Windows 11 “Default Apps”

So, I installed Windows 11 Home as soon as it was available, because I figured there might be questions about it and I’d rather be the guinea pig than wait for someone else. Given the backup setup I have, if something went wrong it’d be easy to go back to Win10.

The fresh install (Create USB installation media, reboot from that USB, and we’re off) was reasonably quick, and the usual few hours of re-installing software was just the usual slog. As a nice improvement from Linux, Windows installs allow you to just install on one partition of a drive and not erase the whole thing (you can manage this on Linux too, but not without a lot of manual configuration, though I grant that if you’re into Linux you’re into manual configuration anyway). So, my documents partition was untouched and I was able to just carry on after the re-pointing the default c:\users user folder to a separate documents drive d:\ where it belongs on any sane install. Anyway …

A couple of oddities stick out among the few real changes in the O/S.

The start menu is no longer configurable in terms of where the icons are (specifically). They’re in a list of sorted icons, left to right; you can move an item up or down in the list and control where they appear in that sort, but you can’t just move them into groups, or resize them. I guess this isn’t a tragedy, but I have to assume I’m not the only one who likes having a group of stuff in the lower right, or whatever.

Similarly the taskbar tray allows you to say what does and doesn’t appear in the tray, but there’s no “show them all” option (my usual choice). So, whenever there’s a new tray icon that you want to have showing, you have to go into taskbar settings and make it show. Also, the “safely eject USB” icon isn’t shown by default, which it always always should be.

But the worst change I’ve seen (so far) is that you can no longer set apps to be defaults in any reasonable way. Settings > Apps > Default Apps allows you to set defaults by application, file type, or link type. Each of these, though, just brings up a list of extensions/link types that a particular application might open. So, selecting Default Apps > Groove Music results in this representative alphabetical list:

These are just the first few, and only the ones that Groove¬†might be set as the default for. The lists for IrfanView (preferred image editor) and VLC Media Player (preferred video/audio player) are hundreds of items long. To set any of these as pointing to VLC as the default, that individual item has to be clocked on, VLC selected from a dropdown, and the choice OK’d. For each one. For hundreds of each ones. For every program you want to use. I’ve done that for the ones in this screenshot, but they were set to something stupid (paint, windows media player, etc.) initially.

Worse yet (as you could obviously just ignore all the oddball formats you never see in real life anyway) there are at least a few common file formats that are missing. .mp4 doesn’t make an appearance, for example. Neither does m4v, mkv, and on we go. So, every time I want to open a modern video file at the moment, I have to open with and pick VLC from the right-click menu. There doesn’t seem to be a way to set a handler for any of these manually. The right-click menu properties dialogue for recognized extensions works fine, so you can set a default for .aac, but mp4’s property dialogue is missing that option as well. You can right-click to open with, but not properties and change the open with option.

Hopefully somebody will notice this and come up with a better plan.

For the time being, it’s working fine for my purposes. I mainly work off portable apps on encrypted disks, so my main “work” functions don’t depend much on which Windows O/S I’m running. I’ll update with further observations if I notice anything else wonky.


0 thoughts on “Windows 11 “Default Apps”

  • Thanks for posting this, I am facing the exact same issue for *.mp4.
    It’s weird because you’re supposed to look for an extension to then map a default app, but although mp4 is not to be found, the dialog to assign an app is greyed out…. oh my!

  • Me again: found an easy-enough workaround for *.mp4 issue:
    – *.mpeg4 in fact IS registered – so rename your *.mp4 to *.mpeg4 temporarily.
    – Works for me for now, still hoping MS will address the overall design issues.

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