How to force Microsoft Excel to open files in new window [How-To Guide]

Often times you may find yourself in a position where you are using two or more Excel spreadsheets at the same time. You can, of course, use Alt + Tab to continually switch between the spreadsheets, or use Microsoft’s build-in secondary window function (you know, how you can minimize spreadsheets within the same window) to place the spreadsheets side by side. However neither of these methods is very attractive if you use multiple monitors or if you like using window-resizer programs like WinSplit Revolution. Rather, a best practice when working with multiple Excel spreadsheets at a time is to open the spreadsheets in separate windows, allowing you to easily tile the windows next to each other using WinSplit Revolution or, if you use multiple monitors, allowing you to place each window in its own monitor.

Unfortunately, the default behavior of Microsoft Excel is to open spreadsheets in the same window. Fortunately, there is a way to force Excel to open spreadsheets in new windows. This guide shows you how to do exactly that.

How to force Microsoft Excel to open files in new window

To force Microsoft Excel to open files in new window, you must do a registry tweak. This tweak takes less than five minutes, works on any computer (Windows XP, Vista, Win7, etc.) with Microsoft Office 2003 and higher (e.g. Office 2007, 2010, etc.), and is very easy to do; plus I have provided screenshots to help you, so don’t be scared that you have to modify the registry to do this. Take note, however, a) You need administrator access to your computer otherwise you won’t be able to modify the registry and b) You should be very careful when you have the registry editor open — accidental changes could crash your computer.

This tweak works with all Excel files, including files you open yourself and files that programs open via Excel.

To make Excel open spreadsheets in new windows, do the following:

  • Close Excel, if it is open.
  • Press Win + R on your keyboard, type regedit.exe in the Run box that pops up, and hit OK:

  • Once you hit OK the registry editor will open. Navigate to the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.12/shell/Open/command folder:

  • From the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.12/shell/Open/command folder right-click on the (Default) registry entry and select Modify…:

  • Add a “%1″ to the end of the Value data textbox:

Make sure you include the quotes and make sure you have a space between the /e and the “%1″. Do not modify anything else. Click OK when you have finished.

  • Now right-click the command registry entry (this is from the same HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.12/shell/Open/command folder), select Rename, and rename it to command2:

Ensure you rename the command registry entry and not the command folder.

  • Next right-click the ddeexec folder (HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.12/shell/Open/ddeexec), select Rename, and rename it to ddeexec2:

  • Now go to the Excel.Sheet.8 folder (HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.8) and repeat the same steps as mentioned above. In other words, add a “%1″ to the (Default) registry entry from HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.8/shell/Open/command, rename the command registry entry to command2 from HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.8/shell/Open/command, and rename the ddeexec folder (HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.8/shell/Open/ddeexec) to ddeexec2:

  • Close the registry editor (click the X button).
  • Done.

Keep in mind, if you ever update Microsoft Office or apply a patch, you will need to repeat these steps because updates override the registry changes you just made.

Conclusion

I really hope Microsoft adds an option within Excel in future versions to open files in new windows; but until they do, this registry tweak allows you to easily and quickly force Excel to open all files in new windows. Enjoy.

Share this post

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

117 comments

  1. Marnus-ZA

    Thanks, followed the instructions carefully and it worked!
    It was freakin irritating that excel opens all windows in one window, like how do they think must multi-screen users use excel?

    Thanks,
    Marnus-South Africa

  2. Benjamin

    Hi,

    Thanks for this. It worked for about 4 months, but then excel started opening *.xlsx files in the same window again. I note that now the registry editor has created new files “command” and my file “command2″ still sits there. Similarly, it has created a new folder called “ddeexec” under excel sheet 8, yet my folder “ddeexec2″ still remains. Can I just delete new ones it has created?

  3. gil

    Try placing your cursor over the start button (bottom left) and right click. Select “Properties” and make sure the Taskbar tab is selected. To the right of “Taskbar buttons:”, click on the drop down and select “Never combine” then click ok. There’s no need to change the registry if you try this. Hopefully this is what you’re looking for.
    Read more at http://dottech.org/26491/how-to-force-microsoft-excel-to-open-files-in-new-window-how-to-guide/#Cj7QqS1jQiEeYcvb.99

  4. gil

    Try placing your cursor over the start button (bottom left) and right click. Select “Properties” and make sure the Taskbar tab is selected. To the right of “Taskbar buttons:”, click on the drop down and select “Never combine” then click ok. There’s no need to change the registry if you try this. Hopefully this is what you’re looking for.

