Default Programs is a control panel that is split into four programs. Set Your Default Programs, Associate A File Type Or Protocol With A Program, Change AutoPlay Settings and Set Program Access And Computer Defaults. In this section I will explain SET YOUR DEFAULT PROGRAMS which allows you to set a program as the default (normally used) program and also allows you to set the Protocols and File Types for a program regardless if that program is the default program or not.
To use the Default Programs control panel go to the Control Panel and click on the DEFAULT PROGRAMS icon. This will bring up the Default Programs window (Fig 1.1).
Fig 1.0 - Click on the DEFAULT PROGRAMS link to continue
Fig 1.1 - The Default Programs window - Click on the SET YOUR DEFAULT PROGRAMS link.
When the Default Programs window appears click on the SET YOUR DEFAULT PROGRAMS link (above) to continue. Doing so will make the Set Default Programs window appear (below) whereby it then compiles and displays a list of eligible programs - Eligible programs that can be set as the Default Program for a number of file types and protocols.
Fig 1.2 - The Set Default Programs window is compiling (creating) a list of eligible programs
Fig 1.3 - The list of eligible programs - Select a program and then click on the SET THIS PROGRAM AS DEFAULT button to continue
When the list of eligible programs are ready for use click on one to view its options. In this example I already have Firefox set as my default web (internet) browser but now I want Internet Explorer 11 to be my default web (internet) browser. It currently only has 8 out of 15 of its possible protocols/file types set (as default) but after clicking on the SET THIS PROGRAM AS DEFAULT button the other 7 protocols/file types, currently being used by Firefox, will be set as default for Internet Explorer 11. Therefore Internet Explorer 11 will have 15 out of 15 of its possible protocols/file types set as default. In other words: Internet Explorer 11 will become the default program for those 15 protocols/file types (i.e. the default program that displays web (html) pages for example).
A Protocol is a set of File Formats and Procedures that enable computers to exchange information. For example: FTP (File Transfer Protocol) tells a program, such as Internet Explorer 11, how it should transfer files between two computers whereas the HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) tells a program, such as Internet Explorer 11, how to manage Security among other things when shopping online for example. As a beginner you should not concern yourself too much with setting the Protocols for a default program.
Fig 1.4 - Internet Explorer 11 is now the default web browser (program) - Click on the CHOOSE DEFAULTS FOR THIS PROGRAM button
Now that Internet Explorer 11 is set as the default web browser (program) the next thing to do is check what other protocols/file types, if any, Internet Explorer 11 is using or not using by default, by clicking on the CHOOSE DEFAULTS FOR THIS PROGRAM button (above). This will present you with the Set Program Associations window (below). The settings on this window allow you to set (switch on/tick), or clear (switch off/untick), the default File Types (file extensions), Protocols and Start Menu link(s) used by the default program (i.e. Internet Explorer 11).
In the case of Internet Explorer 11, in this example, because it is currently set as the default web browser (program) it means you can not change any of the settings. Ticking SELECT ALL will not work simply because all of the settings are selected already, and because you can not untick any settings in order to select them all again. However.....
Fig 1.5 - No settings can be selected or changed as this is the default program
.....If Firefox was set as the default web browser for example you could select INTERNET EXPLORER, from the list of eligible programs, and then click on the CHOOSE DEFAULTS FOR THIS PROGRAM button to change Internet Explorer 11's settings. In that case the .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html file types (file extensions) would be unticked (Fig 1.7 below) to mean Firefox is the program that currently opens .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html files (web pages) and is therefore still the default web browser, but that you can also set (tick) these four settings so that Internet Explorer 11 will be the program to open .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html files (web pages) and therefore become the default web browser for opening web pages (with file extensions of .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html only).
