Documents Opening in the Wrong Program

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 4, 2020)

Ron had a problem crop up with Word recently—when he double-clicks on a Word document, it now opens in Word Viewer, rather than opening in Word. He was wondering how to make the documents again open in Word, as he prefers.

Windows maintains a list of file associations that dictate which types of files are opened by which programs. The file association for files ending with the DOC extension is normally set to Word. It can get changed, however, if you install some other program on your system that utilizes files with the same extension. In Ron's case, there is a good chance that some other program was installed, and that program installed Word Viewer and reset the file association for Word files.

There are several different ways you can reset the proper file associations. Word itself provides a way to do it. Open a command prompt window and, at the command line, enter the following:

winword /r

Nothing seems to happen when you press Enter, but Word will reregister itself back in Windows. In the process, it resets the file associations for the files it uses, such as those for documents and document templates. You can close the command prompt window and double-click on a document; Word should start right up.

If you prefer, you can also make the file association change directly in Windows. Follow these steps:

  1. In Windows, right-click on a Word document icon. Windows displays a Context menu.
  2. Choose Open With from the menu. (Don't choose Open; make sure you choose Open With.)
  3. If Windows displays another level of menu, make sure you select Choose Program. Windows displays the Open With dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Open With dialog box.

  5. In the list of available programs, select Word. (It may appear as Word, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office Word, or some other variation. The wording variation doesn't matter; choose the one that is obviously for Word.)
  6. Under the list of programs there is a check box labeled something like "Always use the Selected Program to Open this Kind of File." Select this check box.
  7. Click OK.

These steps change the file association for a single type of file—the type you right-clicked on in step 1. You will still need to check other file types to make sure they open Word properly. If not, change the associations as described above.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5687) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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