Opening Unopenable Files


Key to Instructions
To help readers follow the instructions in this article, we use two different typefaces.

Boldface type identifies the names of icons, agendas, URLs and application commands.

Sans serif type indicates instructions and commands that users should type and file names.

On occasion you may find that you cannot implement a function we described in this column. More often than not it’s because not all functions work in every operating system or application. We try to test everything in the 2000 and XP editions of Windows and Office. It’s virtually impossible to test them in all editions and it’s equally difficult to find out which editions are incompatible with a function. We apologize for the inconvenience.

—The editors


Q. Recently I received a file that lacked an extension (such as .doc, .xls or .txt) and when I tried to open it, I got a message that said Windows cannot open this file.

But it gave me the option to try to open it with a variety of applications by clicking on Select the program from a list, and I clicked on OK . I selected the application I thought was best—in this case Notepad—and here’s where I made my big mistake: Without thinking I also checked the box at the bottom of the screen that says Always use the selected program to open this kind of file. By doing that I seem committed to a kind of purgatory—forever forced to use Notepad to open that file. I didn’t realize the extent of my error until I later discovered there was a better way to open the file, but because I had checked that darn box, I couldn’t go back to change my selection. Is there a way to appeal my sentence so I can open the file with Word, say?

A. OK, you’ve served enough time for your crime; I can commute your sentence. Here’s what you have to do: With the cursor on the errant file, right-click on it while holding down the Shift key and click on Open . That will open the Windows cannot open this file screen. Once again check the second option— Select the program from a list —and then choose the application of your choice. You may want to save that file in that application by using File, Save as.

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