PolicyPak File Associations Manager: Manage all file associations for Windows 10

Getting Windows 10 to work with file associations can really be a pain. Just mapping a PDF to work with Acrobat can be a challenge with Windows 10. Or getting MAILTO to work with outlook. This used to work great in Windows 7 with Group Policy, but not anymore. To fix File Associations with Windows 10, you need PolicyPak File Associations manager, which can be seen in this demo.

PolicyPak File Associations Manager: Manage all file associations for Windows 10

Hi. This is Jeremy Moskowitz, Group Policy MVP and Founder of PolicyPak Software. In this video, I’m going to show you how you can manage your file extensions on Windows 10 using PolicyPak On-Prem and our File Associations Manager component.

To get started on this demo here, what I want to show you is I have two very similar machines. This machine is going to represent your machine, Mr. or Ms. Admin machine. This machine over here is going to represent Mr. or Ms. Endpoint machine, the person who actually uses stuff.

They’re very similar, but I actually want to start this demo off with something that you’ve probably seen and has driven you crazy. Have you noticed that if you have a PDF on Windows 10, the default viewer for a PDF keeps prompting you for “Microsoft Edge”? You might even install a third-party PDF reader like Acrobat Reader. You can see my PDF here.

Even if you install a third-party PDF reader like Acrobat Reader, it even asks you do you want to “Make Adobe Reader my default PDF viewer”? You can go ahead and say yes, and it does absolutely nothing. If you’re the end user and you’ve selected that you really want to use Acrobat as the PDF reader, you can do an Internet search for “hijack,” “PDF” and “Edge” and find lots of people reporting that you think you’ve set it correctly but it doesn’t really set. This is a very extensive problem. You’ve probably seen this.

I want to let this finish up and show you that it doesn’t actually become the PDF reader. Okay, we’re all finished. Let’s go ahead and click “Finish” here, and you can see it doesn’t look like any change. I’ll even hit F5 just to prove a point to refresh. I’ll double click on this same PDF file, and you get the exact same thing. Users are prompted. They may not know what to do. They can click the wrong thing. Any number of things can happen here. So that’s problem one. I’ll go ahead and close this out.

Another problem might be if you have a movie file like an MP4 file and you double click it and what do you get? You get Microsoft’s movie player. Probably not what you wanted. You might want to have your application like “VLC media player” or some other thing that you’ve installed. How do you automatically get users to connect to that? That’s another big problem. I’ll go ahead and close this out.

How about mailto? You get a text file that has an email address in it, you click it and yes, of course, I want to email this person. What shows up? Microsoft’s built-in mailer. That’s not what you want. Let me guess. You wanted to use Outlook.

Lastly, another problem is let’s say you have a certain file type for an application that has no good reader installed. Maybe your developers are using something like Notepad++ and, heck, they don’t even have it installed. How can you associate an application with a program that’s not even installed?

Let me show you where I have Notepad++ on this machine here. I have it on the C drive here in a folder called “Notepad++Portable.” In order to use that XML, I’d have to open up “Notepad++Portable.” I’d then have to drag that file in. It’s just like too much work. It would be great if I could just simply double click it and then I could see the file. But you can see there’s no extension there.

I’m going to solve all four of those problems with one swing, and here’s how we’re going to do it. This is now your machine, the person that has the GPMC and also has the same applications. The best way to do File Associations Manager with PolicyPak is for you to have the same applications on your machine or to utilize a machine that has the same applications.

To get started here, I’m going to use the GPMC here. For all of my “East Sales Desktops,” I’m going to “Create a GPO in this domain, and link it here” called “PPFAM Demos.” (PPFAM is PolicyPak File Associations Manager.) I’ll right click and click “Edit” here. We’re going to be doing four things. We’ll do them all at once and knock out all four problems.

File Associations Manager is on the computer side. We’ll dive down under computer side, “PolicyPak/File Associations Manager” here. The first thing we want to do is associate Acrobat with PDF. We’ll right click, “Add/New Policy” here. We’ll call this “PDF to Acrobat.”

We’re going to be using a “File Type.” The “File Extension” is going to be “PDF.” We’re going to use a “Registered application.” I’ll explain what “Custom application” is in a second. We’ll “Select Program.” Again, it’s best if you’re on a machine that has this. Look at that: “PDF.” We find it pretty fast. We’ll use the Acrobat “Adobe Reader” that’s on this machine. It’s as simple as that. You can click “OK,” and there we go. You’ve solved that problem.

