Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

How can I open a ".odt" ?

Q: Paul, How can I open a “.odt” ?

A: As I discussed in this article, Cannot open attachment…help!, when you run across a file that Windows does not recognize, and doesn’t know how to open, it is due to the fact that some program was used to create the file that you don’t have.

In this case that program was OpenWriter– the word processor in the free OpenOffice Suite.

Basically, when this happens, you have three options:
* Ask your sender to resend the file, only this time ‘Save As’ it to a more common file type. (such as .doc, or .rtf, or even .txt)
* Install the program on your machine yourself.
* Look for “viewer”, or “converter” tool.

I like the first choice myself (and I’m not always so polite in my phrasing), but most of you will probably prefer the third. (This comes up at least once a week for PowerPoint slideshows!)

A free document viewer for all common word processing formats can be found here.

A free file type converter (all types of ‘media’) can be found here.

.. and for the 600,000th time.. the PowerPoint Viewer is here.

[note: when you come across a ‘dot xyz‘ that you’ve never heard of before and have no idea what might of created it.. go to There you will be able to look it up.]

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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November 10, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, software, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Questions About File Extensions*

Today I will answer a few reader questions in the (hopefully) now familiar “Q’s and their A’s” format, and provide a link to a free disk imaging program.

Q: What is a .bkp file?
A: First of all, it is helpful to know what a “file extension” is. The dot three-letters (sometimes four, as in website/index.html) ending you see at the end of file names is a method used to tell machines what category of file this string of code is (remember, it is just a series of 0’s and 1’s), and whether or not it is an “executable” file (such as a program.exe).
Your machine uses the extension to determine which program to use to open the file.

You are probably familiar with the more common file extensions: .doc and .txt for text, .xls for a spreadsheet, .jpg for pictures, and .htm or .html for webpages. Frankly, there are quite a few dot whatevers — too many to list here– the short answer is a .bkp is the backup file created by Windows Backup utility. This is the file you will use to restore your files should something untoward happen, and so you should treat it with care, and store a copy in two locations; on a CD or DVD and on a different drive or partition.
If you ever run across a .xyz that you’ve never seen before, and have no idea how it got there or what it does, the place to find out is the website FILExt.

Q: My computer is not showing file extensions, how do I make them visible?
A: You must turn off the “Hide Known File Extensions” feature. Open Windows Explorer using the shortcut mentioned in this prior article (Windows key+E) and from the Tools menu select (click) “Folder Options”. Then click on the “View” tab. Find and uncheck the checkbox by “Hide known file extensions”, as shown below. fldopts.jpg

Now click on the “Apply to All Folders” button, and then “OK”.

Vista users: In Vista you access this Options window via the Folder Options applet in the Control Panel. Start> Control Panel> Folder Options.

This answer is a good security tip as well, because hackers will sometimes take advantage of this by sending executable code disguised as something harmless.

Here’s how they’d do it: say they wrote a virus, we’ll call it “nastyvirus.exe”. If you received an email with the attachment nastyvirus.exe you probably wouldn’t click on it (and if you did, you really shouldn’t be using a computer! Sheeze). So the bad guy renames the virus “cutepuppy.jpg.exe.” If the Hide known extensions feature is on, it will appear to you as cutepuppy.jpg and you’ll be inclined to think the email attachment is a picture… and NOT a piece of nasty code.
Please note: for some inexplicable reason, Microsoft has Hide Known Extensions enabled by default. If you have not already turned this off, please do so now.

Today’s free download: regular readers of Tech–for Everyone know that I routinely advise making system backups for the purposes of “disaster” recovery. One highly recommend backup method is to make an “image” of your hard drive or partition with a program like Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image.
If your hard-drive is made by Maxtor or Seagate (Seagate has purchased Maxtor), you can download a free, basic version of Acronis, to clone, image, or transfer your system. The tool is called Maxtor MaxBlast. [note: if you backup the image to an external drive, it must be a Maxtor/Seagate drive as well.]

