CyberNotes
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.

–Overview–

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.

There Are 32 Comments

  1. Quite interesting tip, I come across lot of extensions which have unwanted programs displayed under the open with option this will definitely help to clean them up

  2. Nice article.

    You can also use the OpenWithView application from NirSoft to
    enable/disable items in the list.

    [nirsoft.net]

  3. Nice to know the registry location.

    Another app that rocks for this is OpenExpert.

    [baxbex.com]

    who

  4. Is there any way/registry key to remove apps from the Open With DIALOG that comes up? Often, I find uninstalled apps still lying there.

  5. The How-To Geek wrote:
    Nice article.

    You can also use the OpenWithView application from NirSoft to
    enable/disable items in the list.

    [nirsoft.net]

    That would probably make it a bit easier for removing some of the entries. Thanks!

    whofysh wrote:
    Nice to know the registry location.

    Another app that rocks for this is OpenExpert.

    [baxbex.com]

    I did actually try that out, but didn’t want to recommend it because it really messed up my Open With menu on Vista.

    Anonymous wrote:
    Is there any way/registry key to remove apps from the Open With DIALOG that comes up? Often, I find uninstalled apps still lying there.

    Checkout the app that the How-To Geek mentioned above. Alternatively you can scan your registry for the name of the executable file.

  6. Thanks Ryan.

  7. For some file extensions, I am not able to get a program into the “recommended programs” list. The program always remains in the “other programs” list. Does anybody know a way to solve this?

    • To eliminate a program from showing in the “Other Programs” list of the “Open With” context option, use reg-edit to find it in Computer\HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications and delete it.

  8. In Windows XP, you can add, edit, and delete “Open with…” entries using “Folder Options”, accessed either through the Control Panel or under the “Tools” menu in Windows Explorer. On the “File Types” tab, you can select a file type (extension) and click on the “Advanced” button.

    Looks like they made it easier to add programs in Vista, but harder to remove them, and they took away some more of the controls (you can include command-line switches when you edit an action in XP).

    • my problem is i picked up this open with virus every time i click something and it turns firefox on. cant access any files.

  9. Tobias wrote:
    For some file extensions, I am not able to get a program into the “recommended programs” list. The program always remains in the “other programs” list. Does anybody know a way to solve this?

    Which extensions are you having problems with? I assume that there is a default program associated with the extension already?

  10. Ryan wrote:
    Which extensions are you having problems with? I assume that there is a default program associated with the extension already?

    .dvr-ms : the default program is “Windows Media Center”, but I would also like to be able to quickly open them with “VLC Media Player”. The only “recommended programs” always stay “Windows Media Center” and “Windows Media Player”.

  11. Tobias wrote:
    Ryan wrote:
    Which extensions are you having problems with? I assume that there is a default program associated with the extension already?

    .dvr-ms : the default program is “Windows Media Center”, but I would also like to be able to quickly open them with “VLC Media Player”. The only “recommended programs” always stay “Windows Media Center” and “Windows Media Player”.

    Have you tried setting it as the default program yet? I’m not sure why it’s not showing up in the recommended list, but there’s got to be a reason. Also, are you using an installed version of VLC or a portable version?

  12. Ryan wrote:
    Have you tried setting it as the default program yet? I’m not sure why it’s not showing up in the recommended list, but there’s got to be a reason. Also, are you using an installed version of VLC or a portable version?

    Yes, I did set it as default programm but that didn’t change it.
    It is the installed version of VLC.
    I just don’t understand how it is decided which programs are retained as “recommended programs”.

  13. Tobias wrote:
    Ryan wrote:
    Have you tried setting it as the default program yet? I’m not sure why it’s not showing up in the recommended list, but there’s got to be a reason. Also, are you using an installed version of VLC or a portable version?

    Yes, I did set it as default programm but that didn’t change it.
    It is the installed version of VLC.
    I just don’t understand how it is decided which programs are retained as “recommended programs”.

    The recommended programs are normally determined by which programs you use to open a given file type. I’ve never had it not add an option to the list that I’ve manually went and browsed for. If you tried setting it as the default program for the type of file, and it didn’t change then that is probably part of the problem.

  14. When I installed Office 07, it removed Excel from the “Open With” list for .txt files.

  15. Used Nirsoft to get handle on the open with.
    It didn’t appear on the all programs list.
    I found it in a temprotry file, copied it to the desktop then made a folder, entered 4 items and moved the folder to the programs list but it still doesn’t appear in all programs.
    What to do to get it into all programs?
    Thanks,
    Bill

  16. can I possibly export the whole openwith tree in registry (above reference) on my Pro machine and import to Home machine?

    Please let me know please!!!!!!!!!!

  17. [dougknox.com]
    works sooooooo easy

    Clear Dynamic “Open With” Lists
    Copyright 2002 – Doug Knox

    When you right click on a file in Windows XP, one of your options is Open With. This listing of programs contains some that are predefined and some that are added because you chose a program that wasn’t on the list. Over time this list can build up to quite a number of programs.

    Clear Open With Lists will allow you to selectively remove the “dynamic” portion of this list for a file extension that you choose (from a list). Or, if you prefer, you can remove all “dynamic” entries for all file extensions.

    Future enhancements include the ability to select multiple extensions and/or individual “dynamic” entries.

    Operating System(s): Windows XP Only. This utility will run on other OS’s, but has not been verified to work. VB 6 Runtime library required (included in Windows XP).

    Download Clear Open With Lists here.

  18. Well, I use Windows Vista and have put TWO Windows Photo Galleries in the list by mistake & It doesn’t work! :evil: It can’t be deleted. :cry:

  19. By the way, WPG’s ext is .lhk :mrgreen:

  20. What if the program I want to remove from ‘open with’ is not listed in the registry and the extension in question has no ‘open with menu’ in the registry?

  21. everytime i try to go on the internet that menu pops up and i cant click the “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file” box what do i do?

  22. is there anyway i could take this out and put it back to normal..

    i cant even do disk cleanup without opening it with something..plz someone help me

  23. hi i’ve entered a sortcut of my hard disc at the OpenWithList i run win xp how can i remove it? Thanks very much.

  24. What version of Windows is this instruction for? I have Win XP and don’t have either of those registry paths.

  25. I was wondering which file is the original file used to “open with” when trying to download? I have used the “open with” rpogram to help disable the ones I used. Now I’m just trying to restore my “open with” window to it’s original state.

  26. I am using Windows XP machine and I was tring to get a list of “Recommended Programs” programmatically. From you article say for a .txt file the first registry key is fine however for the second one I do not see any OpenWithList key under any .extention key only OpenWithProgIds. For a .txt file on my machine I get a list of 4 items appearing off the “Open With” -> sub menu and the same 4 items appear in the “Recommened Programs” list when I select “Choose Program…” menu option form windows explorer however; the first registry key only gives me 2 items, namely notepad and notepad++ (which the administrator installed). The other 2 are WordPad and another program I installed. So if the “HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.txt\OpenWithList” registry does not exists then where else can I look in the registry?

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