Fix: Excel Documents Open in Notepad on Windows 11?

When trying to open up an excel document, users have been experiencing that it actually opens up notepad instead of the Microsoft Excel application. This can happen when you do not have a default application selected for the file type that you are trying to open up which in this case would most likely be .xls. In such a scenario, you will have to open up your Windows settings menu to change the default application setting for the excel file type. In this article, we are going to take you through the process and show you how to do that.

Microsoft Excel

As it turns out, excel documents are pretty common and used very widely due to its different uses. The problem in this question is not something that you may only encounter when trying to open excel documents, but rather it is more of a general issue. Realistically speaking, it is not even an issue but rather the intentional behavior of the Windows operating system. If you have upgraded to Windows 11, you may realize that there is a complete overhaul of the Windows Settings app. In there, via the Apps menu, you can change the default applications on your system which decides what application gets to launch certain files on your computer. As it turns out, you will now have to choose a default application for all of the different file types that are associated with the application. With that said, let us get started and show you how to make your excel documents open up with Microsoft Excel instead of Notepad.

Use Open With

One way that you can solve the dilemma of Excel documents opening with Notepad is through the Open With option that appears in the context menu while trying to open up the file through the conventional right-click. Like we have mentioned earlier, the reason notepad is opening the file is because no default application has been set for the file type. When this happens, Windows tries to open up the file with its own built-in alternatives which do not usually work.

For example, if you are trying to open up a pdf document, Windows will automatically open it up with the Microsoft Edge browser unless you have another default application specified for it. Similarly, since the excel document is essentially a document, the operating system tries to open it up with the Notepad. As it turns out, when you are trying to open up a file type that does not have a specified application, you are asked by the operating system to choose an application to open up the file with. However, that appears in a simple dialog box and not a window which can be very easily skipped without knowing. Using the Open With option, you can choose an application to open up the file with. In addition to that, you could also choose to remember this choice so that Windows automatically uses the specified application for such file types in the future as well. However, that option is no longer available in Windows 11 and you will have to use the Windows Settings app instead. To open the file with Excel, follow the instructions given down below:

  1. First of all, go ahead and navigate to where the excel document is located.
  2. Right-click on the file and from the menu that appears, click on the Open With option.
    Navigating to Open With
  3. If you are not able to click the option, then go to Open With > Choose another application.
  4. This will open up the “How do you want to open this file” dialog box. From the list of applications provided, look for Excel.
  5. If you can’t find it, click on the Look for another app on this PC option.
    Open With Applications
  6. On the window that appears, navigate to where Excel is installed. By default, you will find it in the following location:
    C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\
  7. There, choose the EXCEL.EXE file and click the Open button.
    Opening up Excel
  8. The file should now open up with Microsoft Excel.
  9. Once you have done that, the next time you use the Open With option, you should be able to see Excel directly in the list of applications.

The caveat to this is that you will have to use the Open With option every time you wish to open up the file with Microsoft Excel as this isn’t a permanent solution. If you are looking for more of a permanent solution, move down to the next method.

Change Default Application

Another workaround to this issue would be to change the default application that we have been talking about earlier. When you do not have a default application selected for certain types, Windows will use its built-in applications to open up the files. This usually does not work at all as any excel documents opened in Notepad just show gibberish because it is not able to read the contents of the file. In such a scenario, to fix the problem, you will have to change the default application. Windows uses default applications to decide which file types are opened with which applications. To do this, follow the instructions given down below:

  1. First of all, go ahead and open up the Windows Settings app by pressing Windows key + I on your keyboard.
  2. On the left hand side of the Windows Settings window, switch to the Apps tab.
    Windows Settings
  3. There, click on the Default apps option provided.
    Navigating to Default Apps
  4. On the Default apps screen, look for Excel. You can also just search for it via the search bar provided.
    Looking for Excel
  5. There, look for the extension that your Excel document is in. Click on the Choose a default option provided.
    Excel File Types
  6. After that, on the dialog box that appears, click on the More apps option.
    Choosing an App for the File Type
  7. From the list of applications, choose Excel. If you can’t find it, click on the Look for another app on this PC option at the bottom and use the instructions after step 5 in the first method to open up Microsoft Excel.
  8. Once you have done that, go ahead and try to open up the excel document.

Show File Extensions

Finally, if you are still encountering the problem even after you have made sure that the default application is Excel, it could be due to the fact that the file extension of the document is different. In such a scenario, you can enable an option in the File Explorer that shows you the extension of the files. Enabling that might give you a hint on what actually is happening. To do this, follow the instructions given down below:

  1. First of all, open up the File Explorer.
  2. There, click on the View drop down menu and then navigate to Show.
    Navigating to View Menu
  3. On the menu that appears on navigating to Show, click the File name extensions option.
    Showing File Extensions
  4. Once you have done that, the file extensions should now show in the File Explorer window and you can check what’s happening with the file that you are trying to open. Usually, an excel file has the extension of .xls or .xlsx so you can check for that. In addition, you can also try changing the file extension to the ones we just mentioned to see if that resolves the problem.
Kamil Anwar
Kamil is a certified MCITP, CCNA (W), CCNA (S) and a former British Computer Society Member with over 9 years of experience Configuring, Deploying and Managing Switches, Firewalls and Domain Controllers also an old-school still active on FreeNode.

Expert Tip

Fix: Excel Documents Open in Notepad on Windows 11?

If the issue is with your Computer or a Laptop you should try using Restoro which can scan the repositories and replace corrupt and missing files. This works in most cases, where the issue is originated due to a system corruption. You can download Restoro by clicking the Download button below.

Download Now

I'm not interested