I could hear the laughter even before I walked through the front door of my office. My coworkers were watching a funny video clip, emailed to us all by a client. Apparently, I would be the last person to see it. I rushed to my desk and tapped the mouse to wake up the monitor. I scrolled my Inbox, searching for the gem that was such a hit with my coworkers. Ah, there it was: "oldwomanwrestler.mov." Leaning forward, and eager for a great laugh, I ran a virus scan and then double-clicked the attachment.
For a few everlasting seconds, an hourglass rotated in the middle of my screen -taunting me -further delaying the show. Then, the computer ruined the fun with a pop-up message. It read, "Windows cannot open this file..." The message also said that it needed to know what program created the file and offered me a list of programs that I could try to use for the file -with no guarantees. I tried a few programs with no luck. What a buzz-kill.
The experience introduced me to the concept of "file associations." Extensions are the three digits after the period at the end of a PC's file name. They tell the computer what software program to use to open a file. If you attempt to open a file that has an extension that is unfamiliar to your computer, it will think for a moment, and then ask you for help.
Here is an analogy: Suppose your computer is a restaurant. The restaurant employs a vegan chef and a pastry chef. When a chilled crate of baby-back ribs is delivered, your restaurant has no chef to prepare the ribs. You might consider using your pastry or vegan chef to prepare the meat, but the results could be unpredictable. In fact, the chefs might refuse to prepare the ribs at all. The best solution is to hire the appropriate chef for the job, or, in the case of your computer, install the correct program to handle the type of file you wish to open.
A common file extension is "doc," which appears at the end of files created with Microsoft Word. Files that end in ".doc" tell the computer to use MS Word when opening that file. If MS Word is not installed, the computer pops up a message asking for help. In my case, downloading Apple's QuickTime, a program that is often associated with .mov video files, solved my problem and allowed me to join my coworkers in a hearty laugh.
As always, never attempt to open email attachments without first confirming their validity with the sender and scanning them with updated antivirus software.