Windows 7: ‘Open With’ function disappears for multiple files

April 24, 2013


For some time now, I’ve noticed that if I select multiple files in Windows Explorer (or whatever it’s called now in Windows 7), then right-click on them, I can select Open to open them with the default program set for that file type, but Open With is not listed.

If I select a single file, I get both the Open and Open With options listed on the right-click shortcut menu. In Windows XP, I got both options whether I’d selected one file or multiple files, and I used Open With quite often as sometimes a different program does the task you want to do better than the default program.

This annoyed me so much today that I went hunting to find out if it was just me or if something has changed in Windows 7 functionality. No, it’s not just me — Windows 7 HAS changed. And this change has annoyed quite a few people, if the comments on various Microsoft and other forums is anything to go by.

Short of downloading another program, it seems that you’re stuck with this limitation. One of the forums suggested adding a Send To shortcut for the alternate program — I tried that, but it still only opened one file at a time, not multiple files, so I was no better off.

In my case, I’m trying to open multiple JPGs in SnagIt Editor from Windows Explorer, not the default file association I have set for image files, which is PaintShop Pro. If I select multiple files and right-click, I only get the Open option, which opens them all in PSP. If I select one file, I get the Open option AND the Open With option, which lists SnagIt Editor as one of the alternatives. And if I multiselect and choose Edit, the files all open in Microsoft Paint! (see below for changing that setting, which ended up solving my problem).

It’s like a carpenter’s toolbox — while most of the time you want to use hammer X, there are times when hammer Y or Z does the job better. Similarly, most of the time I want to use PSP to edit an image (which is why I have it set as the default), but sometimes, SnagIt Editor is the perfect tool for a specific task. Windows 7 doesn’t let me choose hammer Y or Z to do a slightly different task than the tasks I do with hammer X.

This basic function that I had in XP and that I used often is no longer available in Windows 7. That’s a backwards step, in my opinion.


After a bit more searching and tackling it from a different way, I found a solution! I found out how to change the program associated with the Edit option when right-clicking on an image file. The solution is detailed here: http://superuser.com/questions/68852/change-windows-7-explorer-edit-context-menu-action-for-jpg-and-other-image-fil but I’ll document it here too in case that website disappears. You will need to change a Registry setting so you need to be comfortable about doing that; I suggest you backup your Registry before you start.

  1. Run regedit. (If you don’t know how to do that, you probably shouldn’t be fiddling in the Registry!)
  2. Go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\SystemFileAssociations\image\shell\edit\command.
  3. The only setting is (Default) and its value is “%systemroot%\system32\mspaint.exe” “%1”.
  4. Double-click on (Default).
  5. In the Value Data field, delete the existing value and enter your new value, which is the full path to the executable for the program you want to open for editing images. In my case, I wanted images to open in SnagIt Editor when I selected Edit, so I changed the value to “C:\Program Files (x86)\TechSmith\Snagit 11\SnagitEditor.exe” “%1” — substitute your path and program executable, making sure you surround the entire path with double quotes and that you keep the “%1” bit.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Test that it works by selecting multiple image files in Explorer, then right-clicking and selecting Edit. Your images should now open in your preferred program.

[Link last checked April 2013]


  1. Hi,   I confirmed that this instruction works for Windows 8 except that you won’t see an “Open with” option – use the “Edit” one and multiple image files (jpgs) will open in SnagIt Editor 11.   :-) joan

  2. Thanks for confirming that ‘Open With’ in not available in Windows 8 either, Joan. Yes, that ‘Edit’ option works really well once you change the Registry setting for the executable.

  3. As someone who has just upgraded to Windows 7 I can also confirm this very annoying change, so I’ll definitely be investigating your solution. Thank you for that. What is actually more annoying as that all the extensions previously available (e.g. Zip, Extract) are also unavailable with multiple files selected.

  4. Hi Colum

    I just checked and WinZip is still listed for me when I’ve selected multiple files of various file types and/or folders — is that what you mean?

  5. While I commend you for finding something that works for you, as far as I can see, it only gives you 1 alternative program.
    Either ‘Open’ using the default program, or ‘Edit’ using the alternate program. This still doesn’t give you the choice, that was taken away from us, of opening the files in any program we wanted.
    What if I want to choose between three of four different programs, like I used to be able to? Unfortunately, not enough people were outraged enough to complain, and Microsoft got away with it.
    It has been so long now that few people remember how much more productive we were under XP and the gross reduction in productivity including slower file copying, many more clicks to do simple tasks etc etc, and the infamous explorer navigation tree bug, are what we are stuck with.

  6. Hi, this works for up to 15 files, but what if I want to “edit”, say, 100, files at a time? Should I increase the percentage number or something?

  7. Remember, Windows is a pile of bugs. Never feel guilty for using an external program to fix it, even to replace what is supposed to be done by windows itself. It’s always broken. That’s how it is. Only external software can fix it. Don’t waste your time fiddling with registry. That’s the real shame.

  8. http://defaultprogramseditor.com/#features

  9. OpenWithAdd — the software to add programs to “Open With” menu no matter what.

  10. Hello
    you are welcome here
    if the functions disappear for multiple files, use long path tool to solve this problem.


  11. today i got so annoyed with missing “open with” upon selecting multiple files .. god its so frustrating !!!!

  12. Good news (I think!!)

    everyone kneel and worship http://superuser.com/users/83981/kcotreau

    16 is the magic number, MultipleInvokePromptMinimum is the HCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer DWORD !!!


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