.

The programs listed in the Open With menu should be located in one of two locations in the Registry:

  1. HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ FileExts \ .FileExtension \ OpenWithList
  2. HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT \ .FileExtension \ OpenWithList

Note: Replace “.FileExtension” with the extension of the file for which you’re looking to modify the Open With menu.

You should find the applications listed according to their executable name, and all you have to do is right click on the entry and have it deleted:

vista open with registry

Tip: If you’re having troubles finding the application listed in the Registry Editor it might be easier to perform a search for the name of the executable. Just make sure that the entry you are deleting is located underneath an OpenWithList entry.

After you’ve successfully deleted the OpenWithList entries related to an extension you’ll want to restart your computer to see the changes take place.


So that’s how the Open With menu works! If you’ve got any suggestions as to easier ways to manage the Open With menu we would love to hear them.