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Issue #86: March 15, 2009

Q: I am running Win XP home addition SP3 and use Outlook Express for email.  When I now receive emails that have image files attached, such as imagexxx.jpg, if I try to open them, I get an error msg, which reads, “This file does not have a program associated with it to perform this action.  Create an association in Folders Options control panel.”  I have gone to Control Panel, Folders Options, Files and under .JPEG (there is no .JPG) it has a program to open those types of files.  I used to have no problem with this.  It just started about 2 months ago. 

– Bob H.
Fort Walton Beach, FL

A: JPG and JPEG are merely two different spellings of the same file format.  JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, and this is a very common format for compressing and storing image files.  JPEG is a “lossy” compression format, meaning that image information is lost in the compression process, resulting in a lower quality image when the file is uncompressed.  The name was shortened to “.jpg” for use as a file extension back in the days of older versions of Windows that did not support file extensions longer than three characters.  It persists to this day as the most common file extension for JPEG files, along with the lesser used .jpeg and even .jpe.  Modern versions of Windows do not have the three-character limit, but extensions are traditionally kept short for ease of use.

As I’ve discussed in past columns, “file association” is a Windows term that refers to the relationship between a given file extension, and the program it works with.  The Windows registry contains information for what program should be executed in response to a double-click of a file, plus several other possible commands that you’ll find on the menu that pops up when you right-click a file.  In your case, Bob, it appears that something has somehow disassociated the .jpg extension.  You could do what Windows suggests, and go to “Folder Options” and set it up manually, but there’s a far easier way.  Open a file browser or “My Computer” window, and navigate to any file with the .jpg extension.  Right-click on the file, and select the “Open With…” menu slide-off.  From the sub-menu, select “Choose Program…”.  In the dialog, highlight the program that you wish to use to open .jpg files, and make sure you check the box that says “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file”.  When you click OK, Windows creates the file association.  Now, whenever you double-click a .jpg file, the program you selected will run and the file will automatically load; and that includes .jpg files sent to you as e-mail attachments.

TIP OF THE WEEK:  Readers, when you write in with questions, please always remember to supply as much detail as possible, especially exact error messages when available.  Simply saying “a box came up” or “it didn’t work” is not enough for me even to begin to help you.  Also, include detailed information on your computer setup (CPU type and speed, Windows version, memory and disk size, etc).  Finally, always provide your full name, and city, or I can’t use your question.

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