Does a file extension always point to a specific program

A file extension does not always point to the same program. In fact, at times it is impossible to know which file will be opened by which application. Users of Macintosh computers have a distinct advantage over users of Windows in this area. In Macs, information about the application that was used to create a file is always embedded within the file itself. Windows does not have any such option. In fact, there is absolutely no registry key for storing the information about an application used to create a file, either. Sounds like a real setback, doesn’t it?

However, the scenario has changed a little bit with the release of Windows XP. The MS-Office™ package and some other products from Microsoft have followed the way of the Mac, saving data about the application which was used to create a file, within the file itself. Even if the file has been transferred from other PCs, which did not have XP installed, MS-Office™ will still try to identify the file type by analyzing the structure of the file. If it finds a match, then MS-Office™ will try to use that application to open the file.

You can try it out yourself, if you have Windows XP loaded in your PC. Do the following:

  1. Start Microsoft Word™.
  2. Type some text.
  3. Save the file someplace where you can access it easily. Desktop is a good option. Make the extension something weird, like .uke, or .ihf, or something like that.
  4. Now go to My Computer.
  5. Click on Tools > Folder Options.
  6. In the window, choose the tab “View”.
  7. Scroll down to the option “Hide file extensions for known file types”.
  8. Uncheck the box next to the option and click on the Apply button at the bottom of the window.
  9. Click OK.
  10. Now go to your Desktop.
  11. Right click the file that you saved with MS-Word™.
  12. Choose the option “Rename” from the pop up menu and remove the extension .doc from the file.
  13. Windows XP will ask whether you really want to do that. Click Yes.
  14. Now double click on the file, and voila! MS-Word™ will open up the file and display the contents. Even after you reboot the PC, the same thing will happen.

This process can be extremely helpful if you are dealing with a file having an unknown extension. Try this process in Windows XP before you resort to other, more complex measures in order to open the file.

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