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File Extensions And Monopolies 881

A_Non_Moose sent us an article from Salon that talks about how file extensions are one of the tools used by Microsoft to extend their mind and market share. It's a very simple idea but its honestly something I'd never thought about. Definitely worth a read, and a few neurons to realize how its really the simplest of things that will guarantee that this monopoly isn't stopped even if Microsoft's deep pockets didn't let them buy the law.
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File Extensions And Monopolies

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  • Windows 3.1 (Score:2, Informative)

    by ThymePuns ( 222253 )
    In Windows 3.1 and presumeably 3.11(Workgroups), it was very easy to change the extentions. You could right click on ANY file and I think there was an option for "Open With..." and you could set it to always do that.

    Then with Windows 95, you started to have to struggle.
    • Re:Windows 3.1 (Score:4, Informative)

      by gorillasoft ( 463718 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:18PM (#2402673)
      That is still available, if you hold down Shift as you right-click.
  • Come on, this is so obviously satire it's pathetic. We have a non-techie complaining about something that's so simple as changing the "Open With..." dialogue? The fact that Windows keeps track of the associated program that launches associated file extensions is just plain stupid.

    Short of a complete re-write of the entire FAT-32 filesystem there is no solution to this, aside from teaching new users that "Hold down shift, right click, then hit Open With..." will solve this problem.

    Honestly, this seems like some columnist had nothing else to do and decided to bitch about Microsoft for a while cause, hey, it'll get on Slashdot!

    • Re:Give me a break. (Score:2, Informative)

      by sporty ( 27564 )
      You are granting the user a little more responsibility which they might not handle. Agreed, if they did a little more research, yes, they can find it. But the point is that if you have mp3's and MS is already associated with them, who is to say that someone will sit and figure out how to get realplayer to work with them. Worse yet, whos to say that because they used the MS one first (by default), they aren't getting an unfair advantage by getting first choice of what is seen as an mp3 player to use. Being first seen is usually an advantage.
      • by Chasing Amy ( 450778 ) <> on Monday October 08, 2001 @05:02PM (#2403590) Homepage
        "Registered file types" are there because Windows was designed for non-techie users. It's not part of The Grand Conspiracy, since file typing is still done in Windows XP the same way it was done in Windows 95, and the way to change registered file types is still the same too. I'f they'd made it harder, I coyuld go for the argument. But they didn't--they kept it the same.

        Registered file types were just a typical Microsoft hack designed to get the system to do essentially what Macs did, but without all the coding overhead and file/creator nonsense. Personally, I'm glad they cheaped out instead of doing file/creator typing, because I like to be able to change a file extension merely by clicking on the filename and changing 3 letters (after setting the newer versions of Windows to show the file extensions, of course--hiding them was another hack to be more like Mac, but a stupid one).

        And the average user will never have to change what kind of program opens a certain type of file, manually. See, when you install new software on a Windows box, the new software almost always asks the user whether he wants documents with such and such extensions to open in this new application. Yes is the default and that's almost always what the user selects. No manual changes necessary. It's only computer literate people who should be tinkering around with registered file extensions anyway--because illiterate yahoos can "accidentally" make it so that double-clicking things does nothing, or opens a file in the wrong application. That's why Microsoft put the feature where it did instead of into a separate control panel, where "average" users would no doubt fsck themselves up.

        Is MS evil and a predatory monopoly? Yes. Is their handling of registered file types part of their bid to rule the world? No. It's set up just like it should be--literate users know where it is, and average yokels can't ruin their systems by messing with something they shouldn't touch, and installing new apps to handle that file type will give the user the chance to change to opeining files of those types with that program. Or should we put a big shiny button in the control panel that performs a full fdisk just because that functionality is hard to find for the average bloke? No? Didn't think so. The writer of the Salon article is just blowing smoke up our collective arses at best, and at worst is a blundering moron. Nothing personal, of course... ;-)
    • Has he ever tried to change the file association on a Macintosh file? He mentions how "easy and convenient" it is on a Mac...

      On a Mac, without special 3rd-party hack programs (like ResEdit or Snitch), it CANNOT BE DONE AT ALL! Talk about monopoly power!

      Man... if he can't handle right-clicking on a file, and selecting his own alternative with the provided "Open With" dialog (recent OS's), then he shouldn't be running a computer at all!

      • by ReelOddeeo ( 115880 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:25PM (#2403102)
        On a Mac, without special 3rd-party hack programs (like ResEdit or Snitch), it CANNOT BE DONE AT ALL

        Incorrect. Open desired application. From within application, File menu, Open, open the desired file. Now without making any changes to the file, re-save it in the same place with same filename.

        Now the file's icon changes to that of the desired application. It now is "associated" with the new app.

        This wasn't the most efficient approach, but it was the most obvious. The Mac often wastes computer resources and keystrokes at the expense of saving "brain-strokes". Although, often, if you look deeper, there are numerous shortcuts to do the same thing more efficiently.
        • by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:46PM (#2403206) Homepage
          A more technical explanation:

          The Mac's file system stores 2 equivalents to the file extension for each file, the type and creator codes. The type code indicates what type of file it is, the creator code indicates the application that created it. The key concept here is that on a Mac, those 2 bits of metadata are orthogonal, and with a simple file extension they cannot be without some serious filesystem hacking, which MS hasn't bothered to do.

          Also worth noting that Mac OS X has most of the features this guy requests; you can remap a file's ownership from the Get Info window, and make your change global from the same location.
      • I believe that this can be done with Applescript:

        --script to convert files to Maple 5 Notebook
        on open(theList)
        tell application "Finder"
        repeat with theItem in theList
        set creator type of theItem to "REL5"
        set file type of theItem to "MVNB"
        end repeat
        end tell
        end open

        Not exactly simple, but it can be done with a Apple provided program. (And it is faster than ResEdit).

        I am sure that in the coming years, Microsoft is likely to provide a online, for-fee, version of Office. It could be problematic if instead of launching StarOffice, double clicking on a spreadsheet file would preferentially launch the network Excel application...

        Apple has, to my knowledge, no such plans...

    • Of course a non-techie is having trouble, because the option unearthed by shift-right-click is not, in any way shape or form, visible to the user of the GUI. It's not necessarily his fault whatsoever that he's not aware of this -- it only denotes a lack of random experimentation.

