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The default browser is the application Windows uses to handle web and .html pages. There are ways to specify that a different application be used.

Why do I have to choose between IE7 and Firefox as the default browser? Why can't I set an option to right click an html file and then choose either IE7 or Firefox to browse? Something similar to view/edit a jpg...right click and choose "Open with" whatever viewer/editor is configured.

Well, just like a ".jpg" the system needs to know what to do when you double click on a ".html" file, but I'm probably missing something here.

On my system at least you can do exactly what you describe.

I'll show you.

The "default browser" is really just a way for the system to know what program should process web pages by default. Try it: click on Start and then Run and type in and press OK. The system needs to know what program to use to process that request, and it knows that the default browser is used for those "http:" things.

It's also used for ".html" files. This time we'll use Windows Explorer. Locate (or create) a ".html" file anywhere on your computer, and open Windows Explorer on the folder containing it:

example.html in Windows Explorer

You can see it's listed as a "Firefox Document". Firefox is my default browser, and if I double click on it Firefox opens and displays the file.

Now, right click on the file instead:

example.html right clicked in Windows Explorer

Here you can see that not only is there a Open With... menu, but Internet Explorer is there in the open menu. Click on Internet Explorer and it'll be used to display the file regardless of your default browser.

"If you're using Internet Explorer, I'm not aware of a way to easily open a link in another browser."

In other words, exactly what it seems you were asking for.

Now, there is another scenario that might be what you meant.

Once you're in a browser, regardless of whether it's Firefox or Internet Explorer, all the links displayed will be opened with that same browser. Each browser assumes that since you opened the page with that browser, you want all subsequent pages to appear in the same browser.

And to be honest, it's not an unreasonable assumption.

If you're using Internet Explorer, I'm not aware of a way to easily open a link in another browser.

Firefox, on the other hand, is a different story.

There are a couple of add-ins that add the ability to open a link in Internet Explorer from within Firefox.

With such an extension installed, if I right click on a link then I have an extra option:

Firefox with Open in IE extension

If I click on Open Link in IE Tab it does exactly that: opens a new tab within Firefox, and then uses Internet Explorer to display the page.

I use the IE Tab extension to Firefox. It has additional options that allow you to open a link in any external application including Internet Explorer, instead of inside a tab as well.

Article C3061 - June 19, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

June 23, 2007 6:34 AM

Dear Leo,
The Firefox options and extensions are truly awesome and powerful. Maybe not Darth Vader awesome and powerful, but right on up there.
As far as the 'open with' discussion is concerned, you might add that if you save only the shortcut for whatever website to your desktop (or wherever you want it), the 'open with' option will not appear. For this to work, you will need to use the 'save as' or 'save page as' choices in your browser. Save the link on your desktop (or wherever you want it) and choose the method to use for the save. Your choices should be 'web page complete' or 'web page HTML only' or 'text' or 'all files'. Any of these will do the trick. Choose your preference. Once saved, your right click 'open with' should allow you to pick the program or browser of your choice. Experiment and find the method that works best for you.
What I've always wanted to do and have not been able to figure out is using that 'open with' choice for an HTML link within a document. I'm beginning to think it is not possible. I hope this information is helpful.

Paul Gallo
June 24, 2007 8:59 AM

In this article on default browsers, it would be a helpful addition, to mention how one sets/changes their default browser from one to another. thanks!

July 15, 2007 1:54 PM

This article is very close to my question. My default browser is Firefox. There are a few websites I use that need IE to work well.

I would like for my shortcuts to those sites to be linked to IE rather than Firefox. It seems that we should be able to create a different extension (sucn as .IE rather than .HTML) then define a default program (IE) to work with that extension. I do appreciate your tip of the Firefox extension to open in an IE tab. I will check that out.

The best I have come up with so far is to put (use IE) in the filename for the shortcuts that need IE.

I love your podcasts. This is my first browse around the website. Very nicely done. Thank you for all the help you give us.


Jon Davis
January 14, 2009 12:18 PM

On above it was interesting BUT I have a major problem. I have win 98 se and had Firefox and of course ie. I removed Firefox from the computor. Now on certain files up comes the box telling me it cannot be opened (even sometimes I am in IE) because it cannot locate Firefox. It says windows cannot find Firefox.exe. This program is needed for opening file of Type "URL" Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Do I have to reinstall Firefox or can I get rid of this problem another way?
Thank you

Robert H Mercer
September 28, 2009 9:32 PM

Personally I do not want to have any browser set as a default. I much prefer to right click, use copy link location and then open it in whichever browser I need at that time. Unfortunately when I installed IE8 I was unaware of Microsoft's shenanigans in making it the default one may say! Now I cannot find any way to remove the error. Chalk another bad mark for MS!

There will always be (or should be) a default browser. Just fire up the browser you want to be default, and it'll either ask, or you can go do it's options and reset it as default.

May 13, 2010 1:57 AM

This may or may not be relevant, but please bare with me.
Recently, several friends of mine have commented on seeing a window 'asking' them to make a choice about which browser they use, typically after an automatic update.
I have not yet seen this window, but I am guessing it's to do with IE, and I changed to Firefox some time ago.
What happened to change Microsoft's angle? It used to be difficult to use another browser (and some microsoft pages typically did not work in anything but IE).

January 11, 2012 10:30 PM

If someone wants to open different pages with different browser,actually there is another easy way to do that. As I know there is a browser called Avant browser, it's a tri-core browser with Trident+Gecko+Webkit engines. There is a feature in this browser that you can assign a website open with certain rendering engine.
It's easy to switch between engines. There is another tri-core browser called lunascape, but this one is not that stable as Avant from my experience.

February 17, 2013 1:14 AM

Leo, You ask if you are missing something. Well, I use Chrome for its search capability, Firefox for the best tabbing and printing, Opera for its ability to load individual frames and IE9 to copy tables into MS Office products. Each of these tasks is messed up by the other browsers. It would really be useful to right-click a link in any browser and get a choice of browsers to load the link. I keep dreaming that one day someone will design a Windows utility that will allow this from any browser....

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