  5. Wanos

    Thanks dude! I’ve tweaked the registry before, but after rebooting, the issue would come back. This one actually stays permanent even after a reboot. I’m using MS Office Pro Plus 2010 32-bit, on Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit.

    If you guys are crashing/etc. make sure you guys are doing this right.

    FYI: I exported these reg keys so that next time I can just delete whatever’s there and just import the reg keys.

  6. Mark

    This seems to work if you open a file from the file system (desktop, shared folder, etc.). It doesn’t seem to work when opening a file from an internet location… such as your intranet! Anyone know how to make it work for that? Half of the files I open are from the intranet!

  7. John Ball

    Working just as you described in your post. I added the registry modifications to our Group Poicy computer preferences and pushed this to the entire domain. All is working great.

  8. avalon1959

    I did this and it worked to open up files in new windows, however now all my files open up as a new numbered XI0000000… files and not the original saved file. wtf? how do I fix this? It’s a real problem!

  9. RussM

    I tried this, but when I went to open a spread sheet it, if it had spaces in the file name it would try and open each word as a different document, i.e. “One on One Checklist” It would try to open Z:\One.xls, Z:\on.xls, Z:\One.xls, Z:\Checklist.xls. I also tried one with a single word name and ones that were on my C drive, I largely work with items on the network. I use Win 7 64 bit, Office 2007. Any help would be appreciated.

  10. Dustin

    [@J.R.]

    This is what worked for me to solve Amy’s problem:

    1. Delete the new “command” that appeared but not the “command2″ that you created previously.

    2. Modify the (Default) entry and add the “%1″ at the end.

    3. Delete the new “ddeexec” folder that appeared but not the “ddeexec2″ created previously.

    Excel files once again open in their own windows. I don’t know what causes this (perhaps a windows update) or if it will happen again. But the above steps worked for me for now, follow at your own risk.

  11. Sean

    I used your trick, and it worked great. But I can’t function without the ability to copy sheets to other workbooks. So I am trying to set things back to normal. I did all the steps in reverse order….but now I can’t click on an Excel file in a folder. It launches Excel, but then I get an error “There was a problem sending the command to the program.” How do I get back to the way things were? Thanks for your help.

  12. MikeXL

    This is all very well, but imposes limitations on functionality.
    For example, cannot copy sheets from one instance to a workbook in another instance. Or use format painting across instances.

    What I would like to see is an adhoc ability to open a workbook in a new instance. Would be great if a setting could be included in shortcut properties so that particular workbook always opens in its own session while others are open in multi-session.

    In particular for example, I have a VBA project that’s a complete running application and therefore means that other workbooks open in the same instance cannot be accessed

    For me, the most flexible way for now is to open a new instance and drag the workbook onto it.

  13. S.H.

    It works – but for excel 2012 (and I assume also for excel 2010) there exist some new filetypes for which you have to repeat the above steps.

    I did this for Excel.SheetBinaryMacroEnabled.12
    and Excel.SheetMacroEnabled.12

  14. Amy Lelliott

    I did this and it worked fine for a while, but after about a month it reverted back to opening multiple files in the same window.

    i tried to do the process again but because i already have ‘ddeexec2′ files from the previous changes, i don’t know what to do when trying to change the settings again.

    applying the changes to the command registry entry but not changing the ‘ddeexec2′ does not work?

    any help please?

  15. Ethan

    @Brian:

    Same for me! win 7 pro 64 bit (heard 64 bit office is different)…i also had /dde and not /e Tried adding “%1″ to the end of /dde and tried changing to /e…neither worked when trying to open excel files from outlook…they open in the same window. Also, if i open 1 excel, the xls opens in that one…i opened a 2nd excel, made that active, tried opening the xls and it opened in the first excel which was not active….any ideas?

