How to Change All Your Mac’s Default Apps

The default Mac applications that come with your new Mac work well enough, but they lack certain features you might be seeking. In general, the default apps aren’t customizable or especially powerful. They’re attractive and effective at their basic job.

If you want an application that does something more, you’ll need to find it from a third-party vendor. But once you’ve found an awesome email app, how do you get Mail to go away for good? You can change your Mac’s default applications, for email and everything else, by following the appropriate instructions below.

Change Your Mac’s Default Calendar

1. Open Calendar from the Applications folder or by typing “Calendar” into Spotlight.


2. Open Calendar’s Preferences from the “Calendar” menu in the menu bar.


3. Click the “Default calendar app” dropdown menu.


4. Select your preferred calendar application from the list.


Change Your Mac’s Default Mail Reader

1. Open Mail from the Applications folder or by typing “Mail” into Spotlight.


2. Open Mail’s Preferences from the “Mail” menu in the menu bar.


3. Chose your desired mail app from the “Default email reader” dropdown. You might notice some non-mail applications in there, like iTerm or apps created with Fluid. It’s a quirk based on how applications identify themselves. Just make sure not to select those apps — iTerm can’t actually work as a functional mail client.


Change Your Mac’s Default Web Browser

The default system web browser can be set from the “General” pane of System Preferences.



Click the dropdown menu next to “Default web browser” and choose your desired default browser. As before, if you see any non-web browser apps in the list, just make sure not to select them. It’s a bug, not a secret web browser you’ve just unlocked.



Setting Chrome as your Default Browser

You can also change your default browser from within Chrome.

1. Choose “Preferences” from the Chrome menu in the menu bar.


2. Click “Make Default” under “Default Browser.”


3. Confirm in the macOS dialog box by clicking the “Use ‘Chrome'” button.


Setting Firefox as your Default Browser

As in Chrome, you can also change your default browser from within Firefox.

1. Chose “Preferences” from the Firefox menu in the menu bar.


2. Under “General” click the “Make Default” button.


3. Confirm in the macOS dialog box by clicking the “Use ‘Firefox'” button.


Change Your Mac’s Default Image Viewer

This process will change the default application to open a specific type of image. It’s the same basic process to change the associated app for any file type.

1. Locate an image file in Finder. Look for extensions like .jpg or .png.


2. Right-click on the file and choose “Get Info” from the resulting context menu.


3. Locate the “Open With” portion of the Get Info window. It’s found near the bottom of the pop-up window.


4. Click the Open With dropdown menu. This reveals a list of applications that claim to open this type of file. Applications can be overly generous in their claims, so you might see some unexpected applications pop up in this dropdown menu.


5. Select the application you want to open this type of image with.


6. Click the “Change All …” button below the Open With dropdown menu to make this application the default application for this file type. This means that every file with this extension will open in the selected application when you double-click the file, or right-click and chose “Open” from the context menu.


7. Click the “Continue” button in the pop-up dialog box to apply the change to all images of that file type.


This change will apply to any images that share this file extension (in this case, “.jpg”). Apply this change separately for other image types and extensions like PNG or GIF.

Change Your Mac’s Default App for Other File Types

If you don’t like the application associated with any file type (HTML files, for example, which open in your default web browser), you can change it in the same way.

1. Right-click a file with the desired extension and choose “Get Info” from the context menu.


2. Click the “Open With” dropdown menu and select the application you’d prefer opened the file.


3. Click “Change All …” to apply the change to all files that share that extension. Click “Continue” to confirm the new default app.


You don’t have to perform this last step if you only want to tweak that one file, but changing all files is more common than just one file.


Some applications also allow you to override other system defaults. Path Finder, for example, allows you to override the system-wide “Open in Finder” commands. Instead of launching the default macOS Finder, “Open in Finder” or “Reveal in Finder” commands will launch Path Finder. Whenever you download an application that replicates a system functionality, look for a way to set the downloaded application as the default. You’re likely to find it.

Alexander Fox
Alexander Fox

Alexander Fox is a tech and science writer based in Philadelphia, PA with one cat, three Macs and more USB cables than he could ever use.

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