Photoshop Essentials.com - Tutorials and training for Adobe Photoshop.

Make Photoshop Your Default Image Editor In Windows

Written by Steve Patterson. In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to make Photoshop your default program for viewing and editing photos on a Windows PC. Even though Photoshop comes with a great file management and organizer program called Adobe Bridge, many people still use Windows itself to locate and open their images. The problem is, by default, Windows doesn’t open our images in Photoshop. Instead, it prefers to open them in Windows Photo Viewer. Or it may be opening them in some other program you’ve installed. Since Photoshop is obviously our image editor of choice, let’s learn how to easily configure Windows so our photos will automatically open in Photoshop every time.

Download our tutorials as print-ready PDFs! Learning Photoshop has never been easier!

First, navigate to a folder on your computer’s hard drive that contains one or more of your photos. Here, I’ve opened a folder that’s sitting on my desktop. Inside the folder are three photos that were saved as standard JPEG files. How do I know they’re JPEG files? I know because of the ".jpg" extension at the end of their file names:

A folder containing three JPEG files. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Open a folder in Windows that contains some images.

Before we go any further, we should stop here for a moment and make sure you’re actually seeing the file extensions because Windows may not be displaying them. If all you’re seeing are the names of your photos with no file extensions after the names, press the Alt key on your keyboard. This will display a short menu bar along the top of your document window. Go to the Tools menu and choose Folder options:

Selecting Folder Options from the Tools menu in the document window. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Press “Alt” to view the menu bar, then go to Tools > Folder options.

This opens the Folder Options dialog box. Along the top are three tabs – General, View and Search. Click on the View tab to switch to the View options, then down in the Advanced settings, look for the Hide extensions for known file types option and uncheck it so it’s turned off:

The Folder Options dialog box in Windows. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Uncheck the “Hide extensions for known file types” option if it’s selected.

Click OK to close out of the Folder Options dialog box. You should now see the file type extensions listed at the end of your file names inside the document window.

Let’s try opening one of the photos to see what happens. I’ll double-click on the “three_kids.jpg” photo in my folder to open it:

Opening a photo in Windows. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Opening a photo inside the folder by double-clicking on its thumbnail.

Even though I have the latest version of Photoshop – the world’s most powerful image editor – installed on my computer, Windows completely ignores it and instead opens my photo in the much less useful Windows Photo Viewer:

The photo has been opened in Windows Photo Viewer. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Windows Photo Viewer – great for viewing photos, but not much else.

That’s obviously not what I wanted, so I’ll close out of Windows Photo Viewer by clicking on the Close icon in the top right corner of the viewer:

Clicking the Close icon in the top right of Windows Photo Viewer. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Closing out of Windows Photo Viewer.

So how do we tell Windows to automatically open not just this one photo but all of our photos in Photoshop? It’s actually very simple. First, right-click on the photo’s thumbnail inside the folder:

Right-clicking on the photo thumbnail in the folder. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Right-clicking on the photo’s thumbnail.

This opens a menu with various options. Select Open with, then select Choose default program:

Choosing a default program to open my JPEG files. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Go to Open with > Choose default program.

This opens the Open With dialog box where you can choose a new default program for opening your JPEG files. Listed at the top are the Recommended Programs, the ones that Windows considers to be your best choices based on what’s currently installed on your computer. Photoshop may or may not appear in the list. If it is, go ahead and click on it to select and highlight it (but don’t close out of the dialog box just yet). In my case, Photoshop is not listed, and if you don’t see it either, click on the small arrow icon to open the Other Programs section for more options:

The Open With dialog box in Windows. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
If Photoshop is not listed in the Recommended Programs section, click on the arrow to view more choices.

This time, in the Other Programs section, Windows does include Photoshop in the list, so I’ll click on it to select and highlight it. If you have more than one version of Photoshop installed, you may see more than one version of Photoshop in the list, so in that case, select the most recent version:

Choosing Photoshop as my default image editor in Windows. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Selecting Photoshop in the Other Programs list.

If, for some reason, Photoshop did not appear either in the Recommended Programs or Other Programs lists, you’ll need to click on the Browse button and manually navigate to wherever Photoshop is installed on your hard drive:

Clicking the Browse button to manually locate Photoshop on my computer. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Click the Browse button to manually locate Photoshop if it did not appear in either list.

Once you have Photoshop selected, the last thing we need to do to make Photoshop our default image viewer and editor is make sure the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file option near the bottom of the dialog box is checked:

Selecting the 'Always use the selected program to open this kind of file' option. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Selecting the “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file” option.

And that’s all there is to it! Click OK to close out of the Open With dialog box and you can now say goodbye to Windows Photo Viewer. Not only will this particular image immediately open in Photoshop, but from now on, any JPEG file you open directly from within Windows will open automatically for you in Photoshop:

Photoshop is now the default image editor for JPEG files in Windows. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Your JPEG files will now open automatically in Photoshop.

And there we have it! That’s how to make Photoshop your default program for viewing and editing photos on a Windows PC!

Download our tutorials as print-ready PDFs! Over 300 tutorials! Learning Photoshop has never been easier!

You May Also Like...