Monthly Archives: February 2016

File Associations

“File Associations” is a simple, but important concept that everyone who uses operating systems should know. Let’s start by defining operating systems, files, and programs.

An operating system is the “main program” that runs when you start up your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. The popular ones are Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, and Linux.

Files and folders are the building blocks of the information that is stored on your device. The files can be categorized as operating system files, program files, or data files.

Programs (or “Apps”) are specific files that are “executable” … that is: they run within the operating system, manipulating the screen, speakers, files, and folders.

Data files are files “indirectly” created by you: like pictures, documents, email, and contacts. I say indirectly, because you are actually manipulating the programs to create, view, or edit those data files.

With those definitions in mind, I can clearly describe a file association: When you click to open a data file, the operating system needs to know what program is associated with that type of data file. For example, when you click to open a PDF file, the operating system needs to know if it is supposed to open it with Adobe Reader, Edge browser, or any number of other PDF viewers that may be on your device. This concept applies to DOC files, HTML files, JPG files, and all the rest.

This brings up another topic: “How do you change a file association”?

File associations can get changed when you load a new program, load a new operating system, or (unintentionally) load malware … so you may want to change them back to your preferred programs. For example, this happens a lot with Windows 10: it “takes over” by associating your browser/email/picture/other files with their preferences, not yours. Now that you have the concept and the nomenclature, you can figure out how to change them back: simply Google “change file associations Windows 10” and learn how to change them back. For other operating systems, simply change “Windows 10” to the name of your device’s specific operating system.

Printers

There are lots of printer options these days, so I thought I’d run through some of them.

Most printers today are actually “multifunction printers” since they can print/scan/copy. Some can also fax. But a few remain that are simply “printers”.

Printers can still be categorized by the printing technology and the connection technology. Printing technology is still mainly inkjet or laserjet, although dot-matrix and thermal still exist for specific applications (mostly receipt printing). Basically, if you want fast, inexpensive, non-photo-quality prints, get a laser printer … but if you sometimes want photo-quality printing, go for inkjet. Of course, when you purchase either, you still need to choose between colour and black-only.

Like I mentioned, the fastest and cheapest-per-page is laser. You might spend a bit more on the printer, but you will spend less per page on the consumables, and the ink won’t dry out on you. An inkjet printer might be cheaper to purchase, but the consumables typically cost more per page.

If your photo-quality printing is really infrequent, consider using a photo-print service at a local store. It is very economical and produces very dependable results.

Connection technology refers to how you connect to your printer. USB is still common, but more and more printers allow you to connect them directly to your network … allowing ALL devices to print directly to it, without having to transfer files or setup a “print server”. Connecting a printer to the network is pretty simple (and dependable) via Ethernet, but a bit trickier (and not as dependable) via Wifi. I’m not sure why you would want to do wireless printing, unless an Ethernet connection is not feasible/possible.

Some printers will allow you to print via Bluetooth, WiFi Direct, or directly from a flash drive. Some multifunction printers will allow you to scan directly to flash drive.

If you want to print from an Apple computer or device, you will want to make sure the printer you chose has “AirPrint” compatibility. And if you want to print at home/office while you are away, check out HP’s ePrint feature (which always includes AirPrint compatibility). (Not that I want to encourage the purchase of an HP product.)

If you often need to scan/copy multiple pages, you should either invest in a standalone scanner, or choose a multifunction printer that has an “Automatic Document Feeder”, or ADF.

Now don’t get me started on 3D printers … they’re a whole new ballgame.