Ever been sent a file you can’t open? Or a friend has emailed a file to you that they are unable to open and hope you might be able to help? It happened to me yesterday. A friend had been sent a file which she couldn’t open and asked me to have a go. First impressions weren’t good – I didn’t recognise the extension – it was a pzf file – no, not a pdf! Double-clicking wouldn’t open it. However, I was eventually able to open it and save it as a pdf or a jpeg. The process I went through on a Windows system might be instructive so I’ve set it out here.
What kind of file is it?
Well, I could have googled ‘pzf’ but I already knew about the website FILExt, a site which lists file extensions and what possible programs can open them, so I went straight there. Turns out that pzf is most likely a GraphPad Prism file, a scientific graphing program, although FILExt did indicate another less likely possibility as well. Ominously, the site said that pzf files could only be opened by Prism, which I didn’t have.
Can I convert it?
I googled ‘pzf file conversion‘. Apart from professional data recovery services, there didn’t appear to be a freeware app which might convert this file type. I had a look at my Delicious bookmarks. For online file conversion, I found File2.ws which claimed to be able to convert virtually any file into a public online web page, but alas, it didn’t work for pzf files (but it might work for your file). Convert.Files and Zamzar also didn’t support this format. I had a quick look at the free file conversion applications on my PC – SUPER and FormatFactory but both were for media files and again didn’t support pzf format.
Look for a free file viewer
I then had a look at free file viewers. Universal Viewer and its plug-ins can open many different file types but not pzf (again, it might work for your file). I also tried Irfanview but again even with its plug-ins, still no luck. However, proprietary software occasionally have free or trial viewers and in this case, the FILExt website indicated that the free Prism Viewer was available to open GraphPad Prism files. It’s possible to view or print the file with this utility but not make any changes. Another file viewer you could try is Explorer View which has a 30-day free trial.
Save the opened file in a different format
Now that we can open our file to view it or print it, it would be nice to be able to save it in a more useful format which can be opened by everyday free apps so we can refer to it again without any trouble. Well, once opened, you can easily save a file in pdf format using any one of a number of virtual PDF printer drivers. I use doPDF – I’ve mentioned it before in my Miscellany of Tech Tips. After installation, this appears in your Print menu so, in any app you can print from, you now have the option to print to a pdf format file. To convert to pdf format, you just have to print the document to doPDF rather than to your printer.
Now that your document is in a familiar format, you can convert it to another format if necessary, e.g. JPEG, PNG or GIF. However, I found it hard to track down a freeware pdf-to-jpeg converter. Some applications are trial only and leave a watermark on your output jpeg file, others require Adobe Acrobat to be installed first. However, there are online file conversion sites like Zamzar that will do the pdf-to-jpeg conversion for you. What I also discovered was that, if I opened the file on my PC in my preferred free pdf viewer, Foxit Reader, I could choose the Snapshot tool (Tools, Snapshot), and outline an area to save to the clipboard. Now open an image viewing program like Irfanview, paste in your snapshot (Ctrl-V) and click File, Save as to save the snapshot as a jpeg file.
So, given a file you can’t open, it should be possible to convert it to a more familiar format using the process I’ve outlined. How do you open an unusual file format? Any formats that have completely stumped you? Any tips to pass on? Drop a comment below.
Image credit: Lazurite