Ask Mr. Modem: To open files, you have to get with the right program

Posted Tuesday, Jan. 07, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Mr. Modem’s sites of the week


This is a free service that can test your firewall by doing a Simple Probe (it’s not as painful as it sounds) and/or a Port Scan. The site also tracks general hacking on the Internet so that you can learn of potentially vulnerable areas of your system.

Information Please

Information Please has been providing answers since 1938, first as a radio quiz show, then beginning in 1947 as an annual almanac, and since 1998 on the Internet. InfoPlease allows you to access a comprehensive reference information center, all for free. It combines a variety of resources, including an encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, almanacs, plus extensive information about language, world geography, history, sports, civics and current events.


Play video games online for free. You will find everything from classic video games such as Pac Man and Tetris, to sports and word-puzzle games, plus parlor favorites tick-tack-toe, Chinese checkers and rock, paper, scissors. So many games; so little time.

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

When I click on certain files, it asks me what program I want to use. What am I supposed to do?

When you attempt to open a file, Windows generally knows which application to use for most common file types. For example, Word documents commonly end with the file extension .DOC. When these files are clicked, Windows knows to launch Word. The fact that Windows knows what file to use is the result of its “file association,” meaning the .DOC file type is associated with Microsoft Word.

If your computer encounters a file and doesn’t know which program to use to open the file, your computer will turn to you and ask which program you would like to use. Instead of screaming, “How the heck (word substitutions are permitted) should I know?” right-click the file and from the menu that appears, click Open With and select Choose Default Program.

A window will appear that invites you to select a default program and one or more recommended programs will be suggested. Simply click to select the application you want to use. If your desired program is not in the list of recommended programs, you will need to click the Browse button and search for the program manually. Note: After making your selection, make sure “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file” is checked.

Because most applications are found in the Programs folder, it’s best to start your search there. Go to My Computer, select the C drive and open the Programs folder, then select your desired program. If you are still unable to find the needed application, use the Start > Search function.

If you simply cannot find a program to open your file, you may need to search for a downloadable program from the Web, or purchase a program that will support that file type. If you find yourself in that digital pickle and you’re not sure what to do or what program you need, run a Google or Bing search for “How do I open an .XXX (file extension) file?”

Where can I find more sidebar gadgets for my Windows 7 computer?

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but gadgets are no longer available from Microsoft. The Sidebar feature in both Vista and Windows 7 created serious vulnerabilities that could be exploited to harm your computer, access your computer’s files, or even permit a hacker to take control of your PC. If you’re concerned about the safety of gadgets you have already installed, you might want to read this Microsoft Security Bulletin: -Gadget.

How can I translate an entire Web page?

Google Translate ( invites you to copy and paste any text into the Translate window, select a language, then click Translate. It’s as easy as un, deux, trois. As an alternative, offers a similar translation feature at

Mr. Modem publishes “Ask Mr. Modem!” each week, featuring PC tips, tricks and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?