It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at the Windows XP feature called "Set Program Access and Defaults." Originally, this feature arrived as a result of the settlement between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice, which (among other things) required Microsoft to make it easier for users to select alternative programs to those from Microsoft.
Basically, all the initial version did was to allow us to pick an alternative program for web browser, email, and Usenet news reading. Of course, if you used a program that Windows didn’t recognize, you could not use the easy interface and had to count on your program to set itself as the default.
Since then, the feature has grown, as I was surprised to see. First, where do you find the "Set Program Access and Defaults" program? It’s on the Start menu.
As we can see below, this really opens the Add or Remove Programs dialog box, with the Set Program Access and Defaults option selected.
The configuration choices are simple: Microsoft, Non-Microsoft, or Custom. We can display the details by using the pull-down indicators for each selection.
The Non-Microsoft option (shown below on the left) gets very interesting. Not only do you get to pick which program you want to use as a default, you can disable (remove access to) the corresponding Microsoft program. This certainly was not in the earlier versions I’ve seen (again, I haven’t looked at this in a while, so I don’t know when it showed up).
The Custom option (below, right) is the option I use. All the programs are operational — but we get to pick which ones are the defaults.