How to Make Microsoft Excel Default on Mac: A Step-by-Step Guide

To make Microsoft Excel the default on Mac, you simply need to change your file association settings. This will ensure that any spreadsheet files you open will automatically open in Excel instead of another program.

After completing this action, any file with an extension typically associated with spreadsheet documents, such as .xls or .xlsx, will open in Microsoft Excel by default, rather than Apple’s Numbers app or any other spreadsheet software you might have on your Mac.


When it comes to handling spreadsheets on a Mac, many users prefer the robust features of Microsoft Excel over other spreadsheet programs. Excel is known for its advanced functionalities, such as pivot tables, complex formulas, and various data analysis tools. Making Excel the default spreadsheet program on your Mac can streamline your workflow, especially if you’re used to Excel’s interface and capabilities from a Windows environment or if you regularly share Excel files with colleagues who use Windows.

This article is particularly relevant for professionals who rely heavily on Excel for their day-to-day tasks, as well as for students or anyone who prefers the Microsoft Office suite over the default Mac applications for handling spreadsheets. Let’s delve into how you can make this adjustment and benefit from a seamless Excel experience on your Mac.

Step by Step Tutorial: Making Microsoft Excel Default on Mac

Before we get into the steps, it is essential to understand that changing the default program for spreadsheet files will apply to all files with that extension on your Mac.

Step 1: Locate a Spreadsheet File

Find any spreadsheet file on your Mac.

Locating a spreadsheet file is the first step because you need an example file to change the default program for all files with the same extension.

Step 2: Right-Click and Select ‘Get Info’

Right-click on the file and select ‘Get Info’ or press Command + I.

In the Get Info window, you will find all the details about the file, including which program it opens with by default.

Step 3: Change ‘Open With’ Setting

In the ‘Open With’ section, select Microsoft Excel from the dropdown list.

If Excel is not listed, click ‘Other’ and navigate to your Excel application to select it.

Step 4: Click ‘Change All’

After selecting Excel, click ‘Change All’ to apply this default setting to all files with the same extension.

A confirmation prompt will appear. Once you confirm, all your spreadsheet files will now open in Excel by default.


Streamlined WorkflowBy making Excel the default program, you eliminate the extra steps of manually opening Excel and then opening your file, thus streamlining your workflow.
ConsistencyHaving Excel as your default ensures consistency in the way you view and edit your spreadsheets, particularly if you’re collaborating with others who use Excel.
Full Utilization of FeaturesAccessing Excel’s full suite of features directly can enhance your productivity and allow you to work with complex data more effectively.


Compatibility IssuesSome users might experience compatibility issues if they share files with others who use different spreadsheet programs, potentially leading to formatting errors.
Learning CurveUsers new to Excel might face a learning curve if they were accustomed to a different program, which could temporarily slow down productivity.
Potential ErrorsIf not all necessary updates or compatibility packs are installed, making Excel the default could lead to errors or issues when opening certain files.

Additional Information

It’s worth noting that changing the default program for spreadsheets to Microsoft Excel on a Mac does not impact the functionality of other spreadsheet programs you may have installed. You can still open these programs independently and choose to open specific files with them if needed. Additionally, if you work in a mixed environment where you constantly need to interchange files with Windows users, making Excel your default can significantly reduce compatibility issues.

Remember to periodically check for updates for Microsoft Excel to ensure the best performance and compatibility with the latest file formats. Lastly, don’t forget to consider the default file format when saving your spreadsheets. If you often share files with users who do not use Excel, you may want to save in a universal format like .csv when appropriate.


  1. Locate a spreadsheet file on your Mac.
  2. Right-click on the file and select ‘Get Info.’
  3. In the ‘Open With’ section, select Microsoft Excel.
  4. Click ‘Change All’ to make Excel the default for all similar files.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if Microsoft Excel is not listed in the ‘Open With’ dropdown?

If Excel is not listed, click ‘Other’ in the dropdown menu, and navigate to the Excel application in your Applications folder to select it.

Will changing the default to Excel affect other file types?

No, changing the default program for spreadsheets will only affect files with extensions like .xls and .xlsx.

Can I still open files in another program after making Excel the default?

Yes, you can still open files in other programs by right-clicking the file, selecting ‘Open With,’ and choosing the desired program.

What if I change my mind?

You can always repeat the process and select a different program as the default if you change your mind.

Will this change affect all user accounts on the Mac?

No, this change will only affect the user account you are currently logged into.


Making Microsoft Excel the default on your Mac can greatly enhance your productivity and ensure you’re getting the most out of your spreadsheet experience. It’s a simple process that can make a significant difference, especially if you’re in an environment where Excel’s compatibility and advanced features are essential.

With the power of Excel at your fingertips and just a few clicks away, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle any data analysis challenge that comes your way.