How to Set Excel as Default on Mac

In this article, we will guide you through the process of setting Excel as the default spreadsheet application on your Mac. Whether you are a frequent Excel user or simply prefer its functionality over other spreadsheet programs, changing the default application can greatly streamline your workflow and enhance productivity.

Why Set Excel as Default on Mac?

Before we delve into the step-by-step guide, let’s explore the reasons why you might want to set Excel as the default application for opening spreadsheets on your Mac. The primary benefit is convenience. By setting Excel as the default, you can simply double-click on spreadsheet files, and they will automatically open in Excel without the need to manually select the application each time.

Furthermore, Excel offers a comprehensive range of features and tools that are tailored for efficient spreadsheet management. From data analysis to chart creation and complex calculations, Excel provides unparalleled capabilities that can greatly aid your productivity and decision-making processes.

Another reason to set Excel as the default application on your Mac is compatibility. Excel is widely used in the business and academic world, making it the standard format for sharing and collaborating on spreadsheets. By setting Excel as the default, you ensure that you can seamlessly open and work on spreadsheets shared by colleagues or classmates without any compatibility issues.

In addition, setting Excel as the default application allows you to take full advantage of its integration with other Microsoft Office applications. For example, if you have Word or PowerPoint documents that contain embedded Excel spreadsheets, setting Excel as the default will ensure that these embedded spreadsheets open and function correctly within their respective applications.

Understanding Default Applications on Mac

Before we proceed, let’s take a moment to understand how default applications work on Mac. When you double-click on a file, macOS checks the file’s extension or file type to determine which application should be used to open it. By default, macOS assigns specific applications to handle various file types, such as documents, images, or spreadsheets.

However, you have the flexibility to change these default applications based on your preferences. This means that instead of opening spreadsheets in Numbers, you can configure your Mac to open them in Excel by default.

Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Excel as Default on Mac

Now, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of setting Excel as the default application for opening spreadsheets on your Mac. Follow these instructions carefully to ensure a successful configuration:

Checking the Installed Applications on Your Mac

Before proceeding, it’s important to confirm that you have Excel installed on your Mac. Open the Applications folder and search for Microsoft Excel. If Excel is not installed, you will need to obtain a copy of the software from the official Microsoft website or through other authorized sources.

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Finding Excel in the Applications Folder

Once you have confirmed the presence of Excel on your Mac, navigate to the Applications folder and locate the Microsoft Excel application icon. By default, it should be situated within the Microsoft Office subfolder.

Navigating System Preferences to Change Default Applications

Next, click on the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen and select “System Preferences” from the dropdown menu. In the System Preferences window, locate and click on the “General” icon.

Within the General preferences, you will find an option that says “Default web browser” or “Default email reader.” This option allows you to choose the default application for specific file types. Since spreadsheets are considered a document type, we want to change the default application associated with them.

Selecting Excel as the Default Application for Spreadsheets

Within the General preferences, look for the section titled “Default web browser” or “Default email reader.” This section lists the available applications for each file type. Locate the spreadsheet file type, which may be labeled as “.xlsx” or “.csv,” and click on the dropdown menu next to it.

In the dropdown menu, you should see a list of applications that can open spreadsheet files. Scroll through the list and select Microsoft Excel. Once you have made your selection, close the System Preferences window to save the changes.

Verifying the Changes Made to Default Applications

To ensure that the changes have taken effect, double-click on a spreadsheet file, such as an Excel workbook or a CSV file. The file should now open automatically in Excel without requiring any application selection. If Excel opens as expected, congratulations! You have successfully set Excel as the default application for spreadsheets on your Mac.

