How-To Geek

Force Open/Save Dialogs to Use Details Mode in Windows XP

The common Open/Save dialogs are so prevalent in Windows applications that each little annoyance ends up driving us crazy after a while. The most frustrating thing for me is that you can’t save your view mode, so every time I have to switch it back to details mode.

The answer to our troubles is a small utility named OpenWide that sits in the system tray and forces these unruly dialogs to behave.

Launch the application after installing it, and you should see a rather ugly new icon appear in your system tray. (You can disable the icon in the setting panel’s Preferences tab).


In the placement section you can set the position on the screen as well as the size of the dialog, which I find extremely useful.

You’ll probably want to change the dropdown for “Initial keyboard input Focus on” from the default of directory to File name, so that you can quickly type in a file name.


The second drop-down will let you choose a particular mode… you could force it to always work in thumbnails mode if you were so inclined.

Clicking the “Test Current Settings” button will show you that the details mode is selected.


Note: This tip will only work for Windows XP users as this utility does Not work on Windows Vista.

Please note that some applications don’t use the common dialogs and instead build their own. This will not work for those.

Download OpenWide from

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/6/07

Comments (21)

  1. Ben

    For what it’s worth, I’m far more likely to review and then perform some potentially dangerous registry editing / group policy editing / other settings editing / etc, than to constantly run random utilities one at a time which perform one small function. Just my two cents. I love this blog and read it regularly, but it does seem like a lot of the solutions here are in the form of constantly running executables. Perhaps that can’t be avoided; I just can’t help but think many of them are in this form for simplicity’s sake (which is true! and quite valuable) but could use an “advanced” tutorial in how to actually change things ourselves. Again, thanks for all the great info; just a mild suggestion!

  2. The Geek


    I’d prefer registry edits as well… in this case I don’t believe there is a registry setting that works (although I could be wrong)

  3. Ben

    It’s a pretty cool function, though. I basically use details mode exclusively (with occasional switch to thumbnails mode and back), so I would love to have open/save dialogs use details mode. I’ll have to think about using this one :) Thanks again for the tip.

  4. The Geek

    If you are ever able to find a registry hack for this be sure and let me know!

  5. Nidrog!

    If you open lets say word, then click save as. Select detailed view. Then and this seems to be the key part hold down “Ctrl” while clicking on the “X” to close the save dialog windows it seems to hold the details view. It works for me this way in M$ office products.

  6. stivo

    God bless you, nidrog! Your suggestion works. Not only that, you can reorganize your fields display and that is saved too.

  7. xen-uno

    I like to know if it’s possible to to turn the application icons off (or just use a generic icon) in List and Detail view (of Open/Save). It may be a FireFox problem (, but if I Save to Disk a file on the ‘net, and save into an already pretty crowded Downloads directory and then have to scroll through to see if it exists already, it takes an eternity as the system has to load all the icons for all those files. FF appears to be using the native XP (SP2) dialog boxes (rather than it’s own). I’ve bumped up MaxIconCache in the registry to 2000 which helped alot on the desktop and start menu … but not on Open/Save.

  8. xen-uno

    Sorry … guess the above is a forum question though the author of OpenWide may know something about it and could be considered related …

  9. hugo

    This trick doesn’t work in my WinXP pro. Are there any other choice for this purpose?

  10. mrr

    If I am correctly understanding the issue this tool addresses…which I battled with for some time too…there is a way to do this in simple windows (at least XP Pro SP2 with current updates). If you want to set set the same look for all files on your C: drive say…Open windows exploder top level C drive folder. Make it look exactly as you wish…(e.g I like list view w/ details of my choice) once done…
    Tools->Folder Options->View->”Apply to All Folders” button and every folder from C: on down will now assume this profile forever and ever.


  11. Bill A

    I had been wrestling with this for way too long.
    Awesome Pgm

  12. Mario S

    In files that just open and do not save, the trick does not work (It could be that I am using XP pro). Open wide does allow you to open in details mode, but always opens sorting by size. I cannot seem to find a way to always list them by date or name. If someone knows how to do this, that would be great. Open wide does help. The folder options trick only works when exploring through explorer but not when opening files with other programs.

  13. Luke Hudson

    Hi there — I’m the author of OpenWIde, it’s been rather neglected over the years, but it is now released as open source under the GPL2 licence. For all those who are interested in developing it further, see
    Cheers — Luke

  14. Clark

    I do like your OpenWide. But I don’t like to have the software running all the time when my PC is on. It takes about 4K RAM vs. its being only 26K of the .exe file. Is there any way to change the MS commom dialog .dll or some other file(s) to get this solved? I used a small software to do this but can not find it any more whether in my PC or on the line.

  15. duchamp

    OpenWide not always work, especially non-english os.
    So I am using DirectFolders now.

  16. J

    ooh, the ctrl suggestions seems to work1!!!!!!!
    OMG! Thanks!

  17. So Happy Now

    Nidrog’s suggestion works!!! You can adjust the size of the box, the view, and EVEN THE ORDER LISTED IN!!! (such as most recently modified first). This is AMAZING!! Windows isn’t necessarily annoying – MICROSOFT IS for not making it usable.
    Thank you!!!

  18. ss

    Nidrog’s suggestion does NOT work!

  19. Thank you Nidrog!

    Thank you Nidrog–worked perfectly for me!

  20. YooperTom

    Love OpenWide, but it doesn’t seem to work with Outlook Express. Any thoughts?

  21. tuba

    Nidrog’s approach works in MS Office but does not work on Windows folders.

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