      This is the inherent problem with all "right-click" contextual menus -- a right-click should not be considered the primary way to get at a function, as before the user right clicks, there's no way for the user to know the functionality is even there.

      What it really is is bad GUI design, and seeing as it's a GUI by designed by MS engineers, it's had to say if the flaw is intentional or not.


      • by jiheison ( 468171 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:10PM (#2403014) Homepage
        a right-click should not be considered the primary way to get at a function

        And why not? It is right there next to the Left mouse button. Why is it a less valid as a primary way to get at a function? It is only bad GUI design if you can't wrap your brain around more than one button. I suggest you unplug your keyboard and stay away from any mouse with a wheel on it.
    • Every few months my web server people fuck over the server config files (Apache or Apache-like. Mebbie Websphere) and my lusers all start calling up and complaining that the file no longer gives them a "save as" when they click on it. You'd think that ANY plonker who's used the web for more than 15 minutes would just right click and select save as. Unfortunately this is not the case.

      I'm starting to see the same calls with the IE users, for some odd reason. It doesn't appear to be server side with them but the number of calls have been fairly low thus far, and I don't do Windows. Once we start seeing a number of them, my PHBs will start demanding that I make IE work just like Netscape currentl does. Joy.

  • by sporty ( 27564 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:19PM (#2402676) Homepage
    In the article, it mentions the Mac way of doing it is quite nice without mentioning its downfall. I made the mistake of trying out soundjam on one of my mp3's, and then it changed its resource fork (or so i was told it is called), 8 or 9 bytes saying what type of file it is and what its associated to. Great, so this mp3 when I double click on it launches soundjam instead of itunes. I never asked for that.

    Over time, I got irritated with soundjam and went back. I got rid of the program but the association is still there. I know how to fix it, but if someone was a little less knowledgeable or someone writes a program to change all my associations, I'd be quite.. irritated.

    I know, its possible for any dos/win program to change my PC file extensions too, but its more obvious and probably a lot less likely.

    • It's the kee-jerk solution to 90% of all pre-MacOS X problems:

      reeeeeebbbbuild the deeeeeesktop.

      Why the desktop on OS 7/8/9 didn't just rebuild itself once a month I'll never know. Oh well, it's a non-issue now.


    • OS X 10.1 actually recognizes the extentions to filenames as opposed to the file's headers to the fs

      Unfortunately, I dont know how easy/difficult it is to change a file's association on OS X.
      • Actually, OS X uses a combination of the old Type/Creator codes and the file extensions. However, any individual document can have a specific application associated with it.

        Click on the file's icon, type Command-I. (For "Info".) It's the second option down on the popup window.

  • by jgaynor ( 205453 ) <jon@gayno[ ]rg ['r.o' in gap]> on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:19PM (#2402678) Homepage
    Remember when Netscape and IE fought for .html and URL rights EVERY time you opened them?

    RealPlayer, Winamp, Winzip, photoshop, even stupid ass AOL all do this . . .

    Installation defaults of all these apps try and steal file extensinos away from programs. Its just a matter of knowing what boxes to uncheck during the installation. Ordinary users simply dont know what they're clicking through during an install.

    Once a program gets a hold of an extension its almost impossible for a normal user to fix it. You cant expect users to know where to reassign file extension ownership (in the file association tab under folder options).

    • I agree (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SirWhoopass ( 108232 )
      I don't think it's all that difficult to change registered file types in Windows. It's not something that needs to be changed on a daily basis.

      Much more annoying is having every new application try and make itself the default for a million other filetypes.

    • by Jburkholder ( 28127 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:33PM (#2402762)
      >Its just a matter of knowing what boxes to uncheck during the installation. Ordinary users simply dont know what they're clicking through during an install.

      Man, the worst offender I ever experienced was paintshop pro. This was especially bad if you were stupid enough (as I was once) to download and install the TRIAL VERSION!.

      It took _every_ file extension it decided it should handle and changed the registered extension app without asking (or even giving an option in the install, custom install not being available in the 'demo').

      So, after using the software for 30 days (or less!) and deciding I didn't want it, there was no way to restore the file extension settings (other than manually, of course).

      At first, I would still click on the file I wanted to open and PSP would come up and rag at me that my trial had expired and I should buy the damn thing. Of course, my response was to uninstall the stupid thing. Not much better, now windows would report that it couldn't find the registered application for the file I was opening.

      You can, of course, hunt down the view/folder options/file types dialog and then manually change each extension back to some other app install on your system. Most programs these days will ask during the install which extensions you want to have automatically opened by the program, and others are even smart enough to offer the right-click/open with option during the install.
    • I think the main problem is that when I have both IE and Mozilla installed, there's no easy way to have both "Open in IE" and "Open in Mozilla" in the context menu for an html file. IE and Mozilla fight for the extension, not giving you the option to have both browsers associated with the file type. If you want to change your default browser later, and you somehow manage to find the "open with..." option in explorer (shift+right-click), you have to select from a list of every application on your system rather than just a list of web browsers.

      In addition to those problems, the single-program-per-extension system forces uninstallers to be unnecessarily complex. For example, if you uninstall Mozilla, apparently it's Mozilla's responsibility [] to tell Windows to switch back to using IE. Mozilla can't just tell Windows "I'm not here anymore, so find another program to handle html files".

      And don't even get me started on how hard it is for a browser to determine whether it's safe to open an untrusted file with its default application. Apparently the solution is to hard-code a long list of "dangerous" extensions [] from Microsoft's web site into your browser. At least Microsoft isn't trying very hard to establish a monopoly on secure web browsers...
  • by neema ( 170845 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:21PM (#2402688) Homepage
    This "attempt" at a monopoly through file extensions is something that would only be successful for those who know nothing about the OS at all. Using Win2k as we speak, right clicking on any file and going to "Open with" seems easy enough. Better yet, it has a check box of "use this program to open up the file as default". Very easy. Of course, if no one bothers to look for it, I'm sure it can be considered hard.

    I agree that Microsoft does things specifically to retain a monopoly, but does everything it do have that purpose?

    I doubt it.
    • by wfrp01 ( 82831 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:41PM (#2402817) Journal
      Exactly. I can see it now... In an effort to please each and every technophobe's desire to have their all-important feature be only one click away, Microsoft releases "Windows Flat". No menus. No directory trees. No dialogs. Instead, each and every pixel is assigned a function.