Let’s go ahead and “Add/New Policy” here. The second thing we said we wanted to do was movies. If we want to say “MP4 to VLC player,” we can then do a “Windows 10 Category” if we want to. We can just say the “Video Player” itself will be a “Registered application.” We have “VLC media player” on this machine, so we’ll go ahead and “Select Program.” There we go. We’ll just go ahead and pick “VLC media player,” and you’ve solved that problem.

Then we’ll go ahead and “Add/New Policy” here, this time to open up the “Mail in Outlook.” How are we going to do that? This time it’s a “Network Protocol.” Actually, there are two ways to do this. You could do the “Windows 10 Category” of “Email.” That’s fine. I’m just going to switch and try something a little different here. I’m going to show you “Network Protocol.”

This protocol is called “MAILTO.” If somebody clicks on a link that says “mailto:” you want it to run another “Registered application.” Which one? I happen to have Outlook already preinstalled on this machine. There we go. I’ll go ahead and pick “Microsoft Outlook” and click “OK,” and you’ve solved that problem right there.

So we have “PDF to Acrobat,” “MP4 to VLC player” and “Mail in Outlook.” Then the last thing we want to do is to “Add Policy” that says “XML to Notepad++.” This time, we’re going to also do a “File Type” that’s going to be “XML.” This time, we’re going to use “Custom application.” Why Custom? Because Custom is better for when you have a program that isn’t actually installed or registered. In other words, there’s no way for Windows to see that XML should be associated with Notepad++.

We’re just going to “Select Program” “From EXE file.” Again, this path has to exist correctly on the endpoint or this isn’t going to work. I’m going to “Browse” for it on my machine. It’s the same as the target machine: “c:\Notepad++Portable\Notepad++Portable.exe.” We automatically put in “%SYSTEMDRIVE%” and all that stuff. You can see, we have the “Path” all settled in.

Now we’re saying “XML to Notepad++.” We’re going to pass in the file name automatically. You don’t have to do anything. But if you want to run “Command Line” like if it’s going to be an application that requires command line arguments, you can put in your own things here. Just be sure to put in “%1” to pass in where the file should go in that command line argument. We’ll go ahead and click “OK,” and that’s it. There are all of our rules, all four things said and done.

You might wonder when these things are going to apply. What I’m going to do is go over to this endpoint here and run GP Update (“gpupdate”). You have to do a Group Policy Update first and after GP Update is successful, it doesn’t really kick in until you log off and log back on. That’s when the magic kicks in, when you log off and log back on, or for any new user who has never logged on. In that way, it works perfectly for first-time users right out of the gate. So that part is good as well.

Okay, that’s all finished. You can see that there are no changes here. Keep your eye on these three icons. What we’re going to do right now is we’re going to log out (“Sign out”) and log back on. Just like that, you can see the icon for the PDF has changed, the icon for the MP4 has changed. The icon for the XML has also changed even though Notepad++ is not actually installed.

Let’s go ahead and click on the PDF. Does it open up the Acrobat Reader we specified? It sure does. There’s our PDF just the way we expect. If we double click on the movie file, before it was playing in Microsoft’s movie player. Now it will play in the application we specified, which is “VLC media player.” There we go. That’s a video I did recently.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at our mailto. If we say “mailto:[email protected]” what’s going to happen now? If we click here “Yes,” we’re ready to mail. I don’t have “Outlook” set up, but Outlook is what launches. I’ll go ahead and just click “Next.” I’m not really ready to set up Outlook, but you get the general gist here. It in fact did launch Outlook the way we expect.

How about this XML file that really doesn’t even have Notepad++ installed? Let’s go ahead and double click and see what happens here. “Notepad++Portable” opens up. So just like that, we’ve solved four problems using “PolicyPak File Associations Manager.”

It’s incredibly simple to take your application extensions, your categories, your network protocols, or applications that aren’t even really installed, and you can make a mapping between the “Extension” and the “Program” that you’re looking to do. It couldn’t be any easier than that.

I hope that helps you get started soon. If you’re looking to get a trial of PolicyPak, just get in touch. Come to our webinar and we’ll hand over the bits, and you can try it out real soon.
Thanks so very much. Talk to you soon.