Take control of your Windows 7 Open With menus

Using the OpenWithView utility, Greg Shultz shows us how to take control of the Open With menu in Microsoft Windows 7.

Soon after last week's blog post was published, "Take Control of Your Windows 7 Context Menus," a question appeared in the discussion area that essentially asked about removing items from the Open With menu. The reader wondered why items from the Open With menu couldn't be removed by ShellMenuView or ShellExView.

The reason that items from the Open With menu can't be removed by ShellMenuView or ShellExView is that the Open With menu is a different animal. Items on it are not added to the registry as standard context menu entries nor are they shell extensions. Items appear on the Open With menu by virtue of the application's file type/file association. Fortunately, there is another great tool from NirSoft, called OpenWithView, that allows you to easily clean up the Open With menu.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll examine OpenWithView and show you how to use it to clean up the Open With menu in Microsoft Windows 7. Since OpenWithView shows only applications and you may also want to see the file type/file associations, I'll show you how to manually investigate the contents of the Open With menu with the Registry Editor.

Editing the registry

It is important to keep in mind that the techniques I'm about to show you revolve around making changes to the Windows registry, which is vital to the operating system. Changing it can be dangerous if you inadvertently make a mistake. As such, you should take a few moments to back up your system by creating a Restore Point as well as by creating a system image in the Backup and Restore tool. That way if anything goes awry, you can restore your system and get right back to work.

The Open With feature

The Open With feature makes it easy to open data files in any application that supports that type of file. You are not limited to the application that is associated by default with that file type. For example, you can right-click on a TXT file, select the Open With menu, and select the Choose Default Program command to display the Open With dialog box. You can then clear the Always Use check box and select any of the applications that appear in the list, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Using the Open With dialog box, it's easy to add applications to the Open With menu.

Once you do, that application will appear on the Open With menu for that file extension. The problem is that there is no complementary way to remove that application from the Open With menu.

Using OpenWithView

Just like ShellMenuView and ShellExView, once you download and extract OpenWithView, you can run it right away as there is no installation procedure. As soon as you launch it, the program scans the registry and populates its window with all the applications that appear on the Open With menus on your system. On my example system, OpenWithView found the applications shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Using OpenWithView, you can easily remove applications from the Open With menu.
For instance, on my example system l inadvertently attempted to open a PDF file with Word. Now, Word appears on the Open With menu when I right-click on a PDF file, as shown in Figure C. To remove it, I just select the Winword.exe item in OpenWithView and click the red Disable Selected Items button.

Figure C

Word appears on the Open With menu.
As soon as I do, Word no longer appears on the Open With menu. In fact, in this case nothing appears on the Open With menu now, as shown in Figure D, because Adobe Reader is already associated with the PDF file type by default.

Figure D

Nothing appears on the Open With menu now.

As a side effect of using OpenWithView, Word will be removed from all Open With menus. For example, when I removed Word from the PDF file's Open With menu, it also removed Word from the TXT file's Open With menu. It also removed Word from the Other Programs section of the Open With dialog box. In general, that is OK, because it is very easy to put it back using the OpenWithView using the green Enable Selected Items button. (Furthermore, this won't affect the default file association -- Word will still open DOCX files.)

Depending on how versatile the application in question is, you may not want to completely remove it. If you would prefer a more precise removal operation, you can remove items from the Open With menu by editing the registry.

Using the Registry Editor

To launch the Registry Editor, click the Start button, type Regedit in the Start Search box, and press [Enter]. When the UAC dialog box appears, respond appropriately. Once the Registry Editor launches, locate the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \Software \Microsoft \Windows \CurrentVersion \ Explorer \FileExts\
Within this key, shown in Figure E, you'll see all the file extensions that exist in the registry on your system. Depending on how many applications you have installed on your system, this list will be fairly long, so you will just have to scroll down until you locate the file extension you want to examine. You will then access its OpenWithList folder and remove the application associations as you see fit.

Figure E

In the FileExts key, you'll find all the file extensions that exist in your system.
For example, suppose that I want to remove Word from the PDF file's Open With menu while leaving it on the TXT file's Open With menu. First locate and open the .pdf key and then select the OpenWithList key, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Inside each file extension key, you'll find an OpenWithList key.
As you can see, the OpenWithList key contains Word's executable file Winword.exe. To proceed, just right-click on the executable file name and select the Delete command, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

When you select the Delete command, you'll then be prompted to confirm the operation.

You'll be prompted to confirm the delete operation; just click Yes to proceed. You can then close the Registry Editor. Now, you will find that Word no longer appears on the PDF file's Open With menu, but it still appears on the TXT file's Open With menu.

What's your take?

Are you frustrated with the clutter on your Open With menus? If so, will you use the OpenWithView tool or manually edit the registry to clean up the mess? Do you use another program to manage your Open With menus? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

IT Support23
IT Support23

Thanks for these useful steps! Will apply them as I De-clutter windows 7 in my system.


Thanks for the tip Greg, I'll be sure to check out the OpenWithView tool, since I currently use Regedit. RealInIT...


wanted to remove right click > New options


I know that with Win XP I could look in the Temp Internet folder and get a copy of a video that I watched.If I let the entire video play it would be copied to this folder and I could save it to a CD.In this folder I noticed many links that I never even browsed to.I see this as evidence of hacking.I could not add it up any other way.When I click on a link several other links are called up at the same time.The firewall does not stop this from happening.In Internet Options you might be able to clean out this temp folder with a delete.


I can not imagine where the bad registry stuff comes from.Is somebody transmitting BIOS files?(IT=Information Technology.)

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you need to do some house cleaning of your Open With menu items? What tool do you prefer for that kind of maintenance?


Some of those are parts of the site you went to. Many sites use bits from others, and their content ends up in your temp. No hacking needed.

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