      Oh my god, I better go patent this...
    • This may have been added to the article since you posted:

      Postcript: Several readers have e-mailed me to outline what they feel are holes in my argument. They point out that in the most recent versions of Windows, a right click on file names will offer you an "Open with" option, and that if you navigate this properly you can check a box that says "Always open files of this type with this program," thus effectively changing the default option.

      This is correct but irrelevant to the point I'm making. The power of "default" settings lies in users' ignorance and inertia. There are millions of Windows users who barely know what "right-clicking" is. These users may be disdained by some of my correspondents, but they constitute a critical mass in the marketplace.

      That may be, but what's the likelihood that the people who don't know about right-clicking are likely to open a control panel to configure their own preferred handlers?

      I dunno -- this level of government meddling in software design seems like just the kind of thing nobody in the industry wants.

      (By the way, using Konqueror, no Salon cookies and no Flash installed, I'm getting a stream of new windows opening and respawning that looks like I'm on a porn site. Is that the correct behavior? Also, why is Slashcode ignoring my italic tags?)

      • Using Win2k as we speak, right clicking on any file and going to "Open with" seems easy enough

      Er, yes, as Scott goes on to say at the end of his article (having had it "pointed out" to him, he claims). I wonder how many posters here actually read the article to the end?

      But either Scott didn't know this, or he chose to "forget" it, and as he still claims that this is too complicated for Joe Sixpack, we can write his article off as flamebait.

    • The other 90% (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:58PM (#2402935)
      Shift right click, or right click in 2k its quite simple. The standard complaint that users don't know what they're doing thus MS is even more evil because it doesn't pay for a class or whatever is groundless. When someone needs to change the file extension they call their PC-smart buddies or asking on a web board or newsgroup.

      This would be monopolistic if MS disabled this fuction, but instead this article is perfect for the mindless MS bashing that makes slashdot look so prejudiced. There are real MS complaints and this isn't one of them.

      Maybe I'll get a job at salon. "Hi I'm the Slashdot baiter and I'm thinking of writing something inflammatory about the two button mouse. Think about it dudes, Mac has one button. MS is trying to confuse people for their own ends!"
    • Not exactly.... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Danse ( 1026 )

      The "Open with" option only appears on file types that don't already have a default handler program selected. If they have one, you just get the "Open" option instead. If you want to change it, you have to know how to change your file associations in Explorer. Most people have no idea how to do this.

  • Come on (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nawak ( 170627 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:22PM (#2402689) Homepage
    Every program messes with file associations:

    RealPlayer, Winamp, Quicktime etc...

    What's the difference when it's MS programs?

    You can easily change the assocation by holding shift while right clicking on the file and choosing 'Open with'. You then check 'Always open with...' and there you go!

    Changing the icon is way harder and is a way more annoying thing in windows.

  • This is silly... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BenCaxton ( 114005 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:24PM (#2402711)
    This is just plain ridiculous... I'm not a big fan of Microsoft, but saying their anti-competitive because people would have to spend about 5 min learning how to change a setting, but because they're too stupid or lazy to do so microsoft should be forced to hold their hand while they do it?

    What next... Saying that its unfair to have be the default home page for a newly installed copy of ie just because some idiot might want to change it but doesn't want to take the time to figure out how...???

    This goes beyond a legitimate argument to just finding something to complain about because complaining about microsoft is the thing to do.
    • No this is not silly. Last night I had to spend 10 min explaining to an intelligent lawyer friend why suddenly sh could no longer paly CD using WinAmp. The Realplayer had registered it self for that as she hed used it to watch a Realplayer News clip on CNN. Maybe the program warns you but few reads it as they are requesting the clip. One solution would be if you could block all file registration during install and then activate inside the application you are using.
  • If Microsoft restricts or makes it difficult to change what applications work with certain file or data types, they're just shooting themselves in the foot. The more they make it "Microsoft everything", and the fewer options they give people, the more frustrated people are going to become with the Windows operating system in general. It was bad enough when we couldn't choose the operating system; Now we can even choose what software runs under it?

    People will start to realize this; Even your grandmother.

  • from the salon article:
    The trouble is, even if some court orders Microsoft to throw Real Player into the Windows package, it doesn't make much difference if most users can't figure out how to switch the default player of music files from Windows Media to Real. When Joe User clicks on a music file, even if he likes Real Player and prefers to use it, Windows Media Player will open and play the file. Unless Joe is a power user or an extremely persistent fellow, he will eventually give up on Real. The competitor's software will sit on the hard drive, unused, while Microsoft takes over yet another market.

    When the author resorted to this argument, they lost some credibility. RealPlayer asks you, repeatedly, if it can set itself to be the default player for ALL of it's supported media types.

    I agree that file typing via .3 extensions sucks, and I agree that microsoft's interface for changing it sucks.
    But I think RealPlayer making itself the default program for mp3 files (which nobody in their right mind wants) is more of a problem than other media types defaulting to WindowsMedia player.
    Afterall, what do you really want to use RealPlayer for besides playing their propritary file format (which will be asigned to it anyway!)?
    I realize it CAN play other files, and it makes an attempt to set itself as the default program for other types of files, I just don't think anyone actually wants to use it for those.

    I mean, to play mp3s I could use winamp (for free) or I could use RealPlayer (pay or be subjected to annoying ads).
    • You need to read the paragraph again. Basically, he is saying that if the government orders Microsoft to include RealPlayer (or Netscape) with the default installation of windows, or even just all OEM versions of windows, that they can still leverage their desktop dominance by making RealPlayer an option on a menu under programs, and having all the relevant file extension default to Windows Media Player.

      My solution was to order them to incude the software, and to have no extensions using their software (maybe txt is fine), and instead point to the competators. Also, no other software packages can fiddle with the settings (so installing Office won't reassign HTM to IE, although it is fine to have it launch IE directly). This would either have Microsoft's software sitting on the drive bitrotting, or they will come up with a way to make it easy to manage extension.

  • by Daniel Rutter ( 126873 ) <> on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:27PM (#2402728) Homepage
    Scott Rosenberg, the author of the Salon piece, says Windows "makes you go on a mad hunt through menus and folders and options to find the dialogue box that lets you [change the app that opens a given file type]". Well, yes, it does, unless you shift-rightclick a file and use the "Open With..." option.

    This doesn't really weaken Rosenberg's argument, of course, because this is just one of the zillion and three Windows shortcut thingies that Joe Average doesn't know about. Joe's no more likely to use this than he is to fish his way through to the long-form File Types dialogue. But all of us windswept and interesting Slashdotters who choose/are forced to use Windows ought to know it :-).

