Q: I’ve used different programs to view JPEG photos on my Windows 10 PC. To do that, I periodically changed which program I wanted to be the default photo viewer, switching from Microsoft Office 2010 to Adobe Photoshop Elements to Microsoft Paint. Now I want to switch back to Office 2010, but Windows 10 won’t let me so I’m stuck using Paint. What can I do?

Craig Wiester, Minneapolis


A: You have run into a Microsoft technical change that has had an unintended effect.

Beginning with Office 2010, Microsoft decided to speed up downloads of Office and Office updates by using “click-to-run” technology that treated software downloads like streaming video. Just as you can start watching a streaming video before it’s completely downloaded, you could start using Office 2010 before the entire program finished downloading.

To make this downloading system work, Microsoft isolated Office 2010 from the rest of Windows by putting it in a “virtual environment,” a self-contained bubble inside of Windows.

This bubble is the source of your problem. When you first opened photos using Office 2010, you probably made the included photo program, Picture Manager, your default JPEG viewer. But, because Office lives in a bubble, it didn’t communicate that to Windows 10.

Then you used the Windows desktop to open photos, first in Photoshop Elements and then in Paint, and told Windows to make each of those programs in turn your default JPEG-viewing program. Windows 10 could do that because both those programs are outside the Office bubble.

Now you want to switch back to Picture Manager. But it’s inside the bubble, so Windows doesn’t know you have selected it as your default photo viewer. As a result, Windows continues to open JPEG photos in Paint.

The workaround is to open Picture Manager first, use its “picture shortcuts” menu to locate the JPEG photo you want to open and double-click the photo file to open it. You will have to continue opening JPEG photos that way in order to use Picture Manager.


Q: I have a Windows laptop and an Apple iPad, and on both I sometimes receive e-mails containing Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. But I don’t have Microsoft Office to open these files. Is there an alternate way to read these files and create new ones?

Fred Klietz, Brooklyn Park


A: Microsoft no longer offers the free PC programs that could read Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. But it does offer free Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for phones and tablets. The iPad versions are on Apple’s App Store.

In addition, PC users can view Word, Excel and PowerPoint files for free when the files are stored and opened in the online storage services Dropbox (tinyurl.com/yddg2be) or Microsoft OneDrive (tinyurl.com/my5wm7j). Both have free versions.

Another PC solution is to use free online Google apps that can read and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. The Google apps can also create new files in Google’s own format, then convert them to the Word, Excel or PowerPoint formats (see tinyurl.com/o9mdoh4). To use the Google apps, you will need to create a Google account (see tinyurl.com/k5fepyf).


E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Include name, city and telephone number.