.jpg .png .exe .mp3 .avi .mp4 .ini .ai .xap .zip .txt .xml .wav .cs .xaml
I would imagine that most people who read this blog would be able to tell me what most of those file extensions are for. I would also imagine that most people would be able to tell me what a file extension is. For those who are unaware, file extensions are the little bits on the end of file names on your computer. A file extension tells your computer what type of file it is & what program to open it in.
This is something we all take for granted on our computers, regardless of what OS we use. Linux, Windows & iOS all open files based on the few letters at the end of the name. If your computer comes across a file extension that it doesn’t know what to do with, it will provide you a list of programs that might be able to open it, or you can locate a program yourself. You can change the default programs for different file types, for example if I wanted all .bmp images to open in Paint, not Windows Image Viewer by default. (fyi, I don’t use Paint or Windows Image Viewer)
I think that file formats became more known in the dawn of the mp3 revolution, as mp3 players such as the iPod became popular, because ‘average users’ were downloading or ripping music & wondering why it wasn’t working on their mp3 player, only to discover they had downloaded a .wav or something stupid like that when their mp3 players (as the name suggests) only plays .mp3 files.
Now onto the main point of this rant:
Windows Phone doesn’t let you create apps which will register as opening different file types. Windows Phone doesn’t let you choose what apps open what file types. Windows Phone doesn’t let you open file formats at all if it doesn’t recognise it.
Ultimately, Windows Phone has some built in apps (photos, music & video, office) which will open certain file types, but for anything else, you have to do some kind of in-app black magic. You have to use a web service to access/download/open/use other types of files. Windows Phone 7 acts like this & I have a feeling Windows Phone 8 wont be much different. I would imagine this is partly due to the high level of security built into Windows Phone & how each app is ‘sandboxed’ so it can only access its own files, nothing else.
Regardless of the reasons for it, I consider this is a major drawback to writing Windows Phone apps. They say Windows Phone apps are meant to put content first, but sadly that is far from true from my point of view. Apps on Windows Phone are meant to all seem like part of a whole, so you arent just jumping in & out of apps (like on the iphone for example) but without removing the restrictions of how we open our files, it will never happen. You can create apps which register as an extension for the images app, but that is about it. I want to be able to open an email, download an attachment & see a list of apps which can open the file, not be told it cannot be opened because it doesn’t recognise it.
As a designer, I would love to have some kind of 3D design application for Windows Phone, but they usually have odd/different file types. At the moment, the only way of managing this would be to have an in-app file downloader which requires you store your files on-line somewhere for it to fetch from. I do not want to have to put every single file I ever want to open on the web, just to provide access to it on my phone, especially as I would have to open different apps for different file types.
To sum up, I feel that one of the basic parts of Windows is missing from Windows Phone, which in many situations reduces WP to just another mobile OS used for jumping from one app to another to another. Windows 8 has an open file dialogue, why can’t Windows Phone?
Just give us a little bit of file access, let us open our files in our own way!
Make Windows Phone worthy of great apps & let us make apps worthy of Windows Phone!