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

To make Microsoft Excel default on Mac, open Finder and select any Excel file, then press Command + I to open the Get Info window. In the ‘Open with’ section, select Microsoft Excel from the dropdown menu and click ‘Change All’ to apply this setting to all Excel files.

After completing this action, all files with the .xls or .xlsx extension will automatically open in Microsoft Excel when accessed on your Mac.


Are you tired of your Mac opening up Numbers every time you try to open an Excel file? Or perhaps you’re just a die-hard Excel fan who wants to streamline your workflow. Whatever the reason, setting Microsoft Excel as your default spreadsheet program on a Mac can save you time and frustration. In a world where Excel reigns supreme in data management and analysis, it’s no wonder many people prefer it over Apple’s Numbers.

Whether you’re an accountant, a student, or a data enthusiast, having quick and easy access to Excel can make all the difference in your day-to-day tasks. This article will guide you through the process step-by-step and highlight the advantages and potential drawbacks of making Excel your go-to spreadsheet app on a Mac.

Step by Step Tutorial to Make Microsoft Excel Default on Mac

Before starting the steps, know that following them will make Excel the primary software for handling spreadsheets on your Mac.

Step 1: Locate an Excel File

Find any Excel file on your Mac.

Once you’ve found a file with the .xls or .xlsx extension, this will serve as the key to changing the default settings for all similar files.

Step 2: Get Info

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

This will open the ‘Get Info’ window, which is the gateway to changing how your Mac opens Excel files.

Step 3: Change the ‘Open With’ Setting

In the ‘Get Info’ window, go to the ‘Open with:’ section and choose Microsoft Excel from the dropdown menu.

This action will tell your Mac that you prefer to open Excel files with Microsoft Excel instead of any other spreadsheet program.

Step 4: Apply to All

Click the ‘Change All…’ button to make Excel the default app for all documents with that extension.

By clicking ‘Change All,’ you ensure that this preference will apply to all Excel files, not just the one you selected.


Streamlines WorkflowSetting Excel as the default can significantly speed up your productivity, especially if you work with numerous Excel files throughout the day.
ConsistencyHaving all your spreadsheet files open in the same program provides a consistent user experience, reducing the learning curve and potential confusion.
Takes Advantage of Excel’s FeaturesExcel has advanced features and functionalities that are not available in Numbers, making it a preferred choice for complex data analysis tasks.


Requires Microsoft Office SubscriptionUnlike Numbers, which is free for Mac users, Excel requires a Microsoft Office subscription, which can be a drawback for some users.
Might Not Be Necessary for Basic TasksFor simple spreadsheet tasks, Numbers might suffice, making this switch unnecessary for some users.
Can Complicate Collaboration with Numbers UsersIf you collaborate with others who use Numbers, setting Excel as default could lead to compatibility issues or extra steps when sharing files.

Additional Information

While changing the default setting to Microsoft Excel on a Mac is a straightforward process, there are a few extra tips and insights to keep in mind. For instance, if you encounter any trouble with Excel not appearing in the dropdown menu, ensuring that Microsoft Office is correctly installed and updated can often resolve this issue. Additionally, consider the file format when sharing documents with non-Excel users; saving files in a universally compatible format like .csv may be beneficial.

Remember, this process won’t affect any other file types—so your Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and other non-spreadsheet files will open in their respective default programs. If you ever need to reverse the process, simply follow the same steps but select Numbers (or your preferred program) in the ‘Open with:’ section.


  1. Locate an Excel file on your Mac.
  2. Right-click and open ‘Get Info’ or press Command + I.
  3. In the ‘Get Info’ window, select Microsoft Excel in the ‘Open with:’ section.
  4. Click ‘Change All…’ to apply this setting to all Excel files.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if Excel is not appearing in the dropdown menu?

Ensure that Microsoft Office is properly installed and updated on your Mac.

Will this affect other Microsoft Office files?

No, this will only set Excel as the default for spreadsheet files (.xls and .xlsx).

Can I reverse this setting?

Yes, follow the same steps but choose Numbers or another program in the ‘Open with:’ section.

What if I only want to change the setting for specific Excel files?

Instead of clicking ‘Change All,’ simply close the ‘Get Info’ window after selecting Excel in the ‘Open with:’ section.

Does setting Excel as default require a Microsoft subscription?

Yes, to use Excel on a Mac, you need a valid Microsoft Office subscription.


Making Microsoft Excel the default spreadsheet application on your Mac can enhance your productivity and provide a seamless experience for those who rely heavily on its robust features. While there are some drawbacks, such as the need for a Microsoft Office subscription, the benefits often outweigh the limitations for frequent Excel users.

By following the simple steps outlined in this article, you can tailor your Mac environment to better suit your spreadsheet needs. Remember, the key to a smooth workflow is personalization—so go ahead, make Excel the default, and revel in the efficiency it brings to your computing experience.