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How To Open Files On A PC

Normally, when you want to open a file (a picture, a document etc), you’d just double left-click it. The file will then open in either the program or application that created it or possibly, the default program/app for that file type.

I think we all probably know that already. But sometimes, you’ll want to open the file in a different program or application to the default one. There’s a couple of ways to do it.

How to open a file in a different program or app.

You can open a file in a different program or application from the default one quite easily. As an example, let’s try to open an image file in a different application from the default one.

On a standard setup, the default image viewer is the Windows Photos App.

That simply means that when you double left click on a picture file, it’ll open in the Windows Photos App.

Every time you double click the image, it’ll open in the Windows Photo app. Which can be darned annoying when you want it to open in different program.

Photo of two people on a bench shown in Windows Photo app.

Let’s say you wanted to open the image in MS Paint for example.

Microsoft Paint is a basic image editor that’s installed on most PC’s and will allow you to do a little more to the image than you could with the Photos app.

The same image open in Windows Paint.

Open the program first, then open the file.

By far the easiest way to open a file in a different program or application is to open (or launch) the program first, and then open the file from within the program itself.

So to continue with our example of opening a photo in MS Paint.

Launch Paint and then left-click the FILE button in the top left corner of the window.

Windows Paint open. No image is loaded.

PS, if you’re looking for MS Paint, you can launch it by left-clicking the START button, then typing “paint“.


On the menu that appears, left-click OPEN.

Open button indicated in Windows Paint.

The OPEN window will appear.

Now you’ll need to tell the program which file you want it to open.

So if the file is on your Desktop, left click Desktop in the left-hand navigation pane.

Opening a file from within Windows Paint.

If the file you were looking for was in your Pictures folder, you’d click Pictures in the navigation pane. And if it’s in your Documents folder, then click Documents etc.

The OPEN window is basically File Explorer and finding the file that you want to open is really just a matter of navigating your computer, all of which we’ve already covered on the Home Computer Course here Windows File Explorer


The main window will change to show the contents of the Desktop folder.

Now you simply find the file that you want Paint to open, then left-click it once to select it and then click the OPEN button in the bottom right corner.


If the file you want is inside another folder, double left click that folder to open it.

And now you should see your file, which you can select and open.


Not all files are shown.

When you’re trying to open a file from the OPEN window, you might notice that not all of your files are shown. Some of your files will appear to be missing.

There’s a very good reason for that.

As an example, on my Desktop I have got just one image file, seven text files and a folder.

A desktop is shown with several different types of files.

But when trying to open the image file in MS Paint, I can only see the image file and the folder.

The text files don’t appear to be there.

In the Open window only image files are shown.

The reason for that happening is simply that Paint is only looking for files that it can open.

Paint is an image editing program and so it’s looking for images, not text files. It really doesn’t like text files. And this is true of most programs and applications.

When you’re looking for the file you want to open, applications will generally only show you the file types that they can handle.


How to show all files in the OPEN window.

You can make the program or application show all the files in a particular folder.

In the bottom right-hand corner of the OPEN window, you’ll see a drop-down menu box. This is the File Type box.

Currently, it’s set to ALL PICTURE FILES.

Which explains why we can’t see my text files.

Incidentally, no matter what the setting is in the File Type box, the OPEN window will always show folders.


If you left-click once on the File Type box, a menu will appear with all the types of file formats that the program can open.

We’ll look at file formats in a later guide in the course.

Show All Files option is arked in an opening window.

Generally, there will also be an option to show ALL FILES.


Keyboard shortcut.

In some programs and applications, you won’t be able to find the FILE button.

Programmers and application designers are getting way too good at hiding the stuff that you need.

If you can’t find the FILE button, then there is a keyboard shortcut that usually works.

You can press CTRL and the letter O on your keyboard.

That will bring up the OPEN window.

To be clear, it is definitely the letter O (O for Open) not the number 0 (zero)

Keyboard with CTRL key and letter O key marked.

Open a file using the OPEN WITH command.

There is another way to open a file in a different application and that is the OPEN WITH command.

Find the file (picture, document etc) that you want to open, and then left-click it once to select it.


Then right-click on it and the Options menu will appear.

On the options menu, move your pointer onto OPEN WITH.

Open With option is marked on the right click options menu.

A second menu will appear.

On the second menu, you’ll see a list of programs and apps that Windows knows are capable of opening your file.

To open the file in a particular program, left-click the program on the menu.

Next Page

Copy It, Paste it. Done.

File being copied

Copy and Paste is one of those skills that you’ll use over and over again.

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