Tips for Troubleshooting Default Application Issues on Mac

In some cases, you may encounter issues when attempting to change the default application on your Mac. If you experience any difficulties, here are a few troubleshooting tips:

  • Ensure that you have administrative privileges on your Mac, as changing default applications may require system-level permissions.
  • Restart your Mac to refresh any system processes that may be preventing the changes from taking effect.
  • Update your version of Excel to the latest available release, as compatibility issues may arise with outdated software.
  • If the issue persists, consult the official Microsoft support documentation or seek assistance from Apple’s support services.
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Exploring Alternative Spreadsheet Applications for Mac

While Excel is an excellent choice as a default spreadsheet application for Mac, it’s worth mentioning that there are other alternatives available. Some popular options include Apple’s Numbers, Google Sheets, and LibreOffice Calc.

Before making a decision, take the time to evaluate the specific features and capabilities offered by each application and consider your unique requirements. Choosing the right spreadsheet program can significantly impact your productivity and the efficiency of your workflow.

Comparing Excel with Other Spreadsheet Programs for Mac Users

When deciding whether to set Excel as the default application, it’s valuable to compare its advantages with other spreadsheet programs available for Mac users. While Numbers offers a seamless integration with other Apple products and a user-friendly interface, Excel surpasses it in terms of advanced functionality, extensive formula library, and widespread usage in professional environments.

Similarly, Google Sheets, as a cloud-based platform, provides collaboration features and ubiquitous accessibility. However, it may lack certain advanced capabilities present in a desktop application like Excel.

Ultimately, the decision to set Excel as the default application depends on your specific needs and preferences. Choose the application that aligns with your workflow and enhances your efficiency in working with spreadsheets.

Considering Compatibility Issues when Setting Excel as Default on Mac

Before setting Excel as the default application, it’s essential to consider compatibility issues. If you frequently collaborate with others who primarily use Numbers or Google Sheets, ensure that Excel can seamlessly open and save files in the required formats to maintain compatibility and avoid any potential data or format loss.

How to Change Back to the Previous Default Application on Mac

If, for any reason, you decide to revert to the previous default application for spreadsheets on your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Open the System Preferences window by clicking on the Apple menu and selecting “System Preferences.”
  2. Click on the “General” icon.
  3. Within the General preferences, locate the spreadsheet file type and click on the dropdown menu next to it.
  4. Select the desired default application from the list.
  5. Close the System Preferences window to save the changes.

By following these steps, you can easily switch back to the previous default application if needed.

Customizing File Associations for Different Types of Files on Mac

Besides changing the default application for spreadsheets, Mac allows you to customize file associations for various file types. This means that you can set specific applications to open different types of files automatically based on your preferences.

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To customize file associations on your Mac:

  1. From the Finder, select a file of the desired file type and right-click on it.
  2. In the context menu, choose “Get Info.”
  3. In the Get Info window, locate the section labeled “Open with.”
  4. Click on the dropdown menu next to the current default application and select the desired application from the list.
  5. Click on the “Change All” button to apply the changes to all files of the same type.

By following these steps, you can tailor the default application associations to match your specific needs for various file types.

Optimizing Your Workflow by Setting Excel as Default on Mac

By establishing Excel as the default application for spreadsheets on your Mac, you can optimize your workflow and streamline your productivity. With Excel readily accessible, you can effortlessly open and work with your spreadsheets, saving time and effort in the process.

Additionally, becoming familiar with Excel’s keyboard shortcuts can further enhance your efficiency. Utilizing shortcuts for common actions, such as copying, pasting, or formatting, can save significant time by reducing reliance on mouse interactions.

Integrating Excel with other productivity apps on your Mac can also unlock enhanced capabilities. Whether it’s utilizing Excel data in presentation software like Keynote, exporting CSV files to project management tools, or importing data from email clients, exploring integration possibilities can revolutionize your workflow and enhance collaboration.


In conclusion, setting Excel as the default spreadsheet application on your Mac can greatly improve your productivity and streamline your workflow. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, you can easily configure Excel as the default application and enjoy the countless features and tools it offers.

Remember to consider compatibility with other applications and file formats when making your decision. Finally, explore alternative spreadsheet programs and customize file associations for different types of files to find the solution that best suits your individual needs.

Now that you have equipped yourself with the knowledge to set Excel as the default on your Mac, you can harness the power of this versatile spreadsheet application and unlock new levels of productivity.

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