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Windows 10 Annoyance: Choose default apps

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Windows 10 ships with a new interface to choose default applications on the system. While the classic control panel applet is still there, most users of Windows 10 are probably exposed to the options in the new Settings application first.

To get there, press Windows-I to open the Settings app on a machine running Windows 10, and go to System > Default Apps afterwards.

There you find default applications listed for major tasks such as email, photo viewing, playing music or videos, or web browsing.

You may change the default program right there. Recently though I noticed that this is no longer possible. While I can click on a program to change it, selecting another won’t replace it at all.

But that is just a bug that is probably going to get sorted out in the future.

Choose default apps

The main complaint I have is that the “choose default apps by file type” and “choose default apps by protocol” configuration pages make things quite difficult for the user.

When you open the “by file type” configuration page for instance, Windows 10’s Settings app displays an ultra-long list of file extensions and associated programs.

You may set a program or app for any of the listed file types right there. The main issue is that there is no search or quick jump option. Want to change .html, .zip or .docx file associations on Windows 10?

Scroll down until you get there to do so. This is anything but practical and takes way too long to change file type associations.

The same is true for the “by protocol” listing, although it is a bit shorter as there fewer protocols available than file types (and many are custom protocols used by Windows apps).

The issue is the same however. There is no search, and you need to scroll to find the protocol you want to change.

If this would be a one-time operation, then you might be able to live with it. Considering that settings may reset after updates, it is unfortunately not the case usually.

Workaround solution

The best option you have currently is to use the “set default programs” Control Panel applet instead.

Click on “set defaults by app” under System > Default Apps in the Settings application to go there. You may open it directly as well:

  1. Use the keyboard shortcut Windows-Pause to open the System Control Panel window.
  2. Select All Control Panel Items in the address bar.
  3. Select Default Programs.
  4. Click on Set your default programs.

Tip: You may select “associate a file type or protocol with a program” for granular control.

Windows displays a list of installed programs on the page that opens. Simply select one of the programs that you want to make the default for a protocol or file type.

You have the option to set the program as the default for all file types and protocols that it claims that it supports, or select choose defaults for this program instead to select them individually.

Changing file and protocol associations this way worked on the system that would not let me change them using the Settings application.

Tip: While there is no search as well, you may tap on the first letter of the file type or protocol to jump to the first matching entry in the listing.

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