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Issue #525: August 13-19, 2017

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Q: My CAD program is Ashlar-Vellum’s Graphite V10. All my generated cad files have had the icon change from the Graphite icon to the Acrobat Reader icon, but the file trailer has remained correct – .vc6. I can open files from the CAD program but if I try to double-click from Explore, the file tries to open in Acrobat Reader, but can’t because it is still a vc6 file. Right-clicking on a file lists Acrobat Reader as the default program. I’ve tried to reset the program to use to open files (it isn’t listed on the file assignment window), but the assignment window won’t accept the Graphite.exe. Some chat rooms suggest going into the Registry, but I don’t want to do that myself.

– Jack M.
Odessa, Texas

A: You almost had me with “.VC6” files, Jack. My experience would have said that a file with that extension should be full of Visual C source code from Microsoft’s Visual Studio 6. But a quick Google check showed that file extension does indeed belong to software by Ashlar-Vellum. I’ll admit that I’m completely unfamiliar with Graphite – V10 or any other version. But that shouldn’t matter, because what you’re experiencing seems to be a simple file association misconfiguration.

As I’ve discussed in the column before, a file extension is the group of characters after the last dot in a filename. They’re usually 3 or 4 characters long, although they can be much longer. Windows uses a file’s extension to associate it with an application software title. This is how Windows knows which icon to display with each file, and which application to launch when you double-click a data file (as opposed to launching the software, and selecting File->Open). The fact that you’re seeing the icon for Acrobat Reader on .VC6 files clearly shows that Windows is associating .VC6 files with the wrong application. Now, I’m not sure what you’re looking at when you right-click on a file, in order to see Acrobat Reader as the default program. If you’re running Windows 7, as your contact information says you are, when you right-click a file you should see a context menu that contains a number of entries, most of which pertain to manipulating the file in one way or the other. There should be application-specific stuff like Open, Edit and Print, along with Operating System tasks like Cut/Copy, Delete, and Rename. In among all these selections you’ll probably find “Open With” and a slide-off arrow that gives further options, among which are “Choose default program…” and it strikes me that this might be what you’re talking about. This is a shortcut to the full-blown “Set Associations” dialog, which I’ll show you how to get to, but which ultimately uses the same “Open with” dialog anyway.

To access all of the File Associations in Windows 7, click the “Start” button, then select “Default Programs” from the shortcuts on the right-hand side of the menu. In the dialog that comes up, click “Associate a file type or protocol with a program”. For some reason, this dialog refers to the file extensions as “Name” (Thanks, Bill!). Make sure the items are sorted on this column by looking for an arrow in the “Name” column header. If you don’t see one, or if the arrow is in a different column, click “Name” to resort. Then scroll through the poorly labeled file extensions to find .vc6. Select it, then click “Change program…”.

You said it “won’t accept” your change. Such vague statements are one of the main things that stop me from helping people. Windows has a reputation for generating user feedback that you need a degree in Computer Science to understand. I can’t imagine that it simply said “Windows won’t accept that change.” Since you didn’t tell me exactly what it did tell you, I’m going to take a shot and guess that it’s a security issue, since that’s the only thing I can think of that would prevent it from doing as you asked. If your user account does not have administrator privileges, consider trying the action again with an account that does.

Let me conclude by saying that the chat rooms aren’t lying to you when they say you can do this via the Registry. I always tell people to use caution when going into the Registry, as you can completely cripple your computer by tampering with things if you don’t know what you’re doing. Having said that, I will be happy to guide you to some instructions that, carefully followed, will allow you to make the change with little risk of collateral damage to your operating system. Visit for more information.

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