File Associations, Why Should I Care?

Last post we discussed the differences between Adobe’s Reader and Acrobat. Many times when you’re wanting to just view a PDF file and you double-click on its icon… it opens up inside Acrobat (the conversion program) when you’re expecting (or wanting) it to open up inside Reader (the viewing program). This has to do with an operating system feature called “file association”. Your computer has a list of files and the programs to be used to open or edit a specific file type. If you want your computer to open Adobe’s Reader program when you double-click on a PDF icon, yet the document opens up inside Acrobat… we need to reset the file association for your PDF files. On a PC, this feature is located in your “Explore” window. Here’s how you can set or change your file associations on a PC:
To change which program starts when you double-click a file, follow these steps:
• Right-click your Start button > select Explore > Navigate to a folder that contains the file type for which you want to set up a file association.
• Right-click the file > select Open With > The Open With dialog box is displayed.
• In the Programs list, click the program that you want to use. If it is not shown here > select Browse, locate and then click the program that you want to use, and then click Open.
• Click to select the “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file” check box > Click OK.
You have just setup a file association for that file type. From now on, when you click to open that file type, Windows will open that file type using the program you selected.

Here’s how you can change/set your file associations on a MAC.
First you need to open the file’s information window by:
• Selecting the file
• Click “Get Info” from the File menu
• Select “Open with:”
• Click the “Open With” drop-down menu
• Select the program you want to open the file > close the window
When you double-click the document, the MAC operating system will now open it using the program you selected. Cool eh?

Paper or Plastic? Reader or Acrobat?

Your Help Desk team has responded to several Adobe inquiries recently, specifically Adobe’s Reader and Acrobat programs.  There can be some confusion when working with these two programs… so with my first issue of Keith’s Tech Tips, I’d like to help demystify these programs so users understand when to use one versus the other.  

Adobe Reader:
The Adobe Reader program is a free, limited-feature program originally designed to simply view (or “read”, hence the name) PDF files.  Nowadays, it can do a bit more than view PDFs but it is still used primarily for reading existing PDF documents.  Because of the popularity of the PDF format, the Adobe Reader program is a “must have” on both Macs and PCs.

Adobe Acrobat:
Many folks mistakenly think Adobe’s Acrobat it is a word processing program for creating/editing PDF files. In reality, Acrobat is a conversion program designed to take an existing document, such as a Word document… and “convert it” into a PDF document.

Although you can edit existing PDFs using Acrobat, I wouldn’t recommend it and here’s why:

  • It wasn’t originally designed with editing functionality in mind
  • Editing features are very clunky, as if an afterthought and difficult to learn
  • The learning curve is steep and most users will run out of patience before mastery

Since most users are already familiar with Word… you can save yourself some frustration by simply editing the existing Word document using “Word” first… then converting it again into another PDF using Acrobat. However, if you’re not already well organized, this process can lead to multiple iterations of the same document. Hey, there’s fodder for a future issue! (Hello Mudder, Hello Fodder… sing along if you know the lyrics… all together now!)

What’s Next?
Many times when you’re wanting to just view a PDF file and you double-click on the PDF icon… it opens up inside Acrobat (the conversion program) when you’re expecting (or wanting) it to open up inside Reader (the viewing program). This has to do with “file association” and I will cover that (and the easy fix) in detail in next month’s issue.

Stay tuned:
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