How to Set Default Programs on a Mac

This detailed guide will take you step by step through the process of changing the ‘default programs’ on your Mac. You know how when you double-click a PNG file it opens in Preview? What if you want it to open in Photoshop by default instead? This guide shows you how to to just that – change the default App that’s used when you open a file.

Some common “I’d rather use this App when I open this kind of file” scenarios are:

  • Open PDF files with Preview instead of Adobe Acrobat
  • Open .txt files in an App other than Notepad
  • Open media files (MP3, MP4, AVI etc.) in VLC instead of iTunes or Quicktime
  • The process to switch default Apps is super-fast and easy to do, and easy to change again later any time you want.

    1. For the sake of this guide we’re going to switch .M3U files (commonly used as playlists) from opening in iTunes to the media player VLC. That doesn’t mean you need to do the same, this process is the identical no matter what type of file you’re dealing with.

      Locate a file of the type you want to switch. Right-click the file (or hold down the control button on your keyboard and then click on the file) and select Get Info from the context menu.

    2. the macOS file context menu with an arrow pointing at Get Info

    3. A window will appear with all kinds of info about that file. Locate the Open with: section and expand it (if necessary) by clicking the small ‘triangle’ icon. Click the ‘pull-down’ menu to open it.
    4. the Open With section of the macOS file info window

    5. If the App you want to open this type of file with from now on is listed, select it. Congrats, you also get to skip down to step #7. If the App you want to open this file with is not listed – don’t worry, just click the Other… item from the menu.
    6. changing one of the default programs on your Mac via the Get Info window

    7. A pop-up window will appear allowing you to pick the program you want to open this type of file with. Find the App by first selecting Applications and then scroll through the list. When you find the App, select it by clicking on it once. Now skip down to step #6. If the App you want to use to open the file with is ‘greyed out’ and you can’t select it – no problem.
    8. a File Select window in macOS

    9. Click the Enable: menu and select All Applications. Now the App you want to select will not be greyed out.
    10. an arrow pointing to All Applications in a list

    11. Make sure that the Always Open With box is checked, and then click the Add
      button.
    12. selecting one of the the mac programs to add as a default

    13. Almost done! Click the Change All… button.
    14. an arrow pointing to a change all button

    15. You’ll be prompted for confirmation – click Continue.
    16. an arrow pointing to a continue button

    17. Now just make sure that the App you want to use is the one listed as the (default) in the Open with: section.
    18. a Get Info window with one of the programs changed from the default to a new one

    19. Done! Repeat these steps for other file type associations you want to make – now you know how to change the default programs on your Mac :)

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