    Dang it, I used to use an Amiga. Directory utilities on the Amiga just looked at the darn file header. Your IFF image could be called notapicture.txt and it'd still display JUST FINE. A 1Gb footprint for WinXP (which, I hasten to add, I _am_ going to install when next I upgrade my Tiny God), and it still can't do that?!

    Come to think of it, that'd be an anti-Sircam-ish sort of feature. "You have attempted to open a file whose extension is PIF, but which appears to be an ordinary executable. That's odd. Would you like to check this file against the new and wonderful Microsoft Proprietary Crushing All Opposition Virus Database to see if it's one of the many things that takes advantage of our monopoly almost as well as we do?"
      • unless you shift-rightclick a file and use the "Open With..." option.

      As Scott goes on to say, he's been "told" that under Win2K (and WinXP?) it's a simple right click. I find it hard to believe that Scott didn't know this, and as he sticks to his guns and claims that this is still too complicated for Joe Sixpack, his whole article is basically flamebait.

      • Most people don't know the little shortcuts in Windows. I don't know of a single person in my office that knows any of the shift-click shortcuts. If you right-click on a file that is already associated with an app, you just get the "Open" option, not the "Open with" option.

  • This is an annoyance, but I don't think it's such a dark conspiracy. Like others have pointed out, many programs play the "fight for the extension" game, especially for multimedia, and usually the last one in wins.

    Of course it's silly how hard it is to "roll your own" file associations, you have to use this weird macro language.

    I think smarter programs will always have a preferences screen that let you regrab the extensions. IrfanView is a good example of that. And well behaved programs won't keep trying to intrusively ask you if you want to use them instead.
  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:28PM (#2402736) Homepage Journal
    ...what can adequately be blamed on stupidity. The Salon article goes on and on claiming that the fact that the menu options to change the default program that should be used to open a file with a given extension is buried deep in a bunch of menus is the indication of some sort of conspiracy theory. I assume the writer isn't used to using Microsoft products because if he was he'd realize that poorly placed yet important functionality is a staple of Microsoft software. Recently I've had problems like that with MSFT software such as:
    1. I've spent months trying to figure out how to turn of auto-indenting in numbered lists within Word 2000 with no success.
    2. Using typeid() and other RTTI features is disabled by default in Visual C++ 6.0 and requires finding a very hidden, nested menu to turn it on. This took hours to find.
    In general most of their products seem to lack a good Human Computer Interaction factor. But to go as far as calling bad design, some sort of attempt to keep a monopoly seems rather excessive to me, especially since it's fixed in Windows 2000 so that right-clicking on a file brings up the shortcut menu complete with an option that says "Open With..." where you can specify what program to open the file with and if you want the program permanently associated with that file extension.
  • There are times when you need to know kind of file extension it is. ExtSearch [] is useful. It helps you to determine the file format. :)

  • I thought about this some (before this article), and came to the realization that any program I create should steal as many extentions as possible under Windows. Why? Because once you steal the extension, the mindshare is shifted to your program instead of Microsoft's.

    By the same token, would I want Real Player to automatically take over my Desktop? Not a chance. The difference is that Real Player is a piece of bloated s**t that deserves to die. They have not produced a GOOD product in a very long time. Netscape 6.1/Mozilla and StarOffice OTOH, should detect all the extentions it supports, check if they are not registered or registered with "System defaults" (read: Microsoft) and automatically switch them. As long as it doesn't switch any non-M$ software, people will hardly notice and just come to expect the new software. Then and only then will you start hearing "You're still using IE/Microsoft Office? Geez. Go get some real software."
  • by Gruneun ( 261463 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:29PM (#2402741)
    The arguement is really not an issue for most people. The people who know they can change a file extension asociation, will. The people who want a different program to open it, will learn. Last, the people who don't know, don't care.

    My greater gripe is programs that change extensions be required to display a "warning, proceed?" message during installation (much like a security grant for Java or ActiveX) if the extension is already associated with a different program. It burns me every time I install some software and it becomes my cd and mp3 player. Yes, I know how to change it, but it's still irritating.

    I never considered the extensions menu particularly difficult to find or use. Not everything can be in the Start menu.
    • Not everything can be in the Start menu.

      I don't see what's wrong with putting this under Start|Settings. It is a setting, after all. Why do I have to start up Windows Explorer to change how Internet Explorer opens files?

  • Windows annoyances (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sting3r ( 519844 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:30PM (#2402744) Homepage
    This is just a symptom of the generally uncooperative nature of Win32 applications. Windows software does not know how to share; how to place configuration information under HKEY_CURRENT_USER instead of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE; how not to leave necessary files in c:\windows; how not to mess up your Start menu, desktop, and registry upon installation. You think Freshmeat is full of amateurish, half-baked projects? Take a look around your local software store and you'll find the same exact thing.

    In short, Windows applications are a textbook example of competition at all costs. Spyware and "gator" controls install themselves, behind the scenes, and mess with every other application. Many applications install "quick start" programs in the system tray or as services, wasting your resources and time in the vain hope that you'll use their software more often. It's no-holds-barred capitalism. Applications fight with each other over eyeballs and control of your system, and you're left with a mostly-unstable computer that blares ads at you and has a dozen security holes.

    And that is why I run Linux. Because the coders who wrote my applications had respect for me, the user.


    • Windows software does not know how to share; how to place configuration information under HKEY_CURRENT_USER instead of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE; how not to leave necessary files in c:\windows; how not to mess up your Start menu, desktop, and registry upon installation. You think Freshmeat is full of amateurish, half-baked projects? Take a look around your local software store and you'll find the same exact thing.

      I have never had trouble like this with _any_ Windows applications. I hate installers, and I'm not a big fan of Windows, but I think you're overstating your case.
    • While I agree with most of your arguement, the vast majority of irritating software is designed for Windows because that's what 90% of their target audience is running. I like and use Linux, too, but frankly it's not as popular and widespread as Windows.

      Give it time. When Linux becomes mainstream, the same programmers that made crappy Windows software will begin to make crappy Linux software. Some of it will disturb/disable other programs, take up resources, and open security holes.
  • by Tim_F ( 12524 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:30PM (#2402750)
    It's not really that big of a deal. If you want to use a different program, all you have to do is start that program, and open the file that you want to use. All Microsoft is doing here is making things easier for the end user. If you want to stop using Word to open .doc files, remove it, and install Corel Office.

