3 Ways To Learn How To Open Files With Unknown File Extensions

As PC users, we all encountered files with uncommon extensions from time to time. Of course we all know about .docx files, .pdf files, .mp3 files or .iso files. But have you heard about the .eps file extension? How about .dng? What do you do if you have to open such files? In this article we are going to show how to deal with files that have unknown file extensions and learn which apps or programs to install in order to view their content.

First Phase - Encountering the File(s)

As we cannot cover how to open every file extension that was invented in the world of computers, we are going to share a practical example using an unusual file and what we did in order to understand how to open it and view its content.

For starters, let's say that someone emails you a file that has the .eps file extension.

The first instinct is to double-click on the file. Windows doesn't know how to open this type of file with its own preinstalled programs, so you will encounter the following message: "How do you want to open this type of file (.eps)"?.

The most important rule when using a PC is don't panic. There is always a solution and if you try one of the following methods, you will be able to open the file. You are now entering the second phase.

Second Phase - Research

You can use multiple methods to find the software that's required to open that unknown file. Whether it's looking for an app in the Windows Store, searching on your favorite search engine, or browsing on different website, everything you do at this point is called research. It usually takes a matter of minutes:

  1. Look for an app in the Windows Store - as you saw in the image above, you can click or tap "Look for an app in the Store". The Windows Store will open showing all the apps that can open this file. Generally, we don't recommend this method, because modern apps can't open that many files, and the results will be disappointing. Thankfully, the Store also includes a small number of desktop applications, which can be used to open more complex files. However, there is a low chance that you will find the appropriate app by using this method. We hope that there will be more desktop apps in the Store in the future and this method of discovering the right app to open an unknown file will work better.
  2. Search - searching online is always the best method to learn about a new file type. By using a search engine you will be able to see what kind of file it is, in which scenarios it is used, and the applications that are able to open it.

    Let's see what we have here. Based on what Google says, the .eps file format is a graphics file format and it is used in Adobe Illustrator. We're sure that your next question is: "Do I have to pay for software in order to open an unknown file?"

    And the answer is: not necessarily, but in some cases, you may have to. You can always look for free, open-source alternatives to open files, but these may have glitches, and you may not have all the features found in their paid counterparts.

    To find the appropriate software that can open your file, you can look through the search results and spot some program names. For example, if you go to Wikipedia and type in the name of the extension, you may find the info you need right there. Here is an image showing what programs are able to open the .eps file format.

    In our research journey, we decide on opening the .eps file with GIMP, an open-source image editing program. You can download it from here and the install process is straight-forward. We are not going to cover it here.

  3. Check the Filext database - this is a very impressive database which contains 1526 known file extensions. For each file extensions, you are given the name of the program it works with, the specific function of the file, and the company that makes the program. Not all extensions have all of the data. Click on the extension of interest to see the detail page for that extension.

I Have The Appropriate Software, But I Keep Getting Errors. And Most Importantly, I Still Can't Open The File!

So, we installed GIMP, and we're anxious to open our .eps file. We got this error: "Opening… circle.eps failed: Could not interpret Postscript file...circle.eps".

Remember what we said earlier? Do not panic. Some apps require codecs to be able to open certain files, and after a bit of searching we found that we have to install the Ghostscript codec from here.

We picked the 64 bit version for Windows and we have installed it. After that, we tried to open the file and we encountered the same error.

If you reach this stage, like we did, try searching for that specific error. If you don't find anything relevant, the file you are trying to open may be corrupt, or the codecs were not installed correctly. However, there are tricky file formats out there, and because we are smart guys, we know that everything is installed correctly. So after searching a bit more, we found a solution, courtesy of Solution: Error Open EPS in Gimp 64-bit with Ghostscript.

So, what we did here was copying the codec in the GIMP installation folder and renaming it so that GIMP can use it. The old one was renamed, not deleted, in case we need it in the future.

After doing all of this, we finally managed to open our .eps file.

Bonus Method: Ask!

If searching does not help you, or you simply can't find something that can open your magic file, just ask the person who sent it. You might only need to install one small viewer, or do a bit more complicated work like we did above. If you are lucky and your friend is a tech-savvy type, he/she might be able to help you.

Don't Forget To Be Cautious

When downloading unknown file types, you must be very careful so that you don't get viruses on your computer or device. This applies not only to the files you download, but also to the viewers and codecs you install to be able to view those files. Be sure to research thoroughly, and maybe ask a more qualified person to give you advice. Last but not least, be sure that the software you will be using to open this kind of files is obtained legally. In the case of free or open-source software, there is nothing to worry about, but if you need something more complex, be sure to purchase it, and don't use pirated software. This way you protect yourself from viruses and software threats and you also reward the people who worked hard for that application that you enjoy using.


If you encounter an unknown file type, it takes only a few minutes of research to be able to open it. There are some basic methods of finding out what type it is, what programs can open it and what it is used for. After making sure that it is safe and that you can acquire the appropriate software safely, you can go ahead and apply some of the solutions found online. If you have questions, don't hesitate to ask us in the comments section below.