Computers are fully embedded into our lives, both at work and at home. Checking email, organizing calendars, reading documents, shopping online, and surfing the web — all form the backdrop of our everyday. These activities are so commonplace and accessible that it’s easy to overlook the finer points of how your computer performs each task and what apps it uses to help you get the job done.
Apps are computer programs designed to interact with files and create a seamless transition for everything from booting up your Mac to working online. All computers come with a host of apps already installed. For example, computers running macOS come with Safari, made by Apple. This browser is already installed and ready to access the internet.
In other words, Safari is set to “default” browser, which means whenever you click a link to a website, it’ll always open it up using Safari. However, there are lots of other compatible browsers for Mac, and you might find yourself wondering how to change default browser on macOS or looking to fine-tune other default settings.
Why Should I Change Default Applications?
Most of the time, default apps have the basics covered, however you may be itching for a change because they may not be providing the features you need. If you find another app better suited to your needs, it’s best to make the change permanent.
By changing default apps to the ones you prefer, you’ll have more control over how you work with your files and be able to skip the headache of re-opening files with a new app every time, saving you precious minutes. Thankfully, changing default settings is fairly easy.
Changing default apps for specific file types
One upgrade you might consider right away is to change the default PDF viewer on Mac to something like PDFpen, or another advanced PDF reader. PDFs are one of the most common files types encountered daily. Used in contracts, university reading packages, or fillable forms, PDFs are popular for a good reason: any computer can open and read a PDF, and the format holds its layout. No matter what programs were used to create it, a PDF will generally look the same on everyone’s computer.
PDFpen is a great addition to your Mac. It has all the basic tools for editing and note-taking, but is also packed with advanced options for the increasingly paperless world: redaction features, signatures, notations, filling out or editing sections, and even highlighting and searching for certain terms within the document.
Here’s how to change default PDF viewer on Mac to PDFpen:
- In your Finder locate a .pdf file and right-click on it
- Select Get Info from the dropdown menu
- Expand the Open With section and select PDFpen
- Once selected, click the Change All button below the dropdown menu. A pop-up will appear asking if you’re sure, click Yes.
Now the change should be implemented for all .pdf files. Test it by returning to the Finder and opening any .pdf. If it launches in PDFpen. you know it has worked. Further, you can use the same steps to set other defaults apps for different kinds of files: instructing all .jpeg files to open with CameraBag Pro, for example.
If you ever need to know how to make Preview default app again, just repeat the steps above but select Preview instead of PDFPen when you reach the Open With selection.
Customize file and link opening with OpenIn
You can customize defaults even faster with OpenIn. This app opens your mailto links in the right email app (for instance, you can set OpenIn to always open mailto links in Gmail). It also helps set custom file openers based on file type — you can even specify rules for your file opening flow. This is one of those things that you customize once and benefit from every day.
Changing your default browser
You already know what is the default browser for Mac OSX: Safari. And while Safari is a generally excellent option, there are other great browsers for Mac — one of the most popular being Google Chrome. Along with its reputation for being faster than other browsers, Chrome seamlessly syncs with services you may have been using all the time, such as Gmail, Chromecast, or GCal.
Knowing how to change default browser on Mac will never be a challenge. It’s arguably the easiest change to make because all browsers compete to report usage, so whenever they detect they are not being used every time they produce a pop-up asking to be default. This may seem like it makes directions for how to change default browsers obsolete, usually downloading the browser you want and opening it for the first time will set you on the path to default status. But occasionally a careless mis-click will find you on the wrong end of an unwanted Yahoo search bar.
To make Chrome default browser on Mac, begin by downloading Chrome if you haven’t already. Then follow the directions below according to which operating System your Mac is currently running.
How to make Chrome default browser on macOS Mavericks or earlier:
- Launch Safari by clicking the compass icon
- Click on the Safari menu in the top-left corner and select Preferences
- Navigate to General
- Choose Chrome as the default by selecting it from the menu
- Close Preferences
- Quit Safari
If you don’t see a default option in Preferences, don’t panic. You may need to use different instructions if your Mac is running on El Capitan or Yosemite.
How to make Chrome default browser on El Capitan or Yosemite:
- Launch System Preferences from the Dock or Finder
- Select General from the top left of the window
- Find the dropdown next to “Default web browser”
- Choose the web browser you'd like to use as the default and close System Preferences
Your preferences will be automatically saved. You can test it by performing a search in Spotlight and clicking a web result. If the site opens in Chrome, you’ll know you have successfully set Chrome as default browser.
Change your default email app
We spend so much time checking, writing, and organizing emails that having an email client designed to save you time is key. With this in mind, you may want to further customize your Mac by selecting a better email client. Much like a PDF reader opens .pdf files and a browser allows you to surf the web, your email client sets up a place for you to easily check and respond to your emails.
While many check their emails in browsers for convenience if they move between computers, a better, more secure option is Canary Mail.
Canary Mail focuses on security and this is what makes it outstanding. In addition, its concept and design are no-nonsense. Canary works with all the email providers you already have and has tools for dealing with volumes of unwanted emails or unused threads in bulk. It also uses algorithms to learn what you need and optimizes your productivity.
Right now, Mail is likely the default email app on your Mac. The steps below outline how to change default program on Mac to a third-party one. If you have some email client already downloaded, you can still use the steps below to change the default email client from Mail. Just sub the name of your app in place of Canary. Just in case, Canary Mail download is available here.
Switch the default email client from Mail to Canary:
- Launch Mail by clicking the icon in the Dock or searching for it with Finder
- At the top of the screen, click Mail in the menu bar and then Preferences
- Select the dropdown next to Default Mail Reader
- Choose Canary as the default
This change should take immediate effect.
Switching and customizing your default apps will improve your interactions with your Mac, enhancing how you experience the activities you spend time doing everyday by making them faster and easier.
Once you know how to switch the default apps, you may find yourself customizing other aspects of your computer use. PDFpen, Canary Mail, CameraBag Pro, and OpenIn are all offered as free trials from Setapp — a platform for over 200 unique and useful Mac apps — so there is no risk to trying something new. If you don't like it, you can always go back and change the default again at any time.
So whether you are running a faster browser, highlighting and making notes in the margin for school, or simply clearing out junk-mail now that you can change default application on macOS you can take control of the finer points of how your Mac runs. Small daily tasks will wrap up faster and look better.