File manager context menus

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Context menus

A context menu is the menu of options accessible when you right-click over a file in the operating system's file manager (for example, Explorer in Windows). The following information applies to Windows, but similar principles apply to other operating systems.

Open with

This context menu item allows you to open the file with applications other than the default application associated with that file type. You can add an application to the "Open with" menu and choose if that application will now be the default application to open that file type when you double-click it.

Once a application has been added to the "Open with" menu, it will be listed when you hover over "Open with". If you add Audacity to "Open with", this provides a way to open files with Audacity when it isn't already running, but retain the default double-click action to play the file with Windows Media Player. If a track is already open in Audacity when you execute "Open with", your file will be opened in a new project window.

Warning icon On Windows, the Audacity executable cannot be added to Explorer's "Open with" menu if there is already a Registry entry pointing to another "audacity.exe". This is a Windows limitation. It could arise when you update from legacy Audacity 1.3.x (which had its own installation folder) to current Audacity. Try any of the following workarounds.
  • Use the Open with dialog to browse to the required executable each time.
  • Rename one executable to a unique name such as "audacity_2.exe", then use Open with > Choose default application..., browse to the renamed executable then enable "Always use the selected app to open this kind of file".
    • If you update Audacity again, you must rename the new audacity.exe to the same name you used before, or add a new association to the new executable renamed to another name.
  • Download and run this registry file as administrator. Rename it to "AudacityAssociationCleaner.reg" (without quotes) before running it.
  • Install CCleaner and run its Registry cleaner as administrator.

Custom context menus

To give more direct context menu access to Audacity, Windows lets you add a custom context menu item of your own for a file type, such as "Edit WAV in Audacity".

To create a custom context menu item in Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP:

  1. Click Windows Start button > (Settings) > Control Panel > Folder Options, or Tools > Folder Options from inside Explorer
  2. Click on the File Types tab
  3. Navigate to the file extension for your context menu item, such as WAV, and click "Advanced"
  4. In the window that appears, click "New" to add a new context menu item (or to change an existing item, click "Edit")
  5. In the "Action" box, type or change the entry as you wish it to appear in the menu (for example, Edit WAV in Audacity)
  6. In the "Application used to perform action" box, type the full path to the Audacity executable inside quotes, followed by %1 inside quotes, for example:
    "C:\Program Files\Audacity 2.0.0 (Unicode)\audacity.exe" "%1"
  7. Click OK, OK and Close.


Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7 and Windows Vista lack any direct way to either create or edit custom context menu items. You can use free third-party applications such as Default Programs Editor or Context Menu Tuner (for Windows 7 or later) for this purpose.

Warning icon File names including spaces:

Don't forget the "%1" after the path to Audacity. If this is missing, Audacity will think file names including spaces are separate files, and give an error for each one, or not open the file at all. As a quick alternative to editing an incorrect context menu entry, replace the spaces in the file name with an underscore, for example:
C:\Multimedia\audio_files\very_beautiful_melodies.wav

Opening multiple files from the context menu

"Open with" on Windows only supports opening one file at a time.

You can right-click and open multiple files, or right-click and open any files if Audacity is already running. Each file will open in a new project window.

Other ways to open a file or files without having to launch Audacity first are to select them and then press Enter; or select them then drag them onto the Audacity icon (for example, on your desktop or in your Program Files folder).
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