How to change Windows’ default image editor (and find a good freeware replacement)


This posting will describe how to change the default image editor used by Windows using a small freeware program called Imgeditor, and will propose 4 freeware image editing programs that you can use instead (Photoscape, GIMP, Paint.Net, Image, and I.Mage).

I was recently testing a screenshot capture program that uses the default Windows image editing program (Microsoft Paint) to edit screenshots once they are captured.

This lead to two realizations:

  • I already knew MS Paint does not meet my needs, but now I decided to figure out how to change the default editor to point to one of the many fantastic freeware bitmap editing programs that are out there.
  • It also occurred to me that the “edit” entry for image filetypes in the explorer context menu (see screenshot above) is wasted space, and that changing it to point to a decent image editor is a fantastic idea.

I therefore set out and did a search on Google; and found that changing the default image editor involves editing a couple of values in the registry – or you can have a
Imgeditor is a very straightforward program that you unzip and run and does not need to be installed. Simply select the image types then point it to the program you would like to use as your default editor. Note that you could use the program to revert back to the default Windows image editing settings.freeware program called Imgeditor do it for you. (Download it here; screenshot below)

Now you can simply right click on an image file ans select edit in the context menu and the image will be loaded into your image editor of choice!

If you are looking for good image editing programs, here are five freeware recommendations:

Photoscape Screenshot1- Photoscape: this is an excellent, well rounded tool that I use for annotation (adding text to images), cropping, adding shapes, diagrams, and illustrations, resizing, combining, etc. It can process images in batch and has a number of built in filters to process images (but no open architecture to allow adding custom or 3rd party plugins). Photoscape is not for hardcore artists/designers that want Photoshop-style layers, but is a fantastic program nonetheless that will meet the needs of most people. I like this program because the focus is on working with image rather than pixel editing.

GIMP screenshot2- GIMP: is the premier open source “Photoshop replacement” bitmap editing program. You will find everything here: the tools, editing through layers, and an open plug-in architecture that (offers a degree of Photoshop plugin compatibility with it’s PSPI plug-in). There is also a version called GIMPShop which transforms the user interface such that it resembles that of Photoshop, enabling user who are familiar with Photoshop to simply pick up the program and start using it without having to get used to a new interface. Screenshot3- Paint.Net: the other heavyweight freeware Photoshop replacement program. Paint.Net is a powerful, mature program that is in my opinion more user friendly than GIMP, although from what I read GIMP may in fact be the more powerful of the two. offers a myriad of tools, layer editing, and a plugin architecture (no Photoshop plugin compatibility, though). It has a growing community of users supporting it.


I.mage Screenshot4- I.Mage: this is a simple, what-you-see-is-what-you-get program focused on Pixel editing. No layers or plugins here, but a straightforward program that is simply much cooler and more powerful than MS Paint.

Please note that I am presenting these selections because I have tested them and because they are very good programs, but there are many other freeware image editors out there (and a number of online editors that have recently proliferated).

  • pedro

    Great post as always…. “Image”, though, has a buy tab on its site. What gives?

    all the best!

  • Also check out Artweaver. Another Photoshop replacement which closely resemble its layout plus it’s also free and has a portable version at that.

    Will also give Photoscape and Image a try. Thanks Samer!

  • Chocobito

    Hi, you forget the excellent freeware PhotoFiltre that have all the tools that I need. I don’t find other free image software better that this.

  • Fred Thompson

    Imgeditor can also restore the “basic” image file associations to their default. I use that after installing greedy paint applications like Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro. It can be very frustrating to have an image file but not know the format because the same icon is used for multiple formats.

  • MgX

    One more vote for the excellent (and free) Photofiltre!

  • ALXi
  • Thanks these are good alternatives,

    I would add GIMP – Windows installer to this list. It works on Vista as well as XP well.

    Also I would vote for It is great replacement for microsoft paint and more powerful.

  • is the best, definitely. Free and so powerfull…

    Check out the tutorials there…

  • jespard

    For me, ImgEditor does not seem to set the file association. I tried it several times and it reverted to Paint…(ugh). I don’t think it is setting my registry settings properly. The interface is a little strange in that it offers 2 ways to revert to default image tool. Also, it would be better to use listbox with checkboxes so you can select a combination of image types rather than select one or all.

    Win XP Pro
    I associated it with ArtWeaver.

    Has anyone else gotten it to work.

  • Nice site! Just wanted to say Image, image
    editor does not seem to be free? They want
    you to register and get a key code.


  • IrfanView.

    What else ?

  • peli11

    I’d recommend Photomeister
    small, simple, effective

  • kosh

    you do not need a software to change the default image editor. open “folder options”–>>”file types”–>>chose a type(ie jpg bmp),click”advanced”. now,you see you can change&add&remove all the ways of all file types!

  • William Foster

    Well: Anything must be better than Microsoft Paint: Currently I am getting Microsoft Paint which is hopelessly for editing a Screen capture: A better alternative is Irfanview; gimp is perhaps far too heavyweight for this( In any case learning how to use “The Gimp” is very much an uphill learning curve

  • The DataRat


    “Try out ‘PaintStar’. Nice
    free GiMP alike editor.”


    Crude interface makes it nearly unusable.

    As for Imgeditor: It doesn’t work in 64-bit Vista.


    The Computer Rodent


    • Samer

      @ DataRat: thanks for recommending PaintStar; I hadn’t seen it before.
      You also get a special kudos for most enthusiastic comment contributor!! Thanks.