Opening Files in Their Native Programs With SharePoint

When you click on a file in a SharePoint document library, it launches the file. Most often you'll be prompted as to what you want to do with the file (Open, Save, etc.). In some cases (like Office documents) it will open the file but the program that is doing the client side work on it, renders it in the browser. How many times have you clicked on a Word document and have it launch in the browser so you're looking at IE with an embedded Word control rendering your document. Half the time the user doesn't know what happened and when they close the browser the site is gone when really they wanted to hit the Back button to get back to their doclib. How frustrating.

Unfortunately the answer isn't an easy one, at least if you have a large deployment of users you need this to happen with. It involves setting up a property with the associated file. The setting is in the web browser, not SharePoint. The technique varies based on different environments (version of browser, version of OS, version of Office) so there’s no golden rule but the default is generally to browse in the same window (at least it has been for me on all the setups I've seen) so it will open up inside of the IE when you're accessing it through your browser. This has the effect of embedding the Microsoft Word control in the browser and hence the problem. Here’s the instructions for reconfiguring the file association in XP:

  1. Go to Explorer (not Internet Explorer) (or My Computer)
  2. Under the Tools menu choose Folder Options
  3. Click on the File Types tab
  4. Find the file extension you want to modify (say DOC for Microsoft Word Document)
  5. Click on the Advanced Button
  6. In the Edit File Type deselect “Browse in same window” for the Edit or Open actions (or all of them if you prefer)

Here's a screenie of what you should see:

This will force it to launch a new (Word) window no matter where the source of the document comes from (say a doclib in a browser). I'm pretty sure there’s a blog out on this that someone wrote but can’t find it so hence this posting (feel free to link to it in the comments if someone knows of one).

Note that there are some files that doesn't work (TXT and XML files for example). For those you may use something like the example that comes with SharePad, a GotDotNet Community Project, however it will take more than a second configuring a machine to get this to work. Also if you need to deploy this, I don't know if it's something you can include in a GPO or not so check with your network guys.


  • Very handy! Now for an encore, can you tell me how to open in "Edit" mode? Using this method launches it in "Read Only" mode which means that I am unable to save changes to the same location/filename.

  • Thanks for putting this up and in understandable language too!

  • Was there ever an answer to this frustrating 'edit mode' problem?

  • Great info, though I am not seeing the 'Advanced' button if you are trying to change the settings for Microsoft Projects files (MPP). Any idea how to avoid that from opening within the browser?

  • I try your suggestion and it didn't work. The Word file still open within IE. I also checked the Advanced Settings=> Default open behavior for browser-enabled documents: Select "Open in the client application".

  • I've been having this same issue, well seems like the same issue anyway, and have simply overcome it by making the title of the document shorter. Hope this helps some of you.

  • Many thanks for this fix. I spent days frustrated by this issue. Your simple fix solve the issue. Ta.

  • Any update for Windows 7? The "File Types" tab is missing.

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