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How to set default apps on macOS

macOS has some of the best apps for everyday tasks but that doesn’t mean everyone loves or uses them. Lots of people still prefer to use Chrome instead of Safari on macOS. Likewise, not everyone uses the default Mail app either. Here’s how you can change default apps on macOS. We’re going to detail the process for general files, and for browsers and mail clients separately.

General files

For general files like text files, images, or media files, you need to have at least one type of the file present on your system. Right-click it and select Get Info from the context menu.

In the window that opens, look for the Open With section. There will be a dropdown under it. Open the dropdown and select the app you want to set as the default app for that file type. Once you’ve selected the app, click ‘Change all’. You will get a prompt telling you that the default app will be changed for all files of that type. Confirm the change and it will be applied.


Open the System Preferences app and go to the General preference. There is a setting here for Browsers. Open it and it will list all the browsers installed on your Mac. Select the one you want to use as the default browser.

Mail client

In order to change the default mail client, you need to open the Mail app. Don’t worry if you do not have any email account set up. Once the app is open, go to its preferences (tap Command+,).

On the General tab, there’s a dropdown called ‘Default email reader’. Open it, and select a different email client. You must, of course, have a different email client installed on your Mac or it will not appear in this list. Unfortunately, only email apps will be listed here so apps like browsers that can handle mailto; requests will not show up in the list.

For most other app types e.g., movies, audio files, text files, and even Plist files, you will set the default app by following the general files method.

You can also set a default app on a per-file basis. There’s a built-in option on macOS that lets you do that, and we have a detailed article on how to set it.

The default apps can be changed any time you like and the change doesn’t require admin rights. macOS won’t stop you from setting an incompatible app as the default app for a particular file so make sure the app you’re using as the default app for a certain file type can actually open it.

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