HOWTO: Set The Default Program To Open Certain File Types in Mac OS X (EG: jpg, gif, etc)

Mac OS X Open With...Description

It can be quite annoying when you double click a file and it opens a program you don’t want or expect.

This HOWTO article describes the simple process of setting the default program on your Mac that opens any file type.
You’ll mostly want to open pictures such as jpg, gif, etc with a certain program but you can apply this solution to almost any file type.


  • When you double click a particular file or type of file in Finder or from your desktop the wrong program opens the file
  • You are presented with a dialog box saying There is no default application specified to open the document….


In OSX, most files have an extension which is usually 3 characters long. For example, some common picture files are usually .jpg, .gif, .tif and .png. Files with these extensions will behave in one of two ways when double clicked –

  1. Launch a program associated with the file extension OR
  2. OSX will prompt you with the message: There is no default application specified to open the document…

The solutions below will discuss both situations and how to select or change the desired program that launches your file.

Solution 1 – Change Registered File Type

  1. In Finder or from your Desktop, right click or CTRL+Click on the file that you want to change the launch program for
  2. Click Get Info. The info box will appear
  3. The fourth section down from General is the Open With... section. Click the down arrow on the field in this section and either choose an application or select Other to browse for an application elsewhere on your Mac.
  4. When you have selected an application you can either close the Info box and this will just make the selected file open with your chosen application or you can click the Change All… button.
  5. If you click the Change All.. button you will then be asked for confirmation that you want all similar documents to open with your chosen application. Click Continue if this is what you want.
  6. Close the Info box and you’re done!

Solution 2 – Use ‘Open With…’ Context Menu Option

  1. In Finder or from your Desktop, right click or CTRL+Click on the file that you want to change the launch program for
  2. Select Open With and then select Other…
  3. When the Choose Application dialog appears locate the application you want to use for opening the selected file type and then place a check mark in the box Always Open With
  4. Click Open
  5. Your file will open in your chosen application and the selected file will always open with that application from now on
Mac OS X Finder: Open With.... Context Menu

Mac OS X Finder: Open With.... Context Menu

A helpful tip. This method will only change the default launch program for the selected file and not all files of the same type. For all files, use Solution 1 above.

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  1. I go through the motions for solution 1, but after I go back from the confimation window it has changed back.

  2. Your explanation is great. Here’s my problem, and maybe you can help. I need to undo the “Always Open With”. Can’t find a thing about doing this! So if you know, I’ll be very appreciative.

  3. Hi Sarah…

    To Undo the Always Open With you would simply overwrite the setting by setting Always Open With to another Application.

    Would that achieve what you want to do or is it something more complex?


  4. Here’s my dumb question: for some reason, most of the files I open, open in QuickTime Player — even though they’re word docs or text/image scans and I can’t actually see the whole doc with QTP. I wonder if I inadvertently did something to set QTP as the default open with application…? Is there a way to “undo” it one time, instead of file by file? Thanks!

    • Hi Olivia,

      Have you tried using the ‘Change All’ button as in Step 4 in Solution 1?

      You will need to do this for each affected file type but not every file! So for example, open the Info inspector (Right Click > Get Info) for any Word file (i.e. doc) on your Mac, select Microsoft Word in the Open With…. section and then click Change All button. This will make all Word files open with Microsoft Word. You can repeat this process for any other file type on your Mac that isn’t opening correctly. So for text files, select the TextEdit application and then click Change All.. and so on.

      Hope this helps.


  5. Here’s a brain twister. I have the adobe suite package. I have thousands of eps files, some that need to open in photoshop and some that need to open in illustrator. When I “change all” eps files to open in photoshop, both my photoshop and illustrator eps files open in photoshop and vice versa. How do I get photoshop eps files to open in photoshop and illustrator eps files to open in illustrator?

    • Hi Mike,
      I love a good brain twister. 🙂

      I’ve come across this problem before with other file types and there are a number of possible solutions.

      Option 1. You can manually change the application that an individual file opens with (as opposed to the application a file type opens with). To do this simply right click a file, click Get Info and select the App in the drop down box “Open With:”.
      Option 2. As you say you have quite a number of these files I’m guessing this won’t suit you so another option is to use Apple Scripts and Workflows. These are easier to set up then it sounds. Open the Automator App (click Spotlight and type Automator) > at the welcome screen choose Folder Action > on the right side, choose the folder containing the files you always want to open with say Illustrator > on the left side in the library choose Files & Folders > then to the right, drag the item ‘Set Application for Files’ to the right side and drop it there > now select Illustrator from the Application drop down field > click File, Save and give your Workflow a name. Now anything you keep in your nominated folder will automatically be associated with Illustrator.
      Option 3. The 3rd option and my fav is to ‘invent’ a new extension. For example, for text files I use both .TXT and .TXTS extensions and I associate them with two different applications. It’s clean and easy. The only hitch is that you need to give them the proper extension if you’re ever sharing the files with anyone else!

      Hope this helps!


      • Thanks a lot! I tend to forget about all of the programs Mac’s come with to make your life easier. I went with door #2 and it is definitely helping. It’s like I took Excedrin for a really bad hangover and it’s starting to kick in. It did take some massive organization on my part, but it’s always good to be organized. Thanks again. I will definitely be coming back to this site if I have another question.

  6. Hey, is there a way to change the default application to “” with “.DAT” files?

  7. Currently my MS word docs are opening with Word 2011 (which I recently installed but am not comfortable working with yet). I’m trying to change the open all MS Word with Word 2008 as stated in solution 1, but it keeps going back to Word 2011. Any help would be most appreciated.

  8. I had the Standard CS5 suite installed on a Mac. I just installed Illustrator CS5.1 Middle East version.
    The regular CS5 and the ME versions look identical to the user. I renamed the new app to Adobe Illustrator CS5.1-ME.

    Now, all Illustrator docs want to open in ME.

    I have tried Method 1 and get the same results as some others…the change doesn’t stick after clicking “Change All”…….I change it to Adobe Illustrator CS5…I click Change All and it reverts to Adobe Illustrator CS5.1-ME.

    The ME was installed last. How do I make it default