Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Quick Launch

Todd Klindt's home page > Todd Klindt's Office 365 Admin Blog > Posts > Can’t open non Office files in SharePoint 2010
July 04
Can’t open non Office files in SharePoint 2010

Please read updated link at the bottom of this post for a more secure way to address this. -tk

I stumbled onto this last week. A customer had a newly installed SharePoint 2010 farm and they got a complaint from an end user that they couldn't open non Microsoft documents. They only get the option to save or cancel. The screenshot below shows what happens when you try to open a PDF file from SharePoint 2010 in Internet Explorer 8.

Of course SharePoint's a lot less fun without that tight integration with documents that we've all grown to know and love. It was certainly a step backwards for this customer, as they could open these documents directly from SharePoint 2007. I hadn't seen this yet myself, so I did some investigation. I was able to reproduce the behavior in IE8. However, I noticed I was able to open the same document with Firefox. I discovered the behavior was caused by a new setting in SharePoint 2010, Browser File Handling. This setting is a security that prevents some active documents, like HTML and PDF, from ever being automatically loaded in a client application when clicked in SharePoint. The default setting in SharePoint 2010 for Browser File Handling is "Strict" which causes this behavior. If we change the setting to "Permissive" then we're able to open these documents directly like we expect to. This setting is set per web application in Central Admin in the General Settings shown below.

Since this setting is scoped at the web application level, it needs to be changed for every one of them. That's where PowerShell comes in handy. This setting can also be changed there. Web SPWebapplication object has a BrowserFileHandling property that corresponds to this setting. The following PowerShell will display its value for all the web applications in your farm:

Get-SPWebApplication | Select url, browserfilehandling

We can also use PowerShell to change that value for all of the web applications in the farm. This PowerShell code will do that:

Get-SPWebApplication | ForEach-Object {$_.BrowserFileHandling = "permissive"; $_.update()}

This changes the setting to "Permissive" then updates the web application. Here's how it looks:

It's that easy with PowerShell.

I hope this blog post has saved someone some frustration trying to figure out why they can't open up their documents directly.



Update: This method is the least secure way to address this. It's easy, but the bad guys like it a little too much. Instead, you should read Maurice Prather's blog post, "Pretty Dangerous Files - why enabling in-browser viewing of PDFs is risky" to see a more secure way to handle this.


edit: Added link to Maurice's blog post. (2/5/2013)



This is an interesting feature.  We've seen many Microsoft server products ship "locked down" so that users and administrators are more aware of the enabled features.  This one seems so very brash and biased. 

Without getting into the appropriate bashing on the topic, it would make a lot of sense to have this feature prominently displayed when the web application is created, much like the server configuration wizards.
 on 7/6/2010 5:39 AM

Re: Really?

I feel your pain. You always have to trade convenience for security. In this case I don't think the inconvenience is worth any security you might get. I might be wrong though.

Todd O. KlindtNo presence information on 7/6/2010 9:27 PM

Opening PDFs in SharePoint 2010

This work for the newly created document libraries. I have an issue with document libraries that existed before implementing the "workaround". I am looking for a solution this problem since we did the migration and we have lots of document libraries that won't open PDF documents in the browser.

I would be grateful if you have a solution to this issue.

 on 7/19/2010 12:28 PM

Very Helpful... Thanks

Good posting Todd.
I've just cut over from 2007 to 2010 on the weekend. Everyone was happy except for that issue (so far away).

John S.
 on 8/2/2010 2:37 AM


even after changing to permissive..i cross verified in powershell and it displayed pdf files are opening whereas already uploaded pdf are not opening....pls help me......
 on 8/24/2010 3:10 AM

Re: Can’t open non Office files in SharePoint 2010

file permissions are permissive...but pdf files not opening. can u better tell me how to change x-downlaod option. the default is set to noopen... i can try changing it to open
 on 8/25/2010 1:38 AM


Worked great, thanks for sharing....
 on 9/11/2010 4:58 PM

Very informative

Thanks! I've been trying to figure this out for hours :)
 on 9/12/2010 11:18 PM

Doesn't work everywhere

I've been doing battle with PDFs for a while. There are a few gotchas with this. I've found that if you create a site from a custom site template - the lists all get set to strict. Also, the PDF icon seems to screw things up too. I did up a post on this, and put together a solution to fix it. You can find it here:

Hope it helps

 on 10/5/2010 11:22 AM

Re: Doesn't work everywhere

Thanks for the link.

Todd O. KlindtNo presence information on 10/5/2010 9:29 PM
1 - 10Next

Add Comment

Items on this list require content approval. Your submission will not appear in public views until approved by someone with proper rights. More information on content approval.


Body *

Today's date *

Select a date from the calendar.
Please enter today's date so I know you are a real person


Want a message when I reply to your comment? Put your Twitter handle here.