Edge on the edge

The first thing everyone does with a new computer is install Google Chrome. That’s the last time we want to see Microsoft Edge, the uninspiring Windows 10 web browser.

At some point, though, you will click on a PDF and Edge will open up. You will wince and possibly scream involuntarily. The problem is that Microsoft has made Edge the default app for opening PDF files.

A couple of years ago I wrote a guide to setting up Windows 10, with info about the steps most people should take to smooth out the rough edges in Windows 10. (Great article, by the way. Still worth checking when you get a new computer.) The first few items on the checklist are all concerned with defaults – for web browsing, mail, and viewing PDFs. The process for changing defaults has changed in the last year, so this is a refreshed version of those instructions.

Microsoft is moving Windows settings out of Control Panel and into the modern Windows 10 Settings app, making progress slowly but . . . well, let’s just leave it at slowly, shall we? Last fall the settings for default programs were moved into the Settings app. Not much else. Control Panel is still there with most things intact, but it’s been hidden and there are holes in it like the missing default settings to irritate IT pros. Why, now there are rumors that the settings for fonts may be moved out of Control Panel where they have been moldering almost unchanged for twenty years.

Here are some quick instructions about changing defaults in Windows 10, and specifics on the extra step to set the default PDF viewer.



How to change the default PDF viewer in Windows 10

Click on Start / Settings / Apps / Default Apps. (Or click on Start and type in Default apps. It will appear on the menu.)

Windows 10 default settings

When you click on each of the icons, a list appears of the programs that can handle each category. For example, Outlook users can click on the Email icon to set Outlook as the default program for mail, contacts and calendar, and keep the built-in Windows 10 Mail program out of sight.

You can set Google Chrome as the default web browser by clicking on the web browser icon. Before you can switch, Microsoft will pop up a little advertisement about how swell Edge is, just to irritate you a little bit.

Windows 10 - change default web browser

But you’ll notice that there’s nothing in the list about PDFs.

Your first job is to decide what program you prefer to use for opening PDFs. Many businesses that only need a PDF viewer install Acrobat Reader, the free viewer from Adobe. Perhaps you subscribe to the full version of Adobe Acrobat DC, or you have another favorite. Make sure the program you want to use is installed!

Then go to Settings / Apps / Default Apps and click below the icons on Choose default apps by file type.

Scroll down the long list to .pdf. Along the way, marvel at how complicated computers are. Click on the icon and you can choose your preferred program for opening PDFs.

Windows 10 - set default PDF program

Done! When you click on a PDF file, it will open in the right program. Microsoft has not been changing these defaults with the last couple of updates so with luck you won’t have to revisit this when another update arrives.

This is Windows, and Windows means there are seven ways to do everything. So it’s worth noting that this is not the only way to change defaults.

•  In the Default Apps settings window, click on Set defaults by app, then click on the icon for your preferred program and set it as the default for the file extensions it should handle.

•  You can right-click on a PDF file in File Explorer, then click on Open with / Choose another app, select the program you want to use, and check the box to “always use this app to open .pdf files.”

•  Adobe suggests an interesting technique: right-click a PDF file and click on Properties, then click on the “Change” button by Opens with.

Use whatever method works for you. Edge can be vanquished!

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