  16. Brian

    I performed the steps exactly as mentioned and it made no difference for me, I am using Excel 2010 on Vista. Opening Excel files from links or clicking on files continues to open them in any currently open window of Excel :-(

    If is useful i noticed in my registry the end of the string to append “%1″ to has a different ending than yours: “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\EXCEL.EXE” /dde “%1″

  17. rbrbrbrb

    1) If you don’t have it make a shortcut for Excel on the taskbar (drag desktop shortcut to the taskbar)
    2) Open Excel
    3) Right click on the Excel icon on the taskbar
    4) Select Microsoft Excel from the menu

    You can open as many instances of Excel as you want

    Cheers

  18. Raj

    Thaks for the post. I am using XP pro+Office 2007 and the command file is missing in my HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.12/shell/Open/command folder so couldnt use your solution. I used part of your solution and did some tweaks to open Excel in new window every time. It woked. Please find my solutions below:
    Go to Tools-> select File Types tab -> select XLS file type-> click Advanced ->select Open-> Click Edit
    Add “%1” to the end in Application Used to perform Action: text filed (leave a space after /e) so that it looks like “C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12EXCEL.EXE” /e “%1″
    Remove the DDE message [open("%1")] (keep it blank)
    Keep the Use DDE check box Ticked.
    Click OK
    Do the same for file type XLSX also.

    If the above didn’t work for you, try this 2nd option

    Go to start-> Take run (or press Win + R together)
    Type regedit.exe
    Click OK
    Go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.12/shell/Open/command
    Right click on Default->Select Modify
    Add “%1” to the end of value data text field. If %1 is already there just add “ ” around it
    click Ok
    Do the same for Excel.Sheet.8
    Close Registry Editor
    Then in window Go to
    Tools menu->File Types tab-> select XLS file type -> click Advanced ->select Open-> Click Edit
    Application Used to perform Action: text field will look like
    “C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12EXCEL.EXE” /e “%1″ (don’t change anything here)
    Remove the DDE message [open("%1")] (keep it blank)
    Keep the Use DDE check box Ticked.
    Click OK
    Do the same for XLSX also.
    This should work :)

  19. Tizwoz

    For goodness sake, WHY is everyone struggling with this when Thomas C. Sherman’s Excel Launcher just WORKS, every time, year in, year out (in XP/Excel 2003 anyway)! No messing about with the Registry, it’s tiny, and it’s as easy as falling off a log.

    Get it here: http://download.cnet.com/Excel-Launcher/3000-18483_4-10803083.html
    and here: http://blog.thomascsherman.com/2010/06/opening-excel-files-in-new-processes-excel-launcher-helper-app/

    It seems only one person (see No. 14 above) has got wise to this after I posted in No. 12 above, so Ashraf – PLEASE check it out and wise everyone up. I haven’t tested it, but it’s so simple that I bet it works with Excel 2007/10 in Win7/Win8 too (for those foolish enough to have Win8), but I’m prepared to stand corrected.

  20. Amy

    Hi – I did this yesterday and it worked just great, but today it’s no longer working. Is this something that just works for one session and you’d have to reset the registry each time you want it to work, or did I miss something?

  21. LCH

    Thanks so much, my Excel used to open files in new windows by default, but stopped doing so yesterday after I made a new worksheet for some reason. Silly how such a little thing can be so frustrating, but your guide worked like a charm. :D

  22. Cody Macurdy

    Just follow these steps and there is no need to replace the icon (at least in Windows 7):

    Start -> type “run” into the “Search Programs and files” and hit Enter -> type regedit and hit Enter:

    Left column: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.8/shell/Open/commend:

    Right column {adding (space)”%1?}: (be sure to include the quotation marks when typing)

    Double Click on (Default) and write – “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\EXCEL.EXE” /e “%1?

    Right Click on Command – choose “rename” and add something to the name – for example 2 (commend2).

    Left column: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.8/shell/Open/ddeexec:

    Right Click on the folder ddeexec and choose “rename” and add something to the name – for example 2 (ddeexec2)

    Left column HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.12/shell/Open/commend:

    Right column {adding (space)”%1?}

    Double Click on (Default) and write – “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\EXCEL.EXE” /e “%1?

    Right Click on Command – choose “rename” and add something to the name – for example 2 (commend2).

    no restart needed. You can do this for .CSV files as well. Have Fun, and please share this answer with others. If the icon is not listed, you can right-click and go to Properties on any file that you wish to open with Excel, click the Change… button under the Opens With section, Browse…, look under C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Excel.exe (or under C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Excel.exe) and double click the EXCEL.exe; You may have to check the box under the Opens With section that states “Always use this file type…”

  23. Adnan

    On your last picture you have mentioned “1%” instead of “%1″ which gives the error message of 1.xls could not be found.

