File Associations: What type of file is it?
Every file in Windows is of a specific file type. Why? So Windows knows which program created the file and therefore which program to open in order to view the file.
For example, Microsoft Word documents have a file type of .doc, while Adobe Acrobat creates .pdf files. Photoshop creates and reads .psd files, and Powerpoint creates and reads .ppt files.
The file types that I’ve mentioned above are typically indigenous to one program. In other words, no other program can open PSD files, only Photoshop. Only Microsoft Word can properly view .doc files. Some file types were created to bridge the gap between different computer systems and software.
Most files on your computer are associated with either the program that was used to create them, or an aftermarket program that you have installed that has changed the default association. This means that when you double click on a file, Windows checks to see which program that particular file type is associated with, and then it opens that program.
Digital Image Association
Digital images come in many variations, including but not limited to .jpg (pronounced Jay-Peg), .bmp (bitmaps), .gif, .png, and most importantly for this particular article, .tiff.
Why does this matter?
Since there are hundreds of programs out there that are designed to read and manipulate digital images, it is quite possible that one of them is installed on your computer. Windows ships with a basic image viewing software application by default, but most computer manufacturers will install photo management software that they choose in hopes that you’ll use it to view your files, which as we have pointed out, are of many different types.
There are also many different photo viewing solutions that you may have downloaded and installed on your computer yourself. One of these is Picasa by Google. Another may be XNView. Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition is also a program that you may have on your computer. Any time a graphics program is installed on your computer it will, if polite, ask you if you want to associate particular media formats with the new program. This is where your computer is set to associate the file with the new program. Many times, the software you have installed is a trial version that has taken over the associated files and may require payment after a certain time period to continue using it. The best solution for this is to change the program that your TIFF file is associated with so it points to a program that’s free to use.
If your company provides you with a digital fax solution, like ours does, that fax is most likely being sent to you in e-mail as an attachment. That attachment, in our case, is in the TIFF file format. TIFF files can be read by a multitude of graphic and photo editing programs because they are Digital Images.
It is important to understand that when you open your attachment, the associated program for the attachment’s file type will be the program that opens. Sometimes, the software that responds to you opening an attachment isn’t what you expected; it may even be software that wants you to register or pay for the full version. Don’t worry about that! The reason this software is opening is because it has become the associated application.
Let’s say that you opened an attached file and it launched a program that is an expired trial and which indicates that you need to pay to make it work. Since Windows has the software built-in to read most formats, all you have to do is tell Windows to use a different program to view your attachment.
Changing the associated program is a very simple process. Knowing which program to associate your file to is a bit more challenging, so I’ll help you out. We’ll assume you have received a TIFF file from a digital fax system and the wrong application is trying to open that file:
1. First, save your attachment to your computer. Browse to that file using Windows Explorer (not internet explorer). In other words, find the file in your My Documents folder, or on your desktop, or wherever you put it.
2. Right click the file that is causing the problem and select Properties.
3. You should see the General tab, and inside that tab you should see a section that reads “Open With” and the name of the program that Windows is programmed to use.
4. Click the Change button.
5. You may see some recommended programs. This is where you’ll need to make a decision about what program you want to have open the file. Be careful here. Windows is relying on you to choose a program that can actually read that file. If you associated a TIFF file with Microsoft Word for example, you would have a problem opening TIFF files because Microsoft Word cannot read TIFF files. So, make sure you choose a program that you know will work. In Windows Vista, you would choose Windows Photo Gallery. Another valid program would be Microsoft Office Picture Manager.
6. After selecting your program, click okay. Windows will sweep your system for all files that are TIFF format and will re-associate them with the program you have just selected. You will also notice at this point that the icons of the files have changed from the previous program to the new program, giving you a visual indication of which program is going to open when you double click a TIFF file.
7. That’s it. Now when you open your attachment, your newly associated program will take over.
If you have any questions about this process, or you run into any problems, feel free to comment on this article to let me know. Thanks!
Changing file associations in Windows Vista is a bit different and you can read about it here.