Users Tripping Over an Ancient Usability Problem

Guy came to me at work today, desperate. He said he often couldn't open files that were emailed to him. He said he'd change the file name. Right away I figured out that he was changing the whole file name including the file extension, so the computer couldn't figure out which program to use to open the file. I renamed the file so it had '.pdf' at the end and his file opened. He was so relieved and thanked me over and over. Seems like a simple thing to us computer types. The guy called me a genius, but many of my techie friends would probably think unkind things about someone making such a simple mistake. Thing is, they'd be wrong. This is an example of a technical solution that was made a long time ago, and forcing non-technical types to jump through hoops that they shouldn't. Thing is this is really silly when you think about it. When you rename a file you really shouldn't be able to change a file's type. You shouldn't be able to rename MyPuppy.jpg into MyPuppy.doc, it's a Jpeg image not a Word doc. It doesn't make sense and it's wrong. It's a legacy issue that we've just accepted, it's a huge usability no-no and it's flat out wrong. As computers are becoming more and more embraced by the non techie public at large this kind of thing will be less and less acceptable.

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