SharePoint Online: Open Documents in Client Applications by Default

Requirement: Open documents in client applications by default in SharePoint Online.

How to Open Documents in Client Application in SharePoint Online?

Do SharePoint Online documents open in the browser instead of the client application? By default, documents such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. open in the browser with Office web apps in SharePoint Online. However, the Office web applications like Word Online don’t give you full functionality as in the client-installed application. So, if you want to change this behavior at the site collection level, You have to activate a feature called “Open Documents in Client Applications by Default”. Here is how to activate the feature:

  • Go to Site Settings >> Site Collection Features
  • Click on the “Activate” button next to the “Open Documents in Client Applications by Default” feature.
    sharepoint online powershell open in client application

Activating the feature to open documents in client applications for a single site collection is straightforward. How about activating the feature for all site collections?

SharePoint Online: PowerShell to Activate the “Open in client application” Feature for All Sites

When the “Open Documents in Client Applications by Default” feature is activated, Office documents will open in the Office client application by default. E.g., an Excel spreadsheet will open in Microsoft Excel installed on the client computer. When this feature is deactivated, an Excel Spreadsheet will open in Office Web Applications within the web browser. Here is the PowerShell to set open documents in client application settings for all site collections in a tenant by activating the feature discussed above. 

#Load SharePoint CSOM Assemblies
Add-Type -Path "C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\16\ISAPI\Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.dll"
Add-Type -Path "C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\16\ISAPI\Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Runtime.dll"
#Function to Activate Feature in SharePoint Online
Function Activate-SPOFeature
    Param ($SiteURL,$FeatureGuid)
        #Setup the context
        $Ctx = New-Object Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.ClientContext($SiteURL)
        $Credentials = New-Object Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.SharePointOnlineCredentials($Credential.Username, $Credential.Password)
        $Ctx.Credentials = $Credentials
        #Get the Feature 
        $Feature =  $Site.Features.GetById($FeatureGuid)
        #Activate the feature if its not activated already
        Write-Host "Activating Feature $($FeatureStatus.DisplayName) in Site $SiteURL"
        if($Feature.DefinitionId -eq $null)
            #sharepoint online powershell open in client application
            $Site.Features.Add($FeatureGuid, $true, [Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.FeatureDefinitionScope]::None) | Out-Null
            Write-Host "`t Feature Activated!" -ForegroundColor Green
            Write-host "`t Feature is Already Active on the Site collection!" -ForegroundColor Yellow
        write-host "Error Activating Feature: $($_.Exception.Message)" -foregroundcolor Red
#Parameters to Activate Feature
$AdminSiteURL = ""
$FeatureGuid= [System.Guid] ("8a4b8de2-6fd8-41e9-923c-c7c3c00f8295")
#Get Credentials to connect
$Credential = Get-Credential
#Connect To SharePoint Online Admin Center
Connect-SPOService -URL $AdminSiteURL -Credential $Credential
#Get All Site collection and loop through
ForEach($Site in (Get-SPOSite -Limit ALL))
    #Activate Feature
    Activate-SPOFeature -Site $Site.URL -FeatureGuid $FeatureGuid

PnP PowerShell to Enable Documents to Open in Client Application by Default

We can enable the feature that sets all documents to open in a client application in a SharePoint Online site with PnP PowerShell as well:

$SiteURL = ""
$FeatureID= "8a4b8de2-6fd8-41e9-923c-c7c3c00f8295" #Open Documents in Client Applications by Default
#Connect to SharePoint Online site
Connect-PnPOnline $SiteURL -Interactive
#Get the Feature
$Feature = Get-PnPFeature -Scope Site -Identity $FeatureID
#Get the Feature status
If($Feature.DefinitionId -eq $null)
    #Activate the Feature
    Enable-PnPFeature -Identity $FeatureID -Scope Site
    Write-host -f Green "Feature Activated Successfully!"
    Write-host -f Yellow "Feature is already activated!"

SharePoint Online: Configure Open in Client Application at Document Library Level

In SharePoint Online, you can configure the open document in the browser or client application setting from the document library’s settings.

