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Associate Extensionless Files with Notepad in Windows XP

There are several files that appear not to have extensions in Windows XP. Perhaps the best known example is the HOSTS file. Files such as the HOSTS file that appear to be “extensionless” actually contain an invisible period “.” — or dot — at the end the file name. It is this invisible dot that will enable us to select a specific program with which to open files with no extensions.

Jump through the hoops

As web developers, we are constantly checking and consulting server-generated error_log files. Like the HOSTS file, the error_log files appear to have no associated extension. In Windows XP, opening extensionless files requires opening the “Open with…” dialogue box and scrolling through a long list of file types. And, although there is a checkbox option within the dialogue box enabling users to “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file,” the option is “greyed out” and useless. Thus opening an extensionless file requires four or five extra “clicks”, as well as the extra time it takes to jump through the hoops. This may not sound like a big deal, but try opening any number of files by this method and the extra clicks begin to add up.

After opening our millionth error_log file using the “Open with” method, we decided to confront the problem and devise a solution. After a bit of research, we were presented with several options: editing the registry, installing software, or tweaking Windows “Folder Options”. After fiddling with the registry and installing some software with no real progress, we decided to try the heretofore unsuccessful “Folder Options” method. Sure enough, armed with an invisible dot and a slight tweak, we were finally able to convince Windows XP to associate extensionless file types with Notepad, our program of choice for such files.

The Solution (Notepad)

Although this solution is relatively risk-free1, requiring no registry editing or software installation, the process is fairly sensitive, requiring careful attention. Below are two methods: the first associates extensionless files with Notepad, while the second does such with WordPad. Both assume you are running on a Windows XP operating system.

Here is the method of associating extensionless file types with Notepad in WinXP:

  1. Open Windows Explorer and go to Tools › Folder Options › File Types.
  2. Click the “New” button and type “.txt” in the “File Extension” field.
  3. Click on the “Advanced” button and the “Associated File Type” should read “Text Document”. If it is blank, or says something else, close everything out and start over, making sure to follow the steps in order.
  4. Finally, in the “File Extension” field, replace the “.txt” with a single dot, “.”
  5. Click “OK” and exit. Find or create an extensionless file and check it out.

The Solution (WordPad)

Here is a similar method of associating extensionless file types with WordPad in WinXP:

  1. Open Windows Explorer and go to Tools › Folder Options › File Types.
  2. Click the “New” button and type “.txt” in the “File Extension” field.
  3. Click on the “Advanced” button and the “Associated File Type” should read “Text Document”. If it is blank, or says something else, close everything out and start over, making sure to follow the steps in order.
  4. Open the “Associated File Type” dropdown menu. Scroll down and select “Wordpad Document”.
  5. Finally, in the “File Extension” field, replace the “.txt” with a single dot, “.”
  6. Click “OK” and exit. Find or create an extensionless file and check it out.

Footnotes

  • 1 It is always a good idea to backup your registry and other critical documents before implementing any system changes.

Jeff Starr
About the Author Jeff Starr = Web Developer. Security Specialist. WordPress Buff.
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22 responses
  1. Marton Sari August 13, 2006 @ 8:46 am

    After this you can associate it with anything you want. Just go to “Tools ? Folder Options ? File Types” again, select the first one in the list (the extensionless filetype), click “Modify” and select the appropriate program. The “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file” checkbox is greyed out again, but now it is checked!

  2. Jeff Starr

    Excellent, Marton — thank you for the helpful information!

  3. Didn’t work with me!
    What’e wrong?

  4. Jeff Starr

    It is difficult to say, Fernando. Keep trying!

  5. I agree with Cameron, i’ve been dealing with this with files output from Kiwi conf puller and everytime having to ‘open with..’ Finally i realized there had to be a better way.. Thanks Perishable Press great tip!!

  6. Jeff Starr

    Many thanks for the kind remarks!

  7. Great stuff! I work in a mixed development environment of Windows and linux, and I use a Windows system. My boss distributes his meeting agenda and minutes as an extensionless file, so I would sulk all meeting long cursing his name until I found your info. This little tip + Notepad2 for file encoding conversion linux/windows has made my life a lot easier!

  8. Jeff Starr

    Excellent — glad to be of service! Thank you for the positive feedback.

  9. And while you are at it, install notepad++ … a GNU text editor that is like notepad on steroids! :)

  10. Since the hosts file is the only such extensionless file i want to edit, I simply created a hostsx.bat file to bring it up in notepad and I don’t have to go into any folder to find it either.

  11. Jeff Starr

    David,
    That sounds like a great idea! Perhaps you would be so kind as to share the .bat code (no pun intended)?
    Jeff

  12. The bat file (hostsx.bat) I use in Win 2000 is:
    notepad C:WINNTsystem32driversetchosts

    Best reference and suggested entries for hosts file:
    http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm

    Where hosts file resides:
    Windows Vista = C:WINDOWSSYSTEM32DRIVERSETC
    Windows XP = C:WINDOWSSYSTEM32DRIVERSETC
    Windows 2K = C:WINNTSYSTEM32DRIVERSETC
    Win 98/ME = C:WINDOWS

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