Fig 1.6 - The list of eligible programs - Select a program and then click on the SET THIS PROGRAM AS DEFAULT button to continue
Fig 1.7 - Firefox is the program that currently opens .htm and .html files
Fig 1.8 - Internet Explorer 11 will be the program to open .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html files after the SAVE button is clicked on
So to clarify. Firefox is currently the default web browser (program) because it currently opens .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html files (as shown in Fig 1.7 above) but as soon as you set Internet Explorer 11 to open .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html files, by ticking .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html, it becomes the default web browser. This is only technically true though because the reality is that all protocols and file types would need to be set for a web browser program to truly become the default web browser. I say default web browser above to really mean default for showing .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html files only, which are web page files. Other web page files include .php files and .css files for example. Anyway! Do not worry too much about these finer technical details.
Fig 1.9 - Internet Explorer 11 has gained four defaults.....
When you return to the Set Default Programs window, after clicking on the SAVE button, Firefox will have four of its defaults missing (4 out of 8 defaults) because the .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html defaults (file types) are now being used by Internet Explorer 11. Internet Explorer 11 will therefore of gained four defaults. Instead of 8 out of 15 defaults it will now have 12 out of 15 defaults. To prove the .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html defaults now belong to Internet Explorer 11 double click on a web page file and it should open with Internet Explorer 11.
Fig 1.10 - .....and Firefox has lost four defaults.
If you open a web page file with Firefox, either by using its FILE menu >> OPEN FILE menu-item or by right clicking on a web page file and using the OPEN WITH menu-item, that web page file will be displayed with Firefox but Firefox might complain it is not the default web browser (below) depending on its internal settings and other web browser's settings (as described above).
Fig 1.11 - Click on USE Firefox AS MY DEFAULT BROWSER to make Firefox open .xht, .xhtml, .htm and .html files by default again
At this point Set Default Programs probably seems useless, but that is where you would be mistaken. Set Default Programs really shines when used with Media Players as it means you could have each installed media player set up to play its native media. For example: If you install three different media players, as each media player is installed it will more than likely want to be the default media player and also want to be the default .mp3 file player for example. With a program like ITunes you might only want it used for your IPod protocols and file types and have Windows Media Player set up for your .mp3 files. With Set Default Programs this is possible.
You would simply use SET YOUR DEFAULT PROGRAMS as explained above to set the default media program to ITunes for example, therefore no messing around guessing which protocols and file types belong to ITunes, and then select Windows Media Player from the list of eligible programs and then use CHOOSE DEFAULTS FOR THIS PROGRAM to make Windows Media Player the media player for playing .mp3 files.
In the example below iTunes is currently set to play .mp3 audio (music) files and Quicktime is currently set to play .mpg and mpeg audio/video (movie) files, but I want Windows Media Player to play these types of file (file types). In this case I have selected Windows Media Player from the list of eligible programs and then clicked on CHOOSE DEFAULTS FOR THIS PROGRAM. From there I have selected (ticked) the .mp3, .mpeg and .mpg file types and will now click on the SAVE button to make .mp3, .mpeg and .mpg files play in Windows Media Player by default, even though iTunes and QuickTime have set their own defaults for other file types during their installation processes. Hence another reason to make changes.
Fig 1.12 - Select the file types you want another program to open, by default.
The above states that iTunes is currently set to play .mp3 audio (music) files and Quicktime is currently set to play .mpg and mpeg audio/video (movie) files, but as soon as I click on the SAVE button Windows Media Player will be the current default program to play .mp3, .mpeg and .mpg files. The same could not be said for the .wmv (Windows Media Audio/Video) file type simply because QuickTime does not play .wmv files. The .wmv file type is not listed in its list of file types (Associations). Windows Media Player is set as the default media player for the .wmv file type instead, even though QuickTime has been set as the overall default media player. The .wmv file type is native to Windows Media Player. If you set QuickTime as the default media player and then try and open/play a .wmv file with QuickTime, QuickTime will complain.
Fig 1.13 - QuickTime can not play a native .wmv (Windows Media Audio/Video) file
The key to using Set Default Programs successfully is knowing which protocols and file types are native to a particular program or piece of software. And one of the best ways of knowing is to search the Internet.