How to make Microsoft Teams files always open in the desktop app, Teams, or browser by default (for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files)

You can open files directly within Teams to have a single context in which you’re able to do your work. However, when dealing with complex files you may wish to change how files are opened to be able to utilize the full functionality of the desktop app instead.

Note: You must use the desktop version of Teams to enable this feature (doesn’t apply to web version). If you’re still not seeing it, make sure you have updated to the latest version of Teams.

If you don’t make any changes to your default settings in Teams, documents will open in Teams automatically. Here are the three Teams file experience options you have:

  • Teams (default) – uses the Office web app, just like browser, but with Teams as a wrapper (see following screenshot)
  • App (desktop or client application) – opens outside of Teams and browsers in the fully-featured application (Word, Excel, or PowerPoint)
  • Browser – opens outside of Teams in the Office web app but in your internet browser
A Word file opened inside Teams (web app experience)

And, of course, you can always open a file in Teams then choose Open in Desktop App at the top, but that’s the long way around. We can choose where to open a file before we even open it.

Click to enlarge

In this post, I’ll cover how to open a file in a different context (Teams, desktop app, or browser) for one-time needs as well as changing your default setting to force all files to open in the desktop version if you wish.

How to open a file from Teams in the desktop/client app without changing default settings

If you right-click a file in Teams and hover over Open, you’ll see you can choose to open that one file using the default or your preferred experience (Teams, app/desktop, or browser). This is great for those one-off files that require the full desktop application.

So if you need to open a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file outside Teams, using its full desktop app:

  1. Right-click the file
  2. Select Open
  3. Select Open in app
Click to enlarge

Or if you already have the file opened in Teams, just click Open in Desktop App at the top.

How to change default file opening behavior of Teams to always open in desktop app

If you’d rather change the default setting for yourself so that a single left-click opens in the desktop app always, there are two places you can change your file opening preference – a file’s open menu or your Teams settings.

Note: Desktop/app will only be available as an option if you have Office version 16 or newer.

Always open Teams files in the desktop app | Method #1 (from a file)

To change your default file opening preference from an individual file’s menu, right-click the file, select Open, then select Change default.

Click to enlarge

Then choose Desktop app and Save. Now Teams will always open Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files in the appropriate desktop application.

Click to enlarge

Always open Teams files in the desktop app | Method #2 (in your Settings)

Alternatively, you don’t need to find a file first. Simply use the ellipsis (three dots) in the upper right corner of Teams and choose Settings.

Then select Files from the left and choose Desktop app from the dropdown menu. You change is saved automatically.

Click to enlarge

Always open Teams files in the Desktop app | Bonus method (prompt after opening one-time in desktop)

There is one more way to change this setting, but it’s less straightforward so I’m deeming it a “bonus method.” 🙂

If you do choose to right-click > Open > Open in app one time for a file, when you return to Teams it will prompt you to let it know if you were just opening in the desktop app this one time, or if you would like to go ahead and change your setting to always open Teams files in the desktop app.

Click to enlarge – Prompt shown when returning to Teams after having opened a file in the Desktop app from its Open menu


8 Replies to “How to make Microsoft Teams files always open in the desktop app, Teams, or browser by default (for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files)”

  1. Strangely, like Alan O’Regan and others have posted, when I click on the 3 dots next to an Office document in Teams and choose Open, I can manually select from all 3 options (Edit in teams, Open in app, Open in browser) and all of them work as expected, but if I select Change default, I only have 2 options: Teams and Browser. I can’t set the default to always open in the application. That’s frustrating, because that’s what I want and why I was searching the Internet and ended up here.

    If possible, please address why that third option for the default might be missing for some of us.

    1. Ah, I found that this is by design. Users with an E3 or E5 license will be able to set the default open to any of the 3 options, including in the desktop app. Users with lower licenses will only be able to set default to Teams or Browser, but not in the app.

  2. How do you set Teams to open video meetings in the web browser by default rather than opening the desktop app every time?

  3. not working for me either. Desktop App is never an option where you show it above. Microsoft has apparently “improved” the product by forcing you to use the much less functional online version.

  4. None of these methods worked for me. Option 1, then set-default does not exist. Option 2, in settings the files section does not exist. Option 3, going back to teams prompt to open in app does not exist. Please update. Still blocked here. Thanks.

  5. I don’t get the “Desktop App” option with either of these settings methods, although I can open the files in the desktop apps by right clicking the file open>open in app. Any ideas why this option is not available to me?

    1. Appears the options are only available to Microsoft apps. You cannot select apps like Acrobat or non-native Microsoft. 🙂

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