Force An Application To Open A File [OS X Tips]



Here’s a quick trick that lets you open files in the application you want, even the app in question thinks it can’t understand that file type. This can be useful with some older word processing files, for example.

This tip is an extract from Mac Kung Fu, a new book with over 300 tips, tricks, hints and hacks for Mac OS X Lion. 

You can drag and drop files onto any Dock icon to open them, but only if that application believes it can understand that particular type of file (for example, .doc files are understood by Microsoft Word). If the app doesn’t recognise the file type, it just won’t open.

Unfortunately, some applications don’t realize they can read certain types of files when they actually can.

To force an application in the Dock to at least attempt to open a file it doesn’t believe it can, hold down Option+Command before clicking and dragging the file to the Dock. If the application genuinely can’t understand the file, either nothing will happen or you’ll see an error message.

For a higher probability of success when dragging to the Dock icon as described above, you might also try removing the file extension from the file before opening it as described (that is, the part after the dot in a filename, such as .jpg). To do so, select the file and hit Command+I. In the Name & Extension field of the dialog box that appears, remove the extension.

Note that removing the extension by simply renaming the file by any other method probably won’t work, depending on your system’s settings—the file will retain the extension but give the appearance of not doing so.

Don’t forget to restore the file extension after attempting to open it!


  • heeloliver

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