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How to Change the Default Application for Android Tasks

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When it comes time to switch from using one application to another on your Android device it isn’t immediately clear how to do so. Follow along as we walk you through swapping the default application for any Android task.

Initially changing the default application in Android is a snap. After you install the new application (new web browser, new messaging tool, new whatever) Android prompts you to pick which application (the new or the old) you wish to use for that task the first time you attempt to open a web page, check your text message, or otherwise trigger the event. Easy! What about when it comes time to uninstall the app or just change back to your old app? There’s no helpful pop-up dialog box for that. Read on as we show you how to swap out any default application for any other with a minimum of fuss.

Changing the Default Application

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Grab your Android device and navigate to the Settings menu (either by tapping the physical Menu Button and selecting Settings or by opening your application list and selecting Settings as seen in the first panel of the screenshot above). Navigate to Applications and then to Manage applications.

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Once in the Manage applications sub-menu tap on All to list all the applications installed on your phone. Scroll down until you see the application you wish to change. For this example we will be changing our home screen manager from LauncherPro to ADW.Launcher to demonstrate how to change a default system application.

Inside the Application info menu for the application scroll down and tap Clear defaults. Once you have cleared the defaults you can then force a new default selection by triggering the action that the application would handle. In our case we’re swapping out the home screen manager so all we have to do to trigger the event is tap the physical Home button on our phone. Android then prompts us with a Complete action using dialog box. Here we can select either ADW.Launcher or LauncherPro. Note the Use by default for this action checkbox. If you don’t want to be hassled to pick in the future, commit to your change here.

Potential Pitfalls and Workarounds

If you’re having trouble forcing the Complete action using dialog box to appear (especially for the handling of non-default file types) make sure you haven’t uninstalled the prior default application. Android sometimes gets hung up when attempting to change the default application for a file type or action away from the prior selection if the prior selection has been uninstalled.

For example, if you installed a video application and associated it with a bunch of video file types and removed the application before switching the default application you might run into problems. In this case the best solution is to install the old application again, change the default from within the Application info screen for that app, and remove it once you’ve successfully used the new application. It’s a hassle, we know, but now that you know how to change the task associations you shouldn’t be stuck in that situation again.


Have a burning tech question? Shoot us an email at  ask@howtogeek.com and we’ll do our best to answer it.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/9/11

Comments (11)

  1. dude

    basic

  2. Ciprianxl

    Hey !
    I have a Motorola Defy with Android 2.1. I like the basic homescreen but my “all apps” menu is organized in one vertical row . I would like an app that organizes my apps in different horizontal rows ( like iphone , galaxy S ) but NOT change my default home screen. I tried GoLauncher , ADW etc,but all of them change the home screen . Thanks in advance !

  3. Jason Fitzpatrick

    @Ciprianxl: Is there any chance you can take a screenshot of what you’re talking about (or find a screenshot like it online)?

  4. Chris

    Ciprianxl: When you are in the “all apps” menu, try pressing the menu button on the phone. You should be able to switch from ‘List’ to ‘Grid’.

  5. Ciprianxl

    @Chris Motorola Defy doesn’t have that option ! :(

  6. David Lawyer

    Nice walkthrough. Basic but still necessary for noobs. Mass adoption of android is the goal and do get there Androind must conquer and convert iphone users, cell phone users, blackberry and window mobile users. They won’t have a clue how to perform Android’s most basic functions. Keep up the good work. Drooooooiiiiiiiddd!

  7. Anthony

    I have an issue that isn’t so basic…I have several (about 5 applications) that do various things and can all open a specific type of file (like a video file) but only one of these will open facebook video files. When it ask’s for the program I want to use to open the facebook video file it displays only three applications to choose from, and the one to open those files isn’t one of the three. How do I get to that application and set it as the default for those types of files?

  8. Farmer

    I can’t believe I can’t find an answer for this online. My facebook has no defaults set. How can I open a gmail link in the facebook app rather than having it open automatically in the browser? Same for youtube, etc. thanks!

  9. Jess

    @CIPRIANXL- The Defy has 7 home screens for each of 3 profiles… Why not use them to organize your apps and widgets the way you want them? (Posted from my Defy)

  10. ewayne

    Having the same issue as Farmer…i can’t get gmail to default to the facebook app rather than the ‘internet’ browser. Have deleted all the defaults in these apps and you can’t uninstall the browser app. Please help.

  11. Jessica

    Hello, I was actually having a problem making Launcher pro my default home screen. I followed all of your steps and it still wasn’t working. Just for anyone having the same problem, I had to do the same thing to HTC sense app. Once I cleared the default there, I got the option box to choose my default. Im NOT techy, so it sadly took me a while to figure this out :( But im learning!

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