Increase the Usefulness of the Windows Open With Feature

There are literally hundreds of different types of files that have the possibility of being opened in Windows. With that in mind, the chances are pretty good that at some point in time, you will receive a file that can’t be opened in Windows by default because there is no associated program installed to handle it. If you happen to know that you have a program already installed to be able to open the file, there is the feature to right click on it and select the Open With option where you can either choose to use a program from the list or manually pick a suitable program on your PC to take care of it. You can then decide to make it the default in future.

The problem with the standard open with feature is it’s not particularly helpful if it doesn’t know what the type of file you’re trying to open is. Sure, the search the web to find a program window might be able to point you in the general direction, but the whole process could be a lot more user friendly. A handy freeware utility called OpenWith Enhanced makes several improvements and additions to the standard Windows Open With dialog making it much more helpful in finding the right software to open those unknown file types, or better alternatives to what you already have.

The basic premise of the program is that when you open the Open with window to select a temporary or default program to open an unrecognised file, OpenWith Enhanced will suggest a number of software titles which you don’t have installed, that can be downloaded and used to open or edit the file. A simple but useful idea that saves you the bother of searching for the correct software yourself. This is achieved by checking a constantly updated online database to see what has been used by other users to open the file type. Among other features are; the ability to remove the extension or file type association, edit the Open With context menu entries, get more detailed online information about the extension and the option to change the default icon for the specified file type.

The program is under 500K to download and the installed size is pretty similar. Although you won’t notice anything different at first, the interesting things start to happen when you click on Open with in the right click context menu or double click an unrecognised type of file. When the usual window opens, you will be presented with something like this:

OpenWith Enhanced options in the open with window

I have done this with an ordinary text .txt file, and as you can see, the standard Windows default programs of Notepad and Wordpad are displayed in black, as will any installed recommended software. The difference here is there are a number of other programs listed in red not currently installed that can also open text files if you want to use something different. These are what have been found in the database that other people are using to open txt files. The titles with bold text are identified by the database as freeware. Each entry has a couple of overlaid icons; the bars on the left represent how popular the program is at opening the type of file, and a green or red icon on the right simply shows if the program is already installed or not.

Double clicking an installed program will simply open the file with that program, where double clicking one of the red entries will pop up a box to ask if you want to go to the software developer’s website to download the title or browse the computer to locate the executable. This is in case you have the software already installed to a non standard install folder.

download associated program

The icon in the top left of the main window can be clicked on to allow the icon to be changed for the file type. The More Details or Look for the appropriate program on the web links will take you to the OpenWith Enhanced website where more information can be found about the selected extension.

online information for the extension

If the file type is recognised and has a program already associated with it, there will be a couple of extra option links in the main window. The first is an option to remove the current file association. Just the extension can be removed, or the complete file type can be selected for removal as well which could remove a number of extensions not just the affected one, so use it with care.

remove an extension using OpenWith Enhanced

The second option is to manage the Open with context menu entries. When you open a file with a chosen program, the context menu will add that program to the list so when you right click there could be several programs to choose from. If you wish to remove one or add your own, it can be done using this window.

remove open with menu entries

The settings window has options for things like changing various text and background colors, marking freeware titles, handling partial extensions and reporting the user’s extension preferences. OpenWith Enhanced does state it reports only the registered extensions and programs used to open them back to the developer and nothing else, which is obviously needed for the database that suggests the software. If you are not comfortable with this, the tick box is there to disable it. Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7 32-bit and 64-bit

Download OpenWith Enhanced

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