Internal File Associations Tutorial

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Adding a right-click context menu

That is what Total Commander (TC) internal file associations are all about, adding customized entries to the right-click context menu. Entries can be added to specific file types, i.e., .jpg, .zip, etc., and to folders. This tutorial began as a forum thread. Please post your questions about the techniques described herein in the forum thread].

Tags: file association, portable application, compressed archive.


Minimum TC version 7.55 required.

If you use portable applications you really should take advantage of TC’s internal file (and folder) association feature, which adds a custom menu to any file so you can open it in your portable application(s) with just a right-click. And even if you do not use portable applications, you could still benefit from this feature by adding a custom right-click menu to start installed applications, and custom right-click actions to files and folders. Some examples: Double-click a jpeg file to open it in portable IrfanView (your choice of portable freeware); Right-click a folder to open it in a new tab in the other panel.

If you are not familiar with this feature of TC, please take some time to study the internal associations dialog; select TC menu entry File > Internal Associations... and press F1 to read the help file. Then come back to this tutorial.

Note: While one can use TC’s GUI dialog to create and manage internal file associations, this tutorial focuses on manually editing .INI configuration files directly. The concepts involved apply equally well to the GUI case.

Adding right-click actions to files

In this first step-by-step example, we will learn how to open an image file in a portable image viewer.

The first step is just general preparation, something we only need to do once and do not need to do for all associations that we will create. We take out from wincmd.INI the sections that deal with internal associations and save them into their own file. By so doing, we end up with a self-contained set of definitions, which you could easily swap in and out of TC by simply renaming a file. We will name this file “associations-searches.INI”.

STEP 1 – create searches-associations.INI

Explore TC’s configuration folder, where file wincmd.INI is located.

Create a new file named associations-searches.INI in that folder.

Open wincmd.INI and locate section [Searches].

  1. Copy the whole section from wincmd.INI to associations-searches.ini.
  2. Replace the whole section in wincmd.INI with these lines:


Do the same with section [Associations] in wincmd.INI – If you do not find such a section in wincmd.INI still make sure to add these lines to wincmd.INI:


Save wincmd.INI, keep associations-searches.INI open.

end of step 1

Let me point out that from now on every time you add a new search to TC that search will end up into associations-searches.INI, even though this search might not be linked to an internal file association.

The next step involves creating a new sample search, which we do want to link to an internal file association. Continuing on the .JPG example, we will create a search named image in step 2.

STEP 2 – create search “image”.INI

Edit section [Searches] of file associations-searches.INI and add the following lines:

 image_SearchFor=*.bmp *.gif *.jpg *.png *.psd *.tif

Save associations-searches.INI and restart TC.

end of step 2

The new search becomes available under the name image in several TC dialogs, including the search dialog, but that isn’t why we created it. The main reason for creating this new search is to deal with a set of file extensions (bmp, gif, jpg, png, psd, tif) all at once by associating what Windows calls their file type with an application, like step 3 shows.

STEP 3 - associate “image” with IrfanView.INI

Edit section [Associations] of file associations-searches.INI and add the following lines (you might need to replace Filter1 with FilterN, see the notes right under step 3):

 Filter1_open=""%commander_path%\..\IrfanView\i_view32.exe" "%1""

Save associations-searches.INI and keep it open.

end of step 3

Note two important notes:

  1. You should substitute Filter1 with FilterN+1 if your searches-associations.INI file already includes other N filters, that is, use Filter3 for your new image association if there already are Filter1= and Filter2= lines in your .INI file.
  1. We have used %commander_path%\..\IrfanView\ to specify a relative folder path from TC’s own portable folder. This example assumes that TC’s folder is a sibling of IrfanView’s folder inside your main folder of portable applications.

Now verify that when you right click the icon of a .JPG or .PNG file TC display a menu with entry Open (internal), which opens the file in IrfanView. Likewise, verify that double-clickng an image file icon opens IrfanView.

Note that you only need to restart TC when you change section [Searches].

Let’s now see how you can associate a second (third, etc…) application to your image type. We will use FastStone Image Viewer (portable freeware).

STEP 4 - associate “image” with FastStone Viewer.INI

Edit section [Associations] of file associations-searches.INI and add the following line:

 Filter1_open-FSViewer=""%commander_path%\..\FSViewer\FSViewer.exe" "%1""

Save associations-searches.INI and keep it open.

end of step 4

Again, you should substitute the right FilterN+1 for Filter1 in the example. Also, we have assumed that folder FSViewer is a sibling of TC’s own folder inside your main folder of portable applications.