    Other companies (as was pointed out in the article) have been doing this for years. Why is this suddenly such a big deal? Because the author needed to come up with a column. Pick something that wasn't a big deal, and turn it into one.

    Microsoft should not be painted with such a black brush simply for trying to make it easier to be a user of their software.
  • "Microsoft has always done its best work when faced with real competition"

    Does the author mean their best software? If he did, then that would be MS-DOS 5.0, circa 1990. I would truly take this statement to mean their best marketing work. Gates has admitted it before, that when the going gets tough, they throw some more money into marketing.
  • by deander2 ( 26173 ) <public AT kered DOT org> on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:36PM (#2402783) Homepage

    Ugh. I'm sick of programs fighting each other for the user's attention. Who would buy a blender that detected other blenders in the house and tried to disable them? Should my Sony TV ask me every day if it should take over the remote control for my Magnavox? Why do we put up with this?

    We should have a file typing system that incorporates the creating company/software package into it, like how UPC symbols list COMPANY/PRODUCT_NO so both Jiffy and Food Lion can both sell peanut butter and the register knows the difference. That way Joe Shmoe can double-click on his RealMP3 and it won't open in WMP.
    • "We should have a file typing system that incorporates the creating company/software package into it, like how UPC symbols list COMPANY/PRODUCT_NO so both Jiffy and Food Lion can both sell peanut butter and the register knows the difference. That way Joe Shmoe can double-click on his RealMP3 and it won't open in WMP."

      The problem with that is that you would have to have 20 different programs to play your MP3s. Many programs play MP3s; I wouldn't want to have to download RealPlayer just so I can play a "RealMP3" that someone had on their website.

      Imagine telling someone on a 56K that they have to download 8 different JPEG viewers because Photoshop wrote proprietary information into one, and Photo Editor wrote proprietary information into another, etc.

      We already have proprietary formats; it's not easy for a .doc file to be opened in anything but Word, so basically, the problem has been dealt with by specifying certain formats as "open" and certain formats as "proprietary."

  • ... this is a tremendous waste of an article. Yes M$ does do evil stuff, but focusing on something as stupid as file extensions is about as dumb as you can get. Learn how your computer works whether it's Linux or Windows or whatever, it's not that difficult to change the extension associations. It can be obscure in Linux to change certain things too, but it's not some monopolistic plan to dominate the desktop. I can't stand Windows, but this is going too far.

    Not to mention this guy sounds like a moron. I wouldn't expect add/remove programs to have the file extension list, nor would I expect to have the poperties for a particular file provide the option to change what file types get opened by what.

    And as far as mac's having a more elegant solution, I don't buy that. Number one I'd rather be able to look at a file and be able to tell exactly what kind of file it is than to have it hidden withing the file. Number two, it's simple and easy to change the associated program to a file by changing the extension, is there a program to do that on the Mac? (I'm not bashing the Mac, just pointing out the flaws in this guys article).

  • The problem is not merely that file extensions launch programs, and the association between extension and application is difficult to change.

    The larger problem is this: new application software for Windows is typically file-extension oriented, and it's Microsoft that defines the important extensions. For example, I was evaluating a Windows full-text desktop document indexer recently, written by a small Windows development house. It was fast (written in assembly), and it could even do PDF and ZIP files.

    But then I discovered that the years of files I had saved under legacy systems, starting with DOS, were completely invisible to this package. They were ASCII files, and I used my own file-naming conventions for the extension, so they weren't easily convertible to *.txt files. I had just been punished by this application for not going along with the Redmond game plan.

    And here's another nightmare:

    Consider, if you will, what happens when you ask Explorer to save a web page to disk. It uses a huge filename, and saves the images in separate directories. There's basically no way to get the thing back from the disk without using Explorer. That's why I take the trouble to Lynx-strip everything I want to archive, and put it into ASCII with a short filename.

    Have you ever considered what it would be like to convert to Linux if all the filenames on your Windows system were around 80 bytes or so? Both Windows and Linux will accept filenames up to 254 bytes, but no one except a masochist would ever use a command-line system on filenames that long.

    It's a conspiracy, I tell you. You gotta use a mouse, you gotta be using it in Explorer, and you gotta be interested in approved Microsoft files only, or you can forget it.
  • My experience with file extensions and registered file types with Windows have never been good... but for that mater, I really haven't had greate experiences with KDE either. Their registered file system is built into the Control Center and require you to fully understand nameing conventions and extensions, as well as the names of programs.

    For example, if I want mpgs to be play by KDE's Media Player by default, I need to understand all of the various forms that mpgs can come in and the associated extensions... and to make it all the more worse, I need to know that the KDE's Media Player run command is noatun.

    It seems that this is an issue that crosses all OS operating systems (yes... even Macs, anyone remember fighting over conflicts with Claris Works and early version of MS Word?) and one that is probably never going to be within the relm of the "average" user. The solution lies with the developer and whether they wish to play fair or not. An example of a company who still plays be the fules is Nullsoft and their mp3 player Winamp. After a succesull install it asks what kind of files you wish to play... in plain english.

    That kind of behavor is a far cry from installing Word and having it automatically associate mp3s with Window's Media Player.
  • by corky6921 ( 240602 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:38PM (#2402803) Homepage
    From Salon: "The power of "default" settings lies in users' ignorance and inertia. There are millions of Windows users who barely know what "right-clicking" is.

    The remedy Salon suggests? "It would probably take one of Microsoft's developers a short afternoon to build a simple, forthrightly labeled control panel that sits right on every user's desktop and asks, in plain English, 'Which program would you like to open Web pages? Or text files? Or MP3 audio files? Or photo files?'"

    So these users, who the author seems to think are too stupid to know what right-clicking is, now have to know the difference between a text file (*.txt) and a Word file (*.doc) and which program goes with which extension (no, wait, which program they want to use to open which file types!)

    Microsoft isn't even the real perpetrator of these things. It's companies like Real, which have programs like RealDownload (click here [] and here [] for examples) that really go overboard with the registered file types thing. RealDownload attaches itself to your web browser in such a way that the only way to stop it from popping up every time you try to download a file is to uninstall it. It also comes preinstalled on a bunch of OEM computers, so people are afraid to uninstall it. That's just one example...

