Make PDFs and Photos Open in Windows 8 Desktop Programs

Windows 8 opens PDFs and photos in built-in apps in full screen mode which is annoying. Make them open in Desktop programs instead.

Windows 8 opens PDFs and photos in metro style apps in full screen by default, which is annoying. When you’re working in the Desktop, you need to get things done quickly, not bounce between your work and the new Windows 8 UI.

Windows 8 Photo and PDF Reader Apps

Pictures open in the new Photos app, which in itself isn’t a terrible way to view them. It’s basic, and works fine on a tablet or smartphone. But it can be cumbersome and clunky on a traditional PC when you’re trying to get work done in the Desktop.

Windows 8 Photo Options

Windows 8 Reader is also simple and basic PDF app best suited for a mobile device.

Windows 8 Reader PDF

Open PDFs and Photos in a Desktop Program

Just like in Windows 7, you can change the program associated with different file types. There’s a couple of ways open PDFs or photos in the desktop program of your choice. To temporarily open them, right click the file and select Open With and then the program you want to use.

Open PDF with

Here I set it to Foxit Reader. For a more minimalist approach, make Google Chrome your default PDF reader.

Foxit Reader

Or for pictures, right click the file and go to Open With >> Windows Photo Viewer or whatever program you want to use.

Open Photo With

Ah, much better! Now you can easily resize the window and get your work done. Photo Viewer has all of the options you’re used to in Windows 7.

Windows Photo Viewer

To permanently open a PDF or picture in a certain program, go to Open With >> Choose Default Program.

Choose Default Program

A list of programs will come up, click the one you want to always open the file. Here I’m selecting Windows Photo Viewer to open JPG files. You’ll need to set it as a default for other image file types like PNG and GIF too.

Open With Application Menu

You can can get the same options to open your photos or PDFs from the new Explorer Ribbon and clicking the Open dropdown menu under the Home tab.

Choose Program Windows Explorer

Change All File Type Associations

Instead of doing each file type individually, you can configure Windows 8 to open all file types in specific programs in one fell swoop. Pull up the Power User Menu on the Desktop and select Control Panel.

Power User Menu Control Panel

Then select Default Programs in Control Panel.

Default Programs

Next click Associate a File Type or Protocol with a Program.

Chose Windows 8 Programs

Go through the list and highlight a file type, click Change Program and select the one you want to use from the list. Of course you can change Music and Video file types to open in desktop programs too.

Set Associations



  1. ShockerSH

    November 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    +200! Thanks guys. This has been driving me BONKERS!

    Done and Done. Thnx gP

    • Brian Burgess

      November 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      You’re welcome ShockerSH. I think that’s the most annoying feature in Windows 8. For Videos, Music, PDFs and Photos. I have a dual monitor setup … which makes it easier to stay out of the new metro style UI, but it’s still annoying as all get out. It’s probably easiest to change all file types in one shot like I show in the last part of the article.

  2. Andrew

    April 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm


    Thanks so much for that – it’s been driving me insane. It’s one of those typical windows things – great on paper, unworkable in real life. So many, many thanks!


    • Brian Burgess

      April 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      You’re welcome. There are definitely some irritating things in Windows 8, and you need to do some tinkering with it if you want it to work the way previous versions do.

      Just remember Windows 8 is young and a whole new world. It will get better over time.

  3. Pete

    April 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Can some one please help. Everytime I save an image (using windows 8) from the net it automatically opens it in Windows Preview. How can I stop this from happening.

  4. MrsSewnSew

    February 24, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    This is great.
    When discovering my new apps on my new Windows 8 computer yesterday, I wondered upon a way to take a picture and turn it into a pdf file or a jpg file. Now, I can’t find it. Can you help?

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