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Issue #850: November 5-11, 2023

Q: I’m running Windows 11, and using File Explorer to view pictures as extra large icons.  I right-click on a thumbnail and select rotate right or left, and get a pop-up box that says “You cannot rotate this image.  The file might be in use or open in another program, or folder might be read-only.”  I’m stumped!!!!!  I would prefer to perform these/this operation in explorer and NOT in photo viewer(s).

 – William R.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: As usual, please indulge me while I fill-in some background details for my other readers.  William is using the standard File Explorer program in Windows 11 to sort and view pictures that he has on his computer.  Some of the pictures don’t appear in the correct orientation, which means when viewed, they might appear sideways, or even upside-down.  To correct this. William is right clicking on a picture, and from the context menu that appears, he selects either “Rotate right” or “Rotate left” which are options that Windows places on the menu only if the clicked file is a picture.  Selecting one of these actually changes the orientation of the picture by 90-degrees in the chosen direction.  You can select the option multiple times and can expect the photo to be rotated each time you do so.

These options exist because digital cameras have a distinct definition of what are top and bottom in a picture.  Those are fairly obvious when you’re handling a dedicated camera, but not so much on a cell phone.  People have a tendency to hold a phone in whatever manner is most comfortable for them when taking pictures, and the phone doesn’t always agree with what the photographer thinks is the top.  So, when the pictures are placed on a computer, they wind up in whatever orientation the camera thought they should be, and it is up to you, the end user, to rotate them into the orientation you want.

So, William, on to your problem.  In telling me that you’re stumped, you didn’t really say what you tried to overcome the situation.  The dialog that popped up did a pretty good job of telling you some of the possible reasons why Windows couldn’t perform your requested operation.  If by “stumped” you mean that you don’t know what these mean, I can help you with that.

I imagine that it’s safe for me to assume that the meaning of “The file might be in use or open in another program” is pretty clear, and that you would know if you had the file that you’re trying to rotate open somewhere.  However, just to be clear, in some cases, when a picture (really, any file for that matter) is opened for editing, it is marked as open for the exclusive use of whatever program has it open, making it unavailable to any other program, including Windows itself.

It is the second part of that sentence, “The file…or folder might be read-only,” that I think is the problem.  Windows maintains attributes for each file that allows them to be marked with informational flags.  I mentioned the “Hidden” flag just a few issues ago (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. # 847 – October 15, 2023).  There is also a “Read-only” flag that prevents the file from being written-to in any way, which includes changing its orientation.

It’s easy to check and change most flags.  Right click on the file you’re having a problem with and select “Properties” from the menu.  At the bottom of the “General” tab you’ll see the “Attributes” section, along with checkboxes for “Read-only” and “Hidden”.  If you find “Read-only” is checked, all you need to do is un-check it and click “OK”. 

If you need to do this with a whole bunch of files, you don’t need to do them one at a time.  Use your mouse to select them all, then ask for the Properties of the group.  Set the checkbox the way you want it, then click “OK” and the attributes will be set for all of the selected files.

Final note: The “Read-only” attribute also prevents a file from being deleted.  That can be very useful for protecting important files against accidental deletion.  If you use this, just remember that if you want to move or edit one of these protected files in the future, you’ll need to remove the “Read-only” attribute first.

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