    There are lots of horrible pieces of software in the Windows world: spyware like the stuff that comes with BearShare and Morpheus, the Real "suite" of products that tries to take over your computer; AOL, which tries to eat your TCP/IP stack for lunch and replace it with its own TCP/IP stack. Instead of focusing on how Microsoft is horrible because it HAS registered file types, let's focus on programs (Microsoft ones included) that abuse their privilege and try to force you to use them for everything under the sun.

    Finally, please continue to educate our user base, instead of just assuming they are "ignorant" and unable to take control of "where they want to go today" (and what program they want to use to do that.)

  • The review seems to hold the MacOS up as a shining example of how file-typing should be handled. I haven't really used the MacOS, but if you read this great article at ArsTechnica [] you'll see how the MacOS uses metadata associated with a file to determine the type of file it is, and therefore the program that should be used to open it.

    On the MacOS, although the implementation seems cleaner (metadata vs. file name extension) the same issues of applications fighting over file types can arise in OS X, since an application can "claim" file types. The older Mac OS's seem to have opened a file based on the software that created it, which has its own set of problems. (Just because I created a JPG in Photshop doesn't mean I want spend 90 seconds firing up Photoshop every time I want to see it)

    Keep in mind I have almost no Mac experience, please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm just trying to check out the authors claim that the Mac offers a better way of filetype/application binding, and after looking into the way Macs do things, I'm pretty unconvinced. I think I actually prefer Windows' "Open With..." right-click option to create the associate itself, although I don't like the way applications can repeatedly reclaim file types without asking the user. So how do other OS's do it?
  • To everyone saying "just right click and hit 'open with...'".

    You're forgetting one detail. "Open With..." appeared in Win2k. Everyone still using 9X/NT doesn't have that option, so they have to do it the hard way, as referenced in the article.
    • yup very difficult... highlight the file, hold down the shift key THEN left click and select open with....
    • Well Scott Rosenberg was forgetting tons of details, such as the fact that virtually every application checks the file-mappings on startup and will prompt the user to make it the default application for the file-types it supports. Some programs (like RealPlayer, which he even uses as an example of a program that can be hurt by this tactic) do this to the point of annoyance in their attempt to remain the default player.

      If anything, Microsoft's sin is making it too easy for programs to change important registry settings. It is so very very annoying when a program's installer maps every file-type under the sun to itself (I'm not talking about Microsoft apps here, more like RealPlayer, ICQ, etc), changes your homepage, and commits various other acts bordering on trojan-horse type activity.
  • It gets pretty messy trying to cram round people into square pigeon holes.

    Sometimes it's a cultural shortcoming, but too many people are stuck in the rut of thinking without Set Theory... only one answer per blank to be filled. *NIX variations are a terrific start for departing from this, but sometimes the programmer hasn't learned from history, or just doesn't have the time to do better then M$.

    This fits politics, too... The unfair will never 'get' pluralism. Notice how Bin Laden pigeonholes all Americans as faceless criminals deserving of indiscriminant destruction. Meanwhile, NATO forces are trying to bomb the Regime while simultaneously giving humanitarian aid the Afgan people. America is all about a melting pot of cultures cohabiting the planet harmoniously... Not a Monopoly to say "there is but one God, and our one people has the monopoly on what He's about..."

    Harmony is a good thing.

  • Ok, the author did point out that other applications set their own extensions, but is this really some sign of MS conspiracy or just another example of anti-MS hysteria? There are plenty other ways MS controls mindshare in their software, most notably bundling their own version of an application.

    Yes, changing the file type can be a bit daunting to the average user, but the average user is also the one who uses IE and WMP without bothering to look for alternatives. They don't care if a file opens with app A or app B, just as long as it opens. MS preys on that by providing a quick and easy way to open files. Those of us who do care know how to change the file extensions.

    Can we, just for once, not go with every bit of anti-MS hysteria that comes down the pipe and focus instead on the real issues? The article started out good, then dropped into an almost laughable Lone Gunmen style conspiracy argument.
  • Although I also think (like so many other posts here) that the article goes overboard, and that, yes, it's easy for a user to get at the menus that change the association, there are some issues.

    1) After finding the menu option to change the association, it's not always clear how to change it... for one thing there are Open, Print, PrintTo and New options attached to DOC files... and all these need to be changed. Then there is the DDE thing... what's that?

    2) After actually changing the registry stuff, any upgrade of MS products will clobber your change, and the default if existing products find a change is to change it back (with a promp, sure). Although this is a good idea for inexperienced users who use a purely MS system, this can drive people like me insane...
    I use Opera for browsing, IrfanView for Picture viewing, and Agent for email and news.

    My programs are all at war!

    How I DO miss my Amiga... -sigh-
  • Better idea. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xibby ( 232218 ) <> on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:46PM (#2402860) Homepage Journal
    The article does have some good points, IMO. But why not take it a step further. MS has the Windows Stamp of approval that goes to software as long as the software follows certin guidlines. By following these guidlines, developers know that their software will run on the Windows platform and the users know before buying the product. (This is very important with Win NT and 2000 actually.)

    Anyway, perhaps one of these guidlines should be that the installer registers what file types it is capible of handling. This is different from registering it as the default viewer.

    Then, all MS would have to do is create, say, a control panel applet for the file types. Shouldn't be too hard. It would present you with a file type (sorted into say, images, video, audio, documents, etc...) and what applications are able to handle that file type. Then you just select the program you want from the list that support it, instead of having to remember what program views what.

    Go a bit firther and require installers to prompt before changing and you should be set.

    This would be an improvment to the current setup, and I can't imagine that the talented Windows developers (they have to have some talent, the OS does run rather decently...) could do with the next service pack.
  • This article is just stupid. As the guy already addended, it's an extra key to hold down to "Open With..." and calling the File Types tab "hidden" because it's three clicks down is absurd. It takes a few clicks to get to the network settings, but I don't see anyone whining about MS having a monopoly on that.
    Or sounds settings.
    Or mouse settings.
    Or opening a program.

  • by geomcbay ( 263540 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:56PM (#2402922)
    I just mailed a letter to the editor of Salon about this article before it popped up on Slashdot. I believe it is dangerous because this whole thing is really a non-issue. File-type mapping is a convience, not a curse, and the article is very misleading about how hard it is to change these mappings...