  • Navigate to the Document Library >> Click on Settings gear >> Library Settings from the menu.
  • Under General Settings, Click on the “Advanced Settings” link
  • Under the “Opening Documents in the Browser” section, choose “Open in the client application” or “Open in the browser” option according to your requirement.
    sharepoint online open documents in client applications by default

This overrides the setting applied at the site collection level and opens documents in the client application instead of the browser.

PowerShell to Set the Default Open Behavior for Document Library

To configure the default open behavior either to browser or client application, use this PowerShell script:

$SiteCollURL = ""
$ListName = "Documents"

Try {
    #Connect to PnP Online
    Connect-PnPOnline -Url $SiteCollURL -Interactive

    #Get the Document Library
    $List =  Get-PnPList $ListName -Includes DefaultItemOpenInBrowser

    #Set the Default Open behaviour for documents to client app
    $List.DefaultItemOpenInBrowser = $False
catch {
    write-host "Error: $($_.Exception.Message)" -foregroundcolor Red

Salaudeen Rajack

Salaudeen Rajack - SharePoint Expert with Two decades of SharePoint Experience. Love to Share my knowledge and experience with the SharePoint community, through real-time articles!

14 thoughts on “SharePoint Online: Open Documents in Client Applications by Default

  • Of course we just need a setting not covered (tested) in the blogpost. We want the libraries to follow the server (open in client). Why, because there is a diffrence between setting library Open in Client, or follow the server (open in clienty). The latter is more often working (ie open in client). We activated the feature on al site collections.
    Wanting to set all libraries to follow the server (open in client) to we found that $list.DefaultItemOpenUseListSetting = $false will raise an error: Any ideas ? Again un undocumented change ?

    ‘DefaultItemOpenUseListSetting’ is a ReadOnly property.
    + $list2.DefaultItemOpenUseListSetting = $false # FollowServer
    + CategoryInfo : InvalidOperation: (:) [], RuntimeException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : PropertyAssignmentException

  • So to program the behaviour for a library this has been changed
    $List.DefaultItemOpenInBrowser = $False ; $List.Update()
    it used to be $list.DefaultItemOpen = “PreferClient” or $list.DefaultItemOpen = “Browser”

  • Would this script be applicable to OneDrive for Business? Have a request to apply this for OneDrive for Business users organization-wide.

  • This doesn’t exactly default it across the board. It gives people a popup where they can select which option they want to default. I now have people who accidentally selected the wrong default and cannot find anything online about how an individual can change that default. Everywhere I find has this same universal change that is done by an admin.

  • Is there a way to do this through Power Automate using the REST API?

  • I am trying to accomplish the same function using Enable-PnPFeature

    Enable-PnPFeature -Identity “8a4b8de2-6fd8-41e9-923c-c7c3c00f8295

    Any ideas why it might not be working?

    • Use the “Scope” Parameter as “Site” in the cmdlet: Enable-PnPFeature -Identity $FeatureID -Scope Site

  • Why don’t we have any method in SharePoint Online to Configure Open in Client Application at Document Library Level using CSOM?

  • Thanks so much for this Salaudeen ! But it doesn’t work for MFA enabled environments. I’m getting this error

    Connect-SPOService : The sign-in name or password does not match one in the Microsoft account system.
    At line:55 char:1
    + Connect-SPOService -URL $AdminSiteURL -Credential $Credential
    + ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo : NotSpecified: (:) [Connect-SPOService], IdcrlException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.IdcrlException,Microsoft.Online.SharePoint.PowerShell.ConnectSPOService

    • On MFA enabled environments, You can simply remove the “Credential” parameter from Connect-SPOService cmdlet, and you’ll get a authentication prompt with MFA support. So, instead of:

      Connect-SPOService -URL $AdminSiteURL -Credential $Credential

      Connect-SPOService -URL $AdminSiteURL

      You can refer this post: Handling MFA in SharePoint Online PowerShell scripts

  • This script has just what we need (and seems to be the only one with the solution) but when we run it we get this error on every site: Error Activating Feature: Exception calling “.ctor” with “2” argument(s): “The ‘username’ argument cannot be null.
    Parameter name: username”. Has something in SharePoint Online changed since this script was created?

    • The above settings are not working in Chrome or Firefox.Any seetings to do with chrome


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