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Guide to Android File Associations

written by: Daniel Kolobaric•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/18/2011

Your Android device is more and more like a desktop computer. File Associations are an integral part of this. How can you manage file types and their matching apps on Android and how do you revert the default file associations? Find out here!

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    File Types and Apps on Android

    Your Android smartphone is essentially a pocket computer. Just like its bigger counterpart it is able to deal with a large amount of files, and just like its big brother, these files can be associated with certain apps. As the Android Market is open, there are a large number of applications available that will pretty much do the same thing and can all be associated with a single file type. Luckily, file associations on Android can be managed, and here is how.

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    Setting, Changing File Associations on Your Android Device; The Native Way

    Android Native Clear Defaults Most files that you put on your Android device that are supported usually will have their native counterpart. An MP3 file, for instance, will play on the default music player and an .avi movie will be played with the default movie player. As the Android system does not have a default file manager installed, the problem with file associations does not arise that quickly. Most files are shown and selected within the app that manages them anyway. However, when third party software is installed that somehow manages files, such as Dropbox or any file manager app in the Android Market, the problem may exist.

    When selecting a file through any of these mediums, the Android system will look for an app that can deal with the file. If there is only one app installed that can manage the file, the user will not be presented with any other options but that one. This is similar to how a desktop computer behaves. However, when the user decides to install an alternative to a default app, the Android phone will let you make a decision through a popup screen. Here all the apps are shown that can possibly be associated with that file type. It is also here where a user can make a certain app a default for that type of file. For Instance in the case of a photo taken with the Android camera:

    1. After a photo is taken there is a shortcut available to viewing photos, this will lead to the picture viewer app on your Android phone.
    2. When there is an alternative present, the user will be asked to choose which app to use to view the photos. At this stage the user will choose the preferred app.
    3. If the user does not check the option to make the choice a default, each time the process is repeated the question will pop up. However, if the checkmark is indeed checked, the Android platform will revert to the default each time.

    As there are many apps in the Android Market, a user will often change between them. Changing a default is then needed. This can be done as follows, using the above-mentioned situation as an example:

    1. From your Android home screen select the menu button > Settings > Applications > Manage Applications > All Apps > Camera (this can be any applicable app).
    2. Here the option ‘Clear Defaults’ has to be chosen to indeed clear the default file association for that app.
    3. To set a new default, repeat the before-mentioned steps for setting a default.

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    Setting and Changing File Associations on Your Android Device With Astro File Manager

    Astro File Manager File Extension Manager The above-mentioned procedure is the native way of dealing with file associations on Android and currently the only way to truly achieve application association in the system. However, there is an alternative, which can ease the process a bit. This has to be done with a third party application, in this case Astro File Manager. Although defaults can not be set in this app, Astro File Manager can alter extensions to not be mistaken by the wrong apps. A good example of wrong association would be when an APK will trigger a game emulator, whereas there is no association whatsoever. The following steps will give you the opportunity to better describe certain file types:

    1. Download Astro File Manager from the Android Market.
    2. Follow the following steps after opening the app: Press the Menu Button > More > Preferences > Under the ‘Data’ header select ‘Edit File Extensions’.
    3. A list with all known-by-Astro file extensions is shown. Select any file extension you want to select or modify an associated app with.
    4. The cube on the top-right of the screen will show the current icon, click on it to change. A list of all possible icons will show.
    5. In the two fields the Mime type and SubType can be changed. Change these descriptions to better describe file extensions.

    The above method will be especially useful for apps when selected in the file manager itself but can also be useful to properly deal with file associations. As Astro is one of the most popular file managers in the market the built-in extension manager is an excellent way of making sure the right file extensions are at least properly interpreted by the associated app or apps.

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    File Associations and Your Android Device

    Your Android device is much like an ordinary computer, and file associations are a part of this. It is important to know your way around assigning file types to certain apps as it is a bit of a hassle to reverse the process. The above guide should set you in the right direction. Use it to get the most out of your device and learn one of the lesser-known functions of your Android phone.