    Below is the text of my letter:


    I think Scott Rosenberg is way off the mark in his article regarding 'registered file types' for Microsoft Windows. In reality, it is not as hard to change these file mappings as he portrays.

    To begin with, the user would very rarely want to change one of these file type mappings; it is the sort of action you tend to perform once and then leave alone. As it is such a rare event, it makes sense for it to be somewhere deeper within the UI than an action that you would want to perform very often. There's only so much space within the UI for quickly accessible items, and they should always be items that are used regularly by a majority of users.

    Further, it is a lot easier to change these file-types than he portrays even if you want to change them. Since Windows 98, at least (I don't remember far enough back to know if Win95 supported this), you can right-click a particular file, choose "Open With.../Choose Program" and an easy-to-use dialog pops up which allows you to pick which program to use to open that file-type and even change the file mapping for that file type by choosing 'Always use this program to open these files'. Making this change is not exactly rocket science.

    And lastly, while it is true that the process above may not be completely intuitive for new computer users, virtually every application released in the past five years will check the Windows registry to determine file mappings when it is launched and offer the user the option to change these mappings so that the program just launched will become the default for the file-types it supports. When this occurs, it is generally via a simple dialog box popped up when the application is launched, it is hard to argue that this interface is too difficult for users. One of Scott's own examples, RealPlayer, is adamant about informing users of file-type mappings at startup, and offering the choice to remap files to RealPlayer (using a simple Yes/No dialog), ditto for Netscape (and IE), and countless other applications.

    I believe Microsoft has many questionable business practices, but file-type mapping is not one of them, and highlighting such a non-issue just detracts from the real problems via crying-wolf-syndrome.
  • RTFM (Score:2, Informative)

    by trcooper ( 18794 )
    Hmmm... I opened help in Windows 2000 and looked in the index and found 'file types, changing' And this is what I found:

    To modify an existing file type
    1. Open Folder Options Click the File Types tab.
    2. Click the file type that you want to change.
    3. Click Advanced.
    4. If necessary, modify the description of the file type, and click Change Icon to change the icon for the file type.
    5. In Actions, click the command that you want to modify, and then click Edit, Remove, or Set Default. Or click New to add a new command to the list in Actions.
    6. Repeat step 6 for as many actions as you want to modify for this file type.

    Seems simple to me... What does this guy want, dialog boxes everytime you open a file?

    "You are opening this file with Windows Media Player, do you want to use another program instead?" ['click' NO]

    "Are You sure? You may actually like Real Player better, or maybe WinAMP." ['click' YES]

    "OK, Your default player has not been changed, but we will check back with you to see if you've changed your mind next time you open a file."

    Besides, if a user likes Real Player (example he used), when he opens the program it will notify him that it is not set up to be associated with certain file types, and ask to correct this. This is in no way anything that contributes to MS maintaining a monopoly. This guy is probably just hacked off because it took him 1/2 an hour to figure out because he couldn't use help. Musta been a slow day over at Salon...
  • by avdi ( 66548 )
    Konq is the *only* file manager I've ever used that made changing file associations easy - just right-click on any file and hit "Edit File Associations" (or something like that). Konq then takes you straight to the File Associations editor, with the filetype of the file you clicked already selected and ready to edit. And if you want to change a different file type, you can do searches with globbing to find the FileType(s) corresponding to any given extension.

    Still, extensions are a fundamentally broken and archaic way of handling associations. Bring resource forks to Linux!

  • I have to disagree with him that it is an abuse. The main
    arena where this could be theoretically leveraged over the user is in
    media - especially video and audio file types. However, the main
    alternatives, RealPlayer and QuickTime for video, and Winamp and Sonique for
    audio, all make it very *easy* to change the default registered file types.

    For example, if you take a Windows installation and then install QuickTime
    on it, QuickTime will assume control of the .mov extension automatically
    during installation. If you decide later you want to change it, then you can
    do so easily from within QuickTime's controls.

    And this is how philosophically the Operating System should operate. The
    default settings should be for native apps that are bundled, because that
    way you can be fully functional immediately. However, then if you prefer a
    separate program, you simply install it and let that program assume control
    (which all media apps do, especially Real, which is actually sometimes TOO

    For non-media applications, like word processing, who really wants to open
    an Excel document in Lotus? The truth is that there are so many programs,
    all of which try to define their own new extension, that it's basically a
    zoo. The less we users have to deal with it the better, honestly - and I say
    that as a power user, not a newbie :)
  • by Lumpish Scholar ( 17107 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:02PM (#2402962) Homepage Journal
    Rosenberg claims it's hard to change registered file types, then explains how to do it in twenty one words. Like many of you, I'm not all that impressed. (Some Windows programs, such as the wonderful IrfanView, offer to grab or give up the registered file type for various types, at installation or whenever.)

    The real problem is, not all interesting associations can be set via Windows Explorer. Programs can tell Windows, "I want to open up a Web page" or "I want to start sending an e-mail message"; what programs do they use?

    Setting "the default browser" is more than just setting the .HTM association! If you've told all your browsers to fight over the default like a pack of starving pit bulls, they'll offer to change it back and forth all too often. Otherwise, you can edit a dozen or so obscure registry entries. There's a commercial (but cheap) utility, BrowserSwitch [], that doesn't do anything but this.

    How do you change the default mail program? I honestly have no idea. Heaven help someone with both Outlook and Eudora installed, who would prefer to use the latter.

    Various movie formats can be handled by Windows Media Player, and RealPlayer, and QuickTime. Assuming Microsoft hasn't banned the latter two, how can you tell your browser which one you want?

    Any solution would need to be at least partially technical. It's not clear how much of a legal solution is necessary; I'd like to hear arguments on both sides.

    I agree with Rosenberg in one way: Windows users would be better off if they could make such choices more easily.
  • What a bunch of losers, everyone should know about shift-right-click, it's plainly described in the Windows User's Manual. Oh wait, there is no user's manual. Microsoft, being so enviromentally sensitive, doesn't want to burden the end user with useless frills like documentation.
  • by stefen50 ( 526331 ) <> on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:04PM (#2402981)
    is for applications to have an option to re-claim stolen file associations. WinAmp, to name an example, already has this feature. The answer is smarter applications, which save the users this work.

    Smarter users would be even better, but we know that's not going to happen any time soon, don't we? :)

  • Why does everyone out there seem to think that because the justice department was ordered to stop pursuing a break up, it won't happen? Its not the prosecutions position to decide the sentence. If judge Kollar-Kotelly decides that breakup is the only effective solution, it will be the decision made even if the justice dept. doesn't ask for it.

