macOS comes with a plethora of useful pre-installed apps, all of which make the Mac ready to go as soon as you take it out of the box. But you don’t have to use these programs if you don’t want to – in fact there are some brilliant alternatives.
While the likes of Mail, iTunes and Safari are set as the default applications on your Mac – meaning they launch automatically when you open an email, audio file or web link – it’s easy to give these duties to other apps of your choosing. So read on and we’ll show you a quick and easy way to change the default programs on a Mac. (After you’re finished, you’ll probably want to know how to delete the Mac apps you won’t be using.)
What are default apps?
Every time you double-click a certain type of file, say an MP3 or JPG, your Mac will automatically launch a preset application which you can use to interact with or edit the content. Generally this is helpful, but sometimes you might not want to launch iTunes to check a few seconds of an audio file, or have Pages appear when you want to edit a Word document.
In these instances you can do one of two things: temporarily change the app that your Mac uses, or make it so that that file type is always opened by a different app. We take you through both approaches below.
How to temporarily launch a file in a different app
This is very easy and it won’t change the way your Mac treats files of that type in the future.
Open the Finder and navigate to the file you want to use. Right-click on it to bring up the contextual menu. Here you’ll see the option Open With.
Highlight this and a list of usable apps will appear, with the default one at the top. Now simply select the alternative app that you want to use and the file will open in that program instead.
How to change the default apps that open files
For a longer-term solution you’ll need to go through individual applications and change them manually.
Sadly there isn’t a list of default apps anywhere that allows you to quickly adjust them en masse, but it doesn’t take long to switch them out for your preferred options. Plus you can always change them back again afterwards if you find you liked the Apple offerings more.
Changing the default browser
Safari is the browser of choice on macOS, but if you’ve installed Firefox, Opera, Chrome or any other Mac web browsers you’ve probably been asked by those newcomers to make them the default instead.
If you resisted those requests at the time you can still make the switch now. Open up System Preferences (the grey icon with a gear inside it) and select General.
In here you’ll see, about halfway down the page, a setting for the Default web browser. Click on the dropdown menu and you’ll see all of the browsers you currently have installed, with the default one marked as such. To set a new one just click on your portal of choice.
Changing your email application
Mail is an old stalwart, but it lacks some of the cooler features of modern email clients. To swap these over you’ll need to open the Mail app, click on Mail > Preferences then open up the dropdown menu beside Default email reader.
In here you’ll see Mail and any other email clients that you have installed. Select the one you want and from now on whenever you click an email address to begin composing a message, your new default app will open.
Changing default apps associated with certain file types
If you want to change a default app other than your browser or email client then you can still do so. Open up Finder, navigate to the file in question and right-click it to bring up the contextual menu. Select Get Info and then from the box that appears you’ll find, about halfway down, the heading Open with:
Click this and you’ll see the default app associated with this file type. Now click on the dropdown menu, select a new default, then click the Choose All button. From now on, all files of that type will open with the default app you selected.
That’s it. You’ve overcome the tyranny of default apps and are now ready to forge an existence on your own terms. What will you do with this new-found freedom? Well, you could start by checking out our guide to the Best free Mac apps to see if they match your vision for a brave new world.