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ATPM 8.01
January 2002




How To



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How To

by Gregory Tetrault,

Working with Downloaded Files without Special Utilities

The Internet facilitates the exchange of information. Often, the information resides within a downloadable file rather than a Web page or e-mail message. Most of the time this presents no difficulties for Macintosh users: double-clicking the downloaded file launches an appropriate application. However, the Internet is platform- and application-neutral, and the file you downloaded may not open when you double-click it. This column describes how you can handle these uncommon but annoying problems.

Scenario 1: When you try to open the file, an alert box appears with the message “Could not find the application program that created the document «document name».” The “Show recommended choices only” box at the bottom of the alert window is checked.


Alert window when file type is known but creating application is not known.

This alert lets you know that the file was not recognized by your Macintosh as one that can be opened with any of your installed applications. The alert box then presents you with a list of suggested applications. How can your Macintosh give you a list of suggested applications? Documents created on a Macintosh almost always contain two pieces of information: file type code and creator code. Both codes use four characters (numbers, case-sensitive letters, or symbols). As expected, the file type code describes the type of file such as TEXT, PICT, JPEG, PDF, cdev (control panel), or APPL (application). A document file’s creator code indicates the application that was used to create or modify it. Examples include MSIE (Microsoft Internet Explorer), DAD7 (Canvas 7), ttxt (SimpleText), and MSWD (Microsoft Word).

When your Macintosh recognizes a document file’s type and doesn’t recognize the file’s creator code, it suggests a list of possible applications. In my example, my Macintosh suggests opening the unknown text file with a word processor (Corel WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, or Microsoft Works), a presentation program (Microsoft PowerPoint), a Web browser (Netscape Communicator), and a utility program (Spell Catcher 8 converter). My Macintosh didn’t suggest SimpleText, because I trashed all copies of that program. (Note: I have MacLinkPlus Deluxe installed, so many of my choices include “with MacLinkPlus Translation.” You will not see those choices if MacLinkPlus is not available.)

If you like one of the recommended choices, simply select it from the list and click the “Open” button. The selected application will launch and the document will open (usually). If the document doesn’t appear, try opening it from the File menu of the selected application. If that doesn’t work, double-click the file again and uncheck the “Show recommended choices only” box. Try using an application that previously wasn’t listed.

Scenario 2: Just like Scenario 1 except that the “Show recommended choices only” box is checked and grayed-out.


Alert window when file type and creator are unknown.

This alert tells you that your Macintosh doesn’t recognize the document file’s type or its creator. This sometimes happens with files created on a non-Macintosh computer. It can also happen when document files get stripped of their resource fork. The alert window contains an unfiltered listing of dozens of applications that can open documents. If you know the document file’s type, just select an appropriate application. For example, you may know that you downloaded a text file, so choose any application that can display text. The selected application will launch, and the document may open. If the document doesn’t appear, try opening it from the File menu of the selected application. If this doesn’t work, try using a different application to open the document file. You may need to use the application’s Import menu choice to open the downloaded document file.

Scenario 3: Just like Scenario 2, but you are unable to find an application that can open the document file.

This scenario occurs when the document file was created with an application not installed on your Macintosh. For example, the file may be an Adobe Illustrator document saved in native format. If you know the creating application, you have a few options:

If you do not know the creating application, your options get more complicated.

If you have run through the scenarios above and still cannot open a downloaded document file, then it could be corrupted (try downloading a new copy) or in a proprietary format from a non-Macintosh computer platform.

Why I Wrote This Column and a Contest for ATPM Readers.

Apple Computer, in my opinion, has made a major blunder with OS X: file type and creator code information is optional. What is worse, some misguided users want Apple to drop support for file types and creator codes in future versions of OS X. The originator of the “Mac OS X Anti Metadata Petition,” Todd Blanchard, completely misunderstands how file type and creator codes work. He stated that he often had to use ResEdit to reset the file type and creator codes of downloaded files so that they would open. I have never had to use ResEdit to reset file type and creator codes to open a downloaded file. I am so confident of this claim that I hereby offer a prize to the first person who can stump me.

Contest Goal

Send me (or point me to) a file that I cannot open without adding or editing file type or creator codes.

Contest Rules

  1. The file must be available on the Internet via HTTP, FTP, or Usenet groups and must originate from someone other than yourself.

  2. The file cannot be a proprietary format from a non-Macintosh platform (e.g., no 3D graphics files from a Unix workstation).

  3. The file cannot be a proprietary Macintosh file for which I have no application. Do not send proprietary CAD/CAM, 3D, page layout, Mathematica, etc. files.

  4. The file cannot have been altered by removing its resource fork, changing its file type and creator code information, or corrupting its data.

  5. E-mail entries to If the file is small, you may send it as an attachment. (Please indicate the download link in your e-mail message.) Otherwise, send a download link to the file (e.g.,

  6. The contest ends at the end of January 2002 or when 100 entries have been received. (I do not have the time to test hundreds of files.)

  7. Winners, if any, will be announced in the February issue.

Contest Prizes

I will negotiate a prize with any winners. Available prizes include a number of Macintosh games, applications, and utilities. I also have a copy of “Adope Photoshop 5.5 and Illustrator 8.0 Classroom in a Book.”

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (6)

Andrew Lyons · January 5, 2002 - 04:47 EST #1
I found this article interesting - but I seem to have another downloading problem. I have just installed Mac OS X which, by and large, seems great. But when I try to save an e-mail from, it appears to save, but displays only machine code gibberish. I am using Netscape 6.2 because it is OS X native and other web pages appear to be downloading fine. I hope you can shed some light on this problem. All the best, Andrew Lyons
Gregory Tetrault (ATPM Staff) · January 5, 2002 - 09:16 EST #2
Andrew: I set up a Yahoo mail account (US, not AU) using Netscape Communicator 4.75 and saved a complicated mail file (with graphics and formattet text). When double-clicked, it opened in Netscape Communicator and was readable. It also was readable from text editors. There is a menu at the bottom of Communicator's "Save As" window with format choices. Did you inadvertently save as "source" instead of text? That could be why you see gibberish.
ibtisam · June 9, 2005 - 11:31 EST #3
please i want to download adope photoshop trial v , can you help me ?
with all my regards
ATPM Staff · June 9, 2005 - 13:14 EST #4
Ibtisam - all you have to do is go to and there's a link to download a trial version.
Reem Hijjawi · December 18, 2005 - 05:40 EST #5
hi, i have downloaded an "omnipage" file from my email and i couldn't open it because the required software is not installed in my pc , so i need your help to tell me which specific software to download so that i can open my file and read it .

please provide me with your support ASAP.

Regards / Reem
ATPM Staff · December 18, 2005 - 19:55 EST #6
Reem - you answered your own question. It's an Omnipage file, right? Sounds like you need to install Omnipage!

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