NHS Designs
Basic Computer Skills Windows XP

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9. Opening a file into a specific program

Default programs
Contextual menu
Click and drag

Default programs

In Windows, a file of a given type will open by default into a particular program. You can tell which program it wants to open into (the default program) by looking at its icon.

However, a number of different programs might be able to work with a given file. The default program might not be the one you want to work in.

For example, a .jpg file might open in Windows Picture and Fax Viewer by default but you want to work with it in Photoshop instead. Or an .html file might open in a browser by default but you want to work on the code in Notebook, or in Dreamweaver.


  1. Open Mozilla Firefox.
  2. We're going to save the current Web page as a file on our own computers. Click on the File menu.
  3. Select Save Page As... from the File menu.
  4. On the left of the window that pops up (called the dialog box) is five location icons. Click on the icon for Desktop.
  5. Click Save.
  6. Go to the desktop.
  7. Double-click on the .html file. It is probably called default.htm.
  8. What program opens?
  9. Close that program. Close Firefox too if it is still open.

A dialog box is something you'll find all over Windows. There are New, Save, Open and all kinds of other dialog boxes. These boxes let you tell Windows or a program specifically what you want.


Contextual menu

If the icon next to a file if not for the program you want, here's how to open the file into another program:

  1. Locate the file in Windows Explorer.
  2. Right-click on the file once to show the contextual menu.
  3. Choose Open With.
  4. If you see the program you want, select it from the list with a left-click.

Open With menu

  1. If you don't see the program you want, select Choose Program...
  2. If you see the program you want in that list, double-click on it. If not, click on Browse...

Open With dialog

  1. In the Open With... dialog box that appears, click on Desktop on the left.

Open With dialog

  1. Navigate to the program you want and double-click on it.



  1. Locate the .html file again on the desktop.
  2. Open the .html file using Notepad.
  3. Close Notepad.


Click and drag

Now that you are comfortable arranging your windows on your screen, you can use click and drag:

  1. Open the program first.
  2. Go back to the desktop.
  3. Navigate to the file you want.
  4. Click and drag the file's icon over to the working space of the program.



  1. Open Dreamweaver MX 2004. If there is a start page, close it.
  2. Restore Down the window and resize it so you can see the .html file on the desktop again.
  3. Click and drag the icon for the .html file directly into the gray central (working) area of Dreamweaver.



Another method of opening files into a specific program will be shown in 11. Opening files in a program.


Next: 10. Creating new files in a program

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