Now verify that right-clicking a .JPG or .PNG file icon displays a menu with entry open-FSViewer (internal), which opens the image file with FastStone Image Viewer. You may add more applications for the image file type by repeating step 4 for each application.

Let’s finish up our example by changing the icon that TC displays for the image file type. We will change it from IrfanView’s icon to FastStone’s.

STEP 5 - change “image” file type icon.INI

Edit section [Associations] of file associations-searches.INI and add the following line:


Save associations-searches.INI and restart TC.

end of step 5

When you change an icon you need to restart TC. Note that in step 5 we have used %commander_drive%\Portables\FSViewer\ instead of %commander_path%\..\FSViewer\ which we used in step 4. The two paths must lead to the same folder.

You can now add more file types and associated applications by repeating steps 2-5.

Adding right-click actions to folders

Our next example creates a right-click menu entry that opens a folder in a new tab in the other panel. TC has an internal command to open the folder under the cursor in a new tab in the other panel cm_OpenDirInNewTabOther. This internal command works through TC's GUI, so we need a way to interact with TC's GUI from an internal association. A tool called TCFS2 is all we need for that.

STEP 1 - download and install TCFS2

See the References section below for the link to TCFS. Download it and copy into folder "util\TCFS2" inside your Total Commander folder.

STEP 2 – create a search for folders

Edit section [Searches] of file associations-searches.INI and add the following lines as the first search:


Save associations-searches.INI and restart TC.

end of step 2

This new search becomes available under the name dir in several TC dialogs, including the search dialog. The search matches all folders and no files.

STEP 3 - associate “dir” with cm_OpenDirInNewTabOther

Edit section [Associations] of file associations-searches.INI and add the following line:

 Filter2_open-dir-in-new-tab-other=""%COMMANDER_PATH%\util\TCFS2\TCFS2.exe" /ef "tcm(3004)""

Save associations-searches.INI and keep it open.

end of step 3

Note: 3004 is the unique ID of cm_OpenDirInNewTabOther. You can find command IDs by right-clicking any toolbar button, selecting "Change...", and clicking the lens icon to get an input dialog of all commands.

Now verify that when you right-click a folder icon TC display a meny with entry open-dir-in-new-tab-other (internal), which opens a new tab in the other panel and loads the folder under the cursor in the other tab.

Useful adds-ons

The free TC add-on NiftyLink [1] allows creating "flexible links" to files. Such links are aware of TC's internal associations. Double-clicking a link icon opens the linked file in the program that is internally associated in Total Commander. This would not be possible with standard Windows links, like shortcut (.LNK) files, symbolic links, junctions, or hard links.

The free TC add-on TCFS2 [2] allows controlling the Total Commander GUI from the command-line. With TCFS2 it is easy to run an internal command as an internal association of a file or folder (see above for an example).


  1. I like to keep the definition of a file type search and its corresponding file associations together, this way:
 ; ----- image
 ;FilterX_open=""%commander_path%\..\IrfanView\i_view32.exe" "%1""
 ;FilterX_open-FSViewer=""%commander_path%\..\FSViewer\FSViewer.exe" "%1""
 image_SearchFor=*.bmp *.gif *.jpg *.png *.psd *.tif

At this point, only the search for an image is defined, there is no internal association yet. To add an association append the four FilterX lines to section [Associations], delete the initial semicolon character, and replace X with the correct sequence number. This way of organizing your associations-searches.INI file is tidier when you need to renumber entries as in the next paragraph.

  1. To renumber (sort the order of) associations use TC’s File/internal associations dialog (drag and drop to sort items). Remember that when you double-click a file icon TC starts the application that is internally associated with the first file type (search) that matches the file extension.
  1. Use %commander_path% and %commander_drive% as the situation dictates. There are some portable programs out there that get confused when you use ..\ in the path. Such programs may not start correctly if you use %commander_path% but may start just fine if you use %commander_drive%, which usually doesn’t need to include ..\ path segments.
  1. I am in the habit of writing .INI entries this way:

Filter1_open=""%commander_drive%\path with spaces\app.exe" /option=value "%1""

Notice the numerous double-quotes. They are essential. The exterior left and write quotes match each other and enclose the whole item, which consists of three words: a quoted application path (with spaces), an option, and a quoted document path. In some cases you might need to write option="value" or even "/option=value" (quote the whole thing).

References and Further Topics

  1. Forum thread - post your questions there]
  2. NiftyLink add-on forum thread
  3. TCFS2 add-on forum thread
  4. Internal Associations for Extracting Archives forum thread
  5. This tutorial

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