    Personally, I am pretty confident that breakup will probably be the only acceptable solution. We already know that restrictions on behavior aren't enough to tame this beast. With all that in mind discussions about file extension management in the name of antitrust are kind of pointless don't you think?
  • How I fixed it (Score:3, Informative)

    by Malc ( 1751 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:25PM (#2403101)

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell\Open in Emacs\Command]
    @="\"C:\\Program Files\\Emacs\\gnuserv\\gnuclientw.exe\" \"%1\""

    Now everything opens in Emacs, or if it doesn't, I have an "Open in Emacs" option on the right-click context menu in Explorer ;)
  • Drag 'n' Drop? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:29PM (#2403132) Homepage Journal
    Doesn't anyone drag and drop anymore? Wasn't DnD the big advantage to using a GUI?

    On both my Macs and my Windows computers, I use DnD to override default file associations. Drag the .html file on to the text editor icon: it's open for editing. Double-click and it's opened by the default browser. Want to see it in an alternate browser? Drag it over to that icon. Drag it over to the printer icon for a hard copy.

    Lately, I've been using DnD to extract strings from all of the Sircam-infected Word documents that show up in my mail by dragging the attachment link embedded in the mail message on to the TextEdit icon in the OS X Dock (not that SecretPlans.doc.pif would execute anyway if I clicked on it).

    Why bother with the overhead of having a GUI if you're not going to use all the features?

  • by saider ( 177166 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:44PM (#2403196)
    1) When a new app is installed, just put a dialog box that allows the user to associate the extensions with the new program.

    2) Also, put this code in the program itself, accessable from the menu.

    3) Put an article in the help file about how to do it manually. There are ways to easily re-register an application. The article makes it sound so difficult (it's not).

    How do you change the application on the Mac? Why not provide a GPL'ed program to do this task for grandma, and publicize the hell out of it?

    This sounds like nitpicking to me.
  • If I may ask: In a postscript to your article "The Devil is in Windows' Details", you point out that it is irrelevant that the program used to open a given format can be changed by right-clicking on a file of that type, because there are many users who don't even know what right-clicking is.

    That's certainly true, but at the risk of sounding like an elitist, why should we (the computer-literate people) care? It is really not that hard to learn about the "hidden" features in windows, through one's own experience or research on the Internet, or even in the Dummies books. I agree that the concept of hidden features is anti-competitive, but why should we lose any sleep over people who are, for whatever reason, unable to learn enough to make windows do what they wish? Isn't it best for them that they aren't faced with choices that could tax their limited understanding of technology beyond the breaking point? You and I, sir, and the legions of other competant users, will use whatever software and operating systems we like, no matter what Microsoft does. It just seems to me that people who are being hurt the most by "hidden" features are those who shouldn't really be playing with them anyway, because they have no idea what they are doing.

    I know that sounds - well, assinine, to put it mildly - but I'd like to cite an example from my work. I am a part-time computer tech at my high school, and one of my duties (and hobbies, when I am not on the clock) is to assist teachers when they have technical problems. About half the calls I get that don't boil down to "You didn't plug in the power cord" are related to incidents where teachers install some new word processor/media player/whatever that a friend (or email spam that sounded "friendly") recommended. All of a sudden, "My Microsoft looks different!" they cry, and they are hopelessly confused.

    Most users really do benefit from using an OS that limits what they can do, because most users lack the initiative to learn how to use a less constricting system. Being held by the hand allows computer illiterates to do, for the most part, what they want to do (word processing/games/web browsing). For those who are capable of a greater degree of computer literacy, the modern versions of windows are simply not appropriate - they are not targeted at us. For computer-literate users to complain Windows over-limits the user is like a racing bycyclist to complain that training wheels greatly limit his/her speed - it's true, but what the heck is he doing with training wheels?

    BeOS and Linux are both more powerful, inexpensive operating systems without the penchant Windows has for assisting Microsoft megalomania. I would assert that a user who feels constrained by windows should simply switch - and if he/she has documents or other files Linux or Beos can't run, to complain is inappropriate - find or start a project that is working on what you need, and help it however you can. Don't just sit there.
  • by Herbmaster ( 1486 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @11:08PM (#2404740)
    • Make all applications keep a list of types of files that they can open, as well as a unique identifier associated with things they "want" to open.
    • Make all files keep a type code and a seperate code associated with what application it "wants" to be opened by, a creator code if you will.
      • Don't pollute this information in the namespace of the filename, where it does not belong and can be changed for the wrong reasons (there are plenty of valid reasons to give a filename a suffix, none of which have anything to do with this file metadata).
      • Don't even allow this data to be stored in a centralized registry where it could be molested by programs automatically without a user's intent.
      • For both the applicaton's lists and the file's codes, the operating system can read and manipulate these codes, because it is stored in a standard, easily located, structure.
    • Files are automatically opened by the program that matches their "creator" code, but can be opened by anything that matches their type code.
    • Applications can open any files that match their type codes.
    • Files, which are always created by applications, are given type codes to match their content, and creator codes to match the application.
    • There could be 1st party solutions to map files without useful metadata by user-specified preferences to native metadata by outside standards which are weaker (MIME types, file extensions).
    • There could be 3rd party solutions to forcably remap files to applications other than the one which they want to be opened by, even if the wanted one is available. I'm talking about both on a per-file basis and a universal setting independent of files which may not even exist yet.
  • by namespan ( 225296 ) <namespan&elitemail,org> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @02:05AM (#2405001) Journal
    Our friend keeps saying there needs to be a way to let YOU decide
    what gets opened with what by default. A program that will let you
    map a file type to whatever application you wish.

    So someone should write this program. Make it freely downloadable.
    License it freely to third party software developers who realize this
    is one of the best things they can include with their program to insure they aren't steamrollered by Windows. Heck, write your own version of Code Red that installs this program on every machine it encounters. Or release a report that tells IT departments how much they can save in terms of time or TCO if they'll just deploy this in their organization (see, there's default installs, and there's default installs).

    Sometimes I've wondered if it would be possible to seriously combat how microsoft does their dirty work by setting up a website to the effect of "". Tips, tools, and free software for the user who wants to get the most out of their computer! This app could go on it....

Happiness is twin floppies.