A few weeks ago, we had a discussion with our clients about a rash of students submitting the wrong files for assignments. These files were all Windows shortcuts to the actual document. The instructors were unable to open the file. The students were unaware of the mistake. So confusion all around makes for unhappy situations.
In my opinion this situation arises because Microsoft makes it difficult to notice a shortcut file isn’t the actual file on Windows.
- By default Windows XP and Vista (anyone know about Win 7?) have “Hide extensions for known file types” checked. So a student is unlikely to notice a shortcut has .lnk instead of .docx by looking at the file name. I think this situation was created to solve the issue of users renaming files to the wrong extension arbitrarily. Windows depends on the file extension for much software.
- Most file icons have a set appearance. Shortcut icons look like the target file only with a small white box with an arrow. Most users are likely to miss this distinction in my opinion.
Our recommendation to students is to remove the setting mentioned in #1. This ought to better help students figure out which file they are going to submit. Let’s hope, anyway.