    Also I didn’t have a command string on Sheet.12 so I have manually added a multi string and copied pasted the same value as in the Sheet.8 and gave it a command2 name. It seems to be working fine now.

  24. Dilip Louis

    I take a lot of pleasure in finding solutions to annoying little problems, and without great souls like you, me and others of my ilk will be very sad all the time.

    Here, have a virtual rose.
    Dilip

  25. Paul

    You have no idea how long I have needed this fix. Thank you so much for posting this, it works perfectly. Seems like basic functionality in a dual-monitor world. Not sure why this isn’t included natively with Excel.

  26. Jannine

    Hey thanks so much, this had also been bugging me…however I open many spreadsheets to compare via email attachments, opening multiple attachments even over different messages still causes them all to open in the same Excel window. Can anyone advise of a “tweak” for this?

    Thanks In Advance

  27. Tizwoz

    I am re-posting what I posted in No.12 above (as Celia – I since changed my Log-in) because, for some reason, only one person (see No.14 above) has picked up on this more simple solution: Excel Launcher. It works for .xls and .csv on WinXP, and although I have not tested on Win7 or Win8, it is so simple that I cannot imagine it would not work – perhaps someone will test on those two OS’s and post here with result?

    This is what I wrote before:

    Or you could use Excel Launcher – I’ve been using it for years & it works so well. It’s tiny & you just have to set Excel file types to always “Open With” it after you have first run it & pointed it to Excel.exe & you’re done! Get it here: http://blog.thomascsherman.com/2010/06/opening-excel-files-in-new-processes-excel-launcher-helper-app/.
    That’s v.1.1, but I’m still using v.1.0 (get that here http://download.cnet.com/Excel-Launcher/3000-18483_4-10803083.html) because, for some reason I can’t remember, I preferred it to v.1.1; but it’s a great little FREEBIE program – so big thanks to Thomas C. Sherman!

  28. Tim

    Much easier option within excel

    round office button > excel options > advanced > under ‘general’ settings > tick “ignore other applications that use DDE”

    Not sure file types it works with, but works with everything I use

  29. GEORGEGR

    Thanks also from me BUT, Now after i done that in office 2007 i cant copy paste lets say a graph from one excel file to another and still work , cause it misses the conections, when i also use a formula and i want to add in it a cell from a totaly diferent excel file it doesnt work . it says that the file needs to be open ..

  30. Cornan

    THANK YOU!

    My company uses a very large excel sheet for asset tracking and trying to work with it and other lists in the single window was driving me absolutely mad. I’d stumbled across the trick that Roc describes here in the comments but it’s honestly a pain in the butt and I vastly prefer not having to mess with it. Thank you again for posting this!

  31. Roc

    This works in 2010 without any reg changes
    1. Open the 1st workbook as you would normally.
    2. Move focus away from the workbook by clicking on some other window.
    3 Click Start:Program:Excel. This opens a new window and blank workbook.
    4 Keep focus on the new workbook and open the 2nd workbook into the new window.
    5. Repeat 3 and 4 as often as you need.

  32. Daivd Coe

    @Aaron: My changes works with /dde in the command line, so it should make no difference. Just rememebr the other registry lines must be renamed “command” to “command2″ and “ddeexec” to “ddeexec2″ or it will not work. You have to edit both Excel.Sheet.8 and Excel.Sheet.12 the same way. I have Win7-32bit, Office Pro Plus 2010.

  33. Aaron

    This initial tip by Ashraf worked wonders on my computer at home, however, at work I don’t have admin rights so I called IT and surprisingly they went onto my computer and adjusted the registry the way it needed to be. It didn’t work. I have an idea why but I was hoping someone could either confirm or offer a better reason….

    When you modify the ‘default’ registry to add the “%1″ the end of the chain prior to it was a /dde, not /e like it was on my comp at home. Does this make a difference and will it work if I get it changed to /e? Can anyone offer any advice?

    Thanks!

  34. Non

    Sadly…

    This solution is also documented on MS’s Support section.

    Guess MS Office engineers just refused to fix a problem caused by themselves, so instead, issued this “fix” forcing the general public (who’s not computer savvy) to do the fix for themselves!

