In Windows, when you double click a file, it opens in the default program which is registered to handle it. But you can right click that file and choose Open With to choose another program to open it with. Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 made some changes to the Open With dialog and turned it into a floating Metro style window. Let us see how we can get the Windows 7 style classic Open With dialog back.
The need to get back the classic Open With dialog is not just due to aversion to change. The new Metro style floating Open With dialog has very poor mouse and keyboard usability. You can't jump using accelerator keys directly to the program you are using. Also, in this new dialog, too many mouse clicks and too much scrolling is required just to locate a program on the local PC. Finally, another issue with the Metro Open With dialog is that it no longer respects Group Policy settings.
Fortunately, a third party developer has recreated the classic Open With dialog and added additional functionality as well. His app which is free is called OpenWith Enhanced. Not only does it have the same keyboard and mouse usability of the original classic Open With dialog but it also supports the Group Policies which you have configured on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.
Open With Enhanced replaces the standard Windows Open With dialog completely. If some program you need to open a particular file type is not installed on your PC, it can also suggest new apps. You can also customize the colors it uses for installed applications vs suggested applications.
There is one minor caveat however of installing this app - you will be unable to change the defaults using this dialog. To change the defaults, you will need to use the Default Programs Control Panel. In Windows 8, Microsoft removed the ability for all third party apps to programmatically change file associations or defaults. This functionality is now exclusively handled by the Default Programs Control Panel and the Metro style floating dialog. Since Open With Enhanced replaces the Metro style floating dialog, the only other way to change the defaults is the Default Programs Control Panel.
If no program is associated with a particular extension, then Open With Enhanced will be able to associate it with the file extension. It's only when more than 2 programs are installed to handle the same file type, you will have to use the Default Programs Control Panel.
As long as you are willing to use the Default Programs Control Panel to change which app opens the associated file when you double click it, Open With Enhanced is a good substitute to get back the usability of the old dialog. You can use it to open your files in secondary apps and avoid the annoyances of the floating Metro style Open With dialog.
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