When it comes to reading and working with PDF files, there are a lot of different software options out there. You may have found one that works for you and want to use all the time, but have found that PDFs open in a different program when you open them. This guide will cover how to set the default PDF reader to the program/app you want to use on both desktop and mobile devices.

How to set a default PDF reader on Windows

This section will cover how to set the default PDF reader on Windows 10. Here’s what to do:

  1. Click on the Windows Search bar in the bottom left of the screen and begin typing “Default apps”, then click on the entry named as such when it comes up.
  2. In the Default apps settings window scroll down until you see Choose default apps by file type and click on it.
  3. You’ll need to scroll down for a while until you get to .pdf on the left side of the window.
  4. Now click on the currently selected app to the right and a menu showing which software/apps can open that file will come up. Select the one you want to use. The app you selected should now appear where the previous one was. The window may become unresponsive for a few seconds while this change is made.

The software you chose will now be used whenever you open a PDF file.

The process for setting the default PDF reader in older versions of Windows is a bit different and can vary with each one. The following method should work with most versions of Windows, but was made with Windows 7 in mind:

  1. Find a PDF file on your PC, right-click on it and then click on Properties.
  2. In the Properties window click on Change… next to “Opens with:”.
  3. A window showing programs that open PDFs will come up. Select the one you want to use.
    1. If the one you want to use is not showing, you’ll need to click on Browse… and manually locate its .exe file.
  4. Once you’ve selected the PDF reader you want to use, click OK.
  5. Now click OK again on the Properties window.

The program you selected will now be used when opening PDF files.

How to set a PDF reader on macOS

While Macs come with their own built-in PDF software, you may want to use something else else as the default reader. To change it, do the following:

  1. Locate a PDF file, right-click on it, and then click on Get Info.
  2. In the window that comes up look for Open with: and click on the drop-down bar below it with the application that is currently default, likely Preview.
  3. Find the application you want to use as the default PDF reader and select it.
  4. Now click on Change All… and then Continue.

The PDF reader you chose will now be used as the default one.

How to set a default PDF reader on an iPhone or iPad

Unfortunately iOS devices like iPhones and iPads actually don’t let you choose default apps for file types. PDF files will usually open in Safari as they are most often viewed online, but they can be sent to iBooks to be saved for later. PDF files synced to your device from your computer will appear in iBooks as well.

In order to use a particular app to view PDFs you can simply open that app and use the app’s file explorer to open the PDF you wish to view. You can also share a PDF to an app from Safari or iBooks, but just opening it directly with the app will likely be easier.

How to set a default PDF reader on Android

In order to change the default app for reading PDFs on Android you’ll first need to open a PDF to see what the current default is. Once you’ve identified what that app is, you can move on to the next steps.

What exactly those steps are will vary depending on the device and the version of Android it’s running, but these steps should cover most of them, or at least point you in the right direction. No matter what version you’re using, you’ll want to start at the settings:

  1. Find and go to the Settings section of your Android device. It’s usually a gear icon on the home screen or in the app drawer.
  2. Once there, look for either Apps & notifications, Installed Apps, or App Manager and tap on it.
  3. A list of all the installed apps will come up. Scroll to find the current default app and tap on it.
  4. Look for and tap on Clear defaults, or Open by default and then on Clear defaults from there, depending on what shows for you.
  5. Now go to a PDF file on your device and open it. It should ask you which app to open it with. Select the app you wish to use and then tap Always to set it as the default.

Now your Android device should always open PDF files with that app.

That concludes this guide on setting the default PDF reader. Hopefully it has helped you set your desired default PDF reader on all of your devices and improved your PDF viewing experience.

About The Author

Ryder Lund

Since he was young Ryder has been drawn to technology and had a knack for working with and learning about it. He often ends up being tech support for friends and family because of this, so it feels natural to him to help out others by writing guides on how to use it. He enjoys living in the Pacific Northwest where he is close to both nature and the bustling tech hub of the Seattle area.