How to make Office 2016 or 2019 or 365 your default Microsoft Office application?

Last updated: September 2019

Applicable to the following Office versions: 2019,2016,2013, 365; Windows 7, Windows 10.

Here’s a question we received from one of our readers:

“I’ve installed a new version of Office 365 in my system but it’s clearly not defined as the default program for viewing and edition my Office files. After installation all my documents, workbooks and presentations are showing up in the Windows File Explorer as unknown file types. Can you help me to define Office 365  as the file opener for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Visio files over older Office versions?”

Thanks for the question. In this post we will learn how to set your new Office version (being it 2016 / 365 or 2019) as default for the Microsoft Office files types you just mentioned above.

Making Office 2016/2019 the default program  instead of older versions

Windows allows us to associate the newer Office version to all relevant files by executing a Quick Repair action from the Control panel. Steps are described below:

  • Open the Control Panel in your system and click Programs and Features.

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  • Search and check on Microsoft Office 2016.
  • Click on it and hit Change present at the top.

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  • Check on Quick repair to fix the issues and select Repair.
  • Mostly repairing will fix you with the issues, but if still the issue is not cleared try the manual process.

Set your default programs/apps manually

Setting Excel 2016 / 365 as default spreadsheet program:

  • Right click on any .xlsx file in your computer, then go ahead and select Open with and select Choose another app.

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  • Click on Excel 2016 and check on Always use this app to open .xlsx files.

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  • Now you can see that all .xlsx files default program is set to Excel 2016.

Note: Using a similar procedure, will allow you to make Excel the default program for csv, Google Sheets, Open Office.

Word 2016 / 365

If Microsoft Word 2016 is not your default program for opening documents proceed as following:

  • Right click on the .docx file, move over open with and select Choose another app.

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  • Click on Word 2016 and check on Always use this app to open .docx files.

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  • Now you can see that all .docx files default program is set to Word 2016.

PowerPoint 2016:

If Powerpoint 2016 doesn’t open your presentations, proceed as following:

  • Right click on the .pptx file, move over open with and select Choose another app.

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  • Click on PowerPoint 2016 and check on Always use this app to open .pptx files.

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  • You are all set.

Setting defaults in Windows 10

Note: You can execute the steps above in Windows 10 using the Default apps screen. Here’s how you do it:

  • Hit the Search Windows magnifying glass icon (located at the left hand side of your task bar).
  • In the search box, type ‘Default’; and select Choose a default app…
  • Then for each known/relevant file type, select the default opening app.

Additional notes:

  • There might be cases, mainly around compatibility with older file formats, in which you might want to leaver the older Office versions (2010 and older) as default.
  • There might be cases in which Word, Powerpoint or Excel 2016, will not be listed in the default program list. If that’s the case immediately after you have installed the new version, you might want to restart your computer and re-check. If there is still an issue, you might need to re-run the installation program.
  • Compatibility issues might arise when trying to open Microsoft Office files in Open Office, Libre and Google Docs.


Leave a Comment:

Courtney Anne Pizzo says April 4, 2018

Thank you!! The repair worked.

Peter Marko says April 21, 2018

I have been frustrated by the issue of Windows 10 not offering the option of selecting a desktop application for setting the default program when you are trying to do this through Default app settings > Set defaults by app > Excel 2016 > Manage. Using this standard approach, only the “Look for an app in the Store” is shown (i.e. it is not possible to choose a desktop app) – I am using the desktop apps of Office 365. This was so easy to do in earlier versions of Windows (through Control Panel).

The fix described here is simple and it works (luckily, Microsoft has not been successful with clobbering Windows/File Explorer, as it was with switching everything away from the powerful Control Panel to the dumb Settings app). Thank you for taking the time to post this!

Dave says June 21, 2019

First solution that worked after several other searches led to dead ends. Much appreciated

dandre says July 8, 2019

to make office 365 your default. you must log into office 365 via your web browser then make that browser your default program for opening Microsoft docs and excels files.

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