Microsoft is making it harder to change Default Apps in Windows 11
Windows users who want to change the default applications in Microsoft's Windows 11 operating system have a harder time doing so as Microsoft change the process of setting defaults.
On Windows 10, when you want to change default apps, you visit Settings > Apps > Default Apps. One of the options on the screen that opens is to change the defaults for common applications such as the web browser, photo viewer, video player, or music player. Select the web browser, pick another installed browser, and you are done.
Microsoft did make the process less user friendly than in previous versions of Windows, as you can't pick a program from the system anymore when selecting defaults that is not displayed in the initial listing.
On Windows 11, things have gotten worse again. When you open Settings > Apps > Default Apps, you will notice that the list of popular application types is gone. You may set defaults based on a file type or link or by application.
Select a program, e.g. Brave Browser, and you get a list of all file types and link types it has registered itself to open. Each type is listed separately and to make matters worse, there is no "set for all" option on the page.
To make a program the default for all its registered file types and links, you'd have to click on each of the types and pick the desired application from the listing. While you may skip some file types and links, such as SVG for the web browser, you would end up with multiple web browsers being set as the default for certain file types.
For a web browser, this could mean having to repeat the process a significant number of times before the defaults are all changed. If things do get reset, which happened frequently for some users on Windows 10, then you'd have to repeat the process again.
If you want to change the defaults for multiple programs, e.g. an email client, a web browser, a photo viewer, media player, and music player, you'd spend a long time configuring the file types. Media players alone support dozens of different file formats and protocols, and you will spend quite some time changing the defaults on Windows 11.
A quick web browser installation test on a Windows 11 test system confirmed that most users will run into issues with default apps. Most Chromium-based browsers open the Default Apps section of the settings app when users accept the "make us the default" prompt. Firefox was able to set a handful of defaults, most notably HTTP, HTTPS, .HTM and .HTML, but did not do so for others such as .SHTML, .PDF or image formats (which it theoretically can be the default app for).
If you wanted some of these to open in the program as well, you'd still have to go through the ordeal of changing them one after the other.
Why did Microsoft remove the Default Apps option in Windows 11?
A Microsoft spokesperson told The Verge that the new controls would give users control "at a more granular level" by "eliminating app categories and elevating all apps to the forefront of the defaults experience".
The options that have been "elevated to the forefront" are not entirely new. Windows 10 users may set defaults by applications similarly to how defaults are set on Windows 11. The only difference between the two versions of Windows is that Windows 10's functionality is two levels deep in the settings while Windows 11's is on the start screen.
Microsoft failed to mention why it removed the option to set an app as the default for all supported file types and links, just like before. Even a "select all" option when configuring defaults for an app would be sufficient to resolve the issue.
It is clear that making an app the default for all supported file types is more complicated and time consuming than before, if things remain as they are in Windows 11.
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