    Typical Microsoft >:(

  35. Justin

    Thank you for this!! I became so conditioned to manually reopen excel every day for multiple excel windows. This fix is perfect. I don’t get why they decided Word docs should open in new windows, but Excel docs should not. Anways, thanks again!!

  36. Peggy

    I am pretty computer illiterate but your steps made it so easy a 5-year-old could do it. Thank you so much, this speeds up my work flow immensely! Hopefully Microsoft will catch on eventually :)

  37. KC

    I really like this easy tutorial with pictures and it worked as described. However, I ran into my first problem only a few minutes later when I wanted to copy a worksheet from one file to another and now since they are separate Excel windows, I can’t have two open files and copy a worksheet tab between them. Any other tricks to solve this problem?
    Thanks.

  38. Chakri

    The following would work for Win7 64 bit,(right click excel and open in new instance submenu)
    Open a notepad and paste the following and save it as:- Excel OpenInNewInstance.reg
    and right click merge…. you are done.. right click your excels and open in new instance

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Excel.Sheet.12\shell\OpenInNewInstance]
    @=”Open In NewInstance”

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Excel.Sheet.12\shell\OpenInNewInstance\command]
    @=”\”C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Microsoft Office\\Office14\\EXCEL.EXE\” \”%1\””

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Excel.Sheet.8\shell\OpenInNewInstance]
    @=”Open In NewInstance”

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Excel.Sheet.8\shell\OpenInNewInstance\command]
    @=”\”C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Microsoft Office\\Office14\\EXCEL.EXE\” \”%1\””

  39. Gil

    This process didn’t work on my computer. The command line is slightly different than what’s shown in the examples. I even rebooted to see if that would apply the registry update – nothing. Oh well – I’ll keep looking!

  40. Stacy

    This is a really great post, thank you! I’m not terribly fond of Excel’s built-in window management tools, and it’s a bit annoying to always be starting up another instance of Excel just to force spreadsheets into separate windows. I was searching for something else, completely unrelated, but I’m definitely bookmarking this and going to try it out for myself. Cheers!

  41. simsan

    HI Ashraf,
    I tried the way you showed me to tweak and open excel. Something happened: I can now click on excel sheets already saved (made up), BUT these files DO NOT OPEN. A blank Excel page opens that lets me go to the main menu: file –> direct it to my saved .xls files, and yes it does open then, but not directly as i used to earlier.
    What wrong did i did or what happened here? Thnx —sim

  42. GeorgeIbiza

    @Ashraf:
    Hi Ashraf, This tip from Chris reminds me of opening multiple links in separate tabs……..in your ‘ask a dotTechie’ article some days ago.
    I tried it in both instances and it worked great…thanks Chris!

  43. Celia

    Or you could use Excel Launcher – I’ve been using it for years & it works so well. It’s tiny & you just have to set Excel file types to always “Open With” it after you have first run it & pointed it to Excel.exe & you’re done! Get it here: http://blog.thomascsherman.com/2010/06/opening-excel-files-in-new-processes-excel-launcher-helper-app/.
    That’s v.1.1, but I’m still using v.1.0 (get that here http://download.cnet.com/Excel-Launcher/3000-18483_4-10803083.html) because, for some reason I can’t remember, I preferred it to v.1.1; but it’s a great little FREEBIE program – so big thanks to Thomas C. Sherman!

  44. Peter Dm

    I have tried this on XP SP3 machine and although there is no HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Excel.Sheet.12/ entry (only Excel.Sheet.8), I carried out the modification as far as possible. It still works OK.
    I also tried on Vista machine, which does NOT have the command entry to rename to command2, all other modifications to registry carried out. This also works OK. One extra point however, is that it does not work if the second file is opened from within the first. Thank you for a tip that solves an anoying problem for me.

  45. william neurauter

    I just went & started the process of making the modifications.
    for excel.sheet.12 their is no ‘command’ registry entry below the Default registry entry.
    Like wise there is no ddeexec folder under ‘Open’
    for excel.sheet.8 the ‘command’ registry entry is also missing; however there is a ddeexec folder.

    My ops is XP pro SP3.
    Any thoughts?

  46. SteveB

    @giancarlo: I downloaded and tried Office Tab, very interesting. The concept is great and is probably ok for most of the word processing that I do; however, there are times when I would like to have multiple windows open for Word and the freeware version of this software d provide the capability one must purchase full version. Not sure I’m that interested in the product.