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Open .URL files (Internet Shortcut) with any Browser via Right-click menu

web browsers - chrome, firefox, opera, safari, IE

Double-clicking a .url file (Website shortcut) always launches it using the default browser. But, there are situations where you need to open different website shortcuts in different browsers. By adding browser choices to the right-click menu for .url files, you can choose a non-default web browser from the list and launch the website in it.

One way to make this possible is by adding the Open with context menu option which does not exist by default for internet shortcut files. Apart from Open with, there are other ways to launch a website shortcut using a non-default web browser.

Open Website shortcuts with any browser via right-click menu

Method 1: Using “Open With” ribbon command in the right-click menu (lists registered browsers)

Download url-openwith-modern.zip, unzip and run the REG file. Additional “Open” command is added to the right-click menu for URL files, with a sub-menu containing the list of installed browsers. This lists all the web browsers installed and registered with Default Programs. This method uses the Windows.OpenWith ribbon command in the context menu, and it works in Windows 8 and Windows 10 only.

The following registry key is added using this method:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\InternetShortcut\shell\Open With

The string value (REG_SZ) ExplorerCommandHandler set to {4ce6767d-e09b-45dc-831d-20c8b4ea9a26}

The list of registered web browsers is shown in the submenu. Applications other than web browsers aren’t listed. The shell populates this list of browsers from the Default Programs (Default Apps) registration.

One downside of this method is that the caption and the menu icon can’t be customized for the Open command (with a sub-menu). As said earlier, this Open with menu works only on Windows 8 and Windows 10.


Method 2: Adding a Cascading menu that lists all browsers

This method makes use of the excellent Cascading menu feature in Windows. It works in Windows 7 and higher, including Windows 10.

  1. Download url-openwith-cascade.zip and extract the contents to a folder.
  2. Double-click to run the file BrowsersMenu.reg
  3. Move the VBScript file BrowserLaunch.vbs to your Windows directory. In the Access Denied dialog that appears, click Continue.
    The script file BrowserLaunch.vbs parses the .URL file, gets the web address and then launches it using the chosen browser. The script is simply a launcher/stub script, and the contents of it can be read using a text editor like Notepad.

Now you have a neat looking Open with Cascading menu with the curated list of web browsers. You have the incognito (private) options as well.

Further customization: If you have a browser in the list that’s not installed in the system, you can remove it from the menu by simply modifying the registry value here:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Classes\InternetShortcut\shell\Open with...

The value to be modified is SubCommands

Its value data is by default set as:

urlChrome;urlChromeIncog;urlMSEdge;urlEdgeCh;urlEdgeChIncog;urlIexplore;urlIexploreInPriv;urlFirefox;urlFirefoxPrivate;

For example, if you don’t use Internet Explorer, you can change the value data to:

urlChrome;urlChromeIncog;urlMSEdge;urlEdgeCh;urlEdgeChIncog;urlFirefox;urlFirefoxPrivate

Method 3: Using the classic “Open with” menu

Download url-openwith-classic.zip, unzip and run the enclosed .reg file. It adds the Open with option to the right-click menu by adding the following registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\InternetShortcut\ShellEx\ContextMenuHandlers\OpenWith

The (default) value data is set to {09799AFB-AD67-11d1-ABCD-00C04FC30936}

Right-click on a .url file and click Open with…

This launches the Open with dialog. If the non-default browsers aren’t listed in the first screen, click More apps

Select your browser from the link, and click OK.

This method, however, doesn’t list every browser installed on the system. Also, even if you manually browse and locate the browser executable, it may not open the internet shortcut.


Method 4: Adding web browser shortcuts to the Send To menu

Here is a standard method many people use — the Send To menu. Open the SendTo folder of your user profile (type shell:sendto in Run dialog) and place the browser shortcuts in that folder. Then, right-click a website shortcut, click Send To and open the link in a non-default browser.

Editor’s note: Some browsers such as Google Chrome simply open the .URL file as a text file, instead of opening the web address mentioned in the file. This is because they don’t include a .URL handler registered by default. This is a known issue, reported in their official forum: Issue 114871 – chromium – Chrome doesn’t recognize .url files properly. And here is how it looks when you use one of the above two methods to open a .URL using Chrome.

Of course, there are Chrome Plug-ins that parse the .URL file and make Chrome launch the web address instead of outputting the file contents in the browser. Alternatively, you can use Method 1 or 2 in this article to avoid the above problem.

Featured image by Isabel Ródenas from Pixabay

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