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul, All Rights Reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 20, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, security, tech, tweaks | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

View PowerPoint presentations without Office

I was reminded of this “quick tip” topic while I was doing research for an upcoming Tech–for Everyone article, and the information I wanted to read was contained in a PowerPoint slideshow (aka “presentation”) archive, available online.. a “.ppt” file.

Normally, this is no problem: you click on the “view” hyperlink; are asked if you want to “Open” or “Save” the file (since all I wanted to do was read it, I chose “open”). Here is where I was reminded that the machine I was surfing on was new and did not have Office installed — “Windows cannot open this file:”

You may have seen a window like this in your computer career…

error.JPG(My article on what to do to resolve this can be read here.)

Fortunately, a quick visit to the Microsoft Download Center is all that’s required to enable my machine to view PowerPoint Presentations (and cool slides of airshows).

Tip of the day/Today’s free link: If you are not using the Microsoft Office suite of programs, download and install the free PowerPoint Viewer 2007.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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June 30, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Cannot open attachment…help!

A frustrating error occurs when Windows does not recognize the type of file you are trying to open, that reads “Windows cannot open this file:”
It may help you to understand that what causes this is when the file was created with a program that is not installed on your machine. It does not mean the file is not Open-able.

Today’s topic was inspired by a college professor, who received two writing assignments from students as email attachments. [A brief aside: it is simply amazing what is available to us in the form of the e-classroom. If you have a crazy schedule, and there simple isn’t time to further your education, consider taking online courses. A good place to start looking is your local Junior College.] One student sent him a .mdi file and the other sent him a .docx file. When he tried to open them, he received the message shown above, and asked for my help in opening them.

Tip of the day: Use the Internet to identify attachment file types, and find out what it would take to open them. I mentioned in an earlier article, files are identified by a “dot-three-letters” file “extension” (for a more detailed description, click here). This tells your O/S what program created the file so that it can launch the same program to work with it. I will mention again; the place to go when you receive (or come across) a file extension you simply don’t recognize is a website called FILExt.

The professor had assigned a writing assignment, and since he has Microsoft Office and the lesser-known Word Perfect installed on his machine, he was surprised at his inability to open a text document (and doubly surprised when it happened twice). The second file — the .docx — I easily recognized as the new Word format. The new Microsoft Office 2007 suite has modernized, and uses a XML-based format now, and older versions (Office 97 – 2003) of Word will not recognize, or be able to Open, files of this type.
The solution, in this case was to (somehow) upgrade his Office suite to 2007, or ask the student to re-submit the document using Word 2007’s ability to Save As in the older format. I advised him to download and install the free 60-day trial of Office 2007, and to consider purchasing a license for it. (The download is the full suite; it just has a time-limited license.) By doing this, he would also be able to open the second file. [update: for more on Office 2007, and to download the free conversion toolkit, called a “Compatibility Pack” (for owners of older versions of Office), click here.]

I did not immediately recognize the .mdi file extension, and so (since I had it already open) entered “open .mdi” into Google’s search box. It turns out that the student had — instead of simply Save-ing the document — “printed” it to Word 2003’s ‘virtual printer’, Microsoft Document Image Writer. This tool is usually used in conjunction with a scanner, and allows for OCR. You don’t typically run across too many .mdi files…
The professor took my advice, and was able to open both documents using the newly installed Word 2007.

If you refer back to the error message shown above, you will see that by default Windows offer you a choice; allow it to search online for a way to open the file (this rarely works), or select a program — from the programs you have installed — to use to try to force it open (this also rarely works). It will not hurt you, and there is a chance of success, to go ahead and accept the first option.
And then go to FILExt.

Today’s free link: If you use IM and use multiple services… and you frequently use different computers… you should know about Meebo. Meebo allows you to use a web browser to log into and use AIM, Messenger, Yahoo, and GoogleTalk. Quick, simple, and easy… and nothing to install.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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October 17, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, MS Word, PC, tech, Windows, word processors | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment