One of the first things I like doing on a new development machine is setting file associations for Clarion APP and DCT files.

By doing this I can have specific icon and type description for the file extension making it much easier to see these files in amongst all the other junk. Once these are setup and with windows explorer in detail view sorted by type the clarion app and dct files would be nice and visible at the top of the list.

Just like this:
But hang on, how the heck do you do that in Vista?

Prompted today by a comment on CW-Talk I looked into this again and finally found a solution.

In Vista they have changed the GUI for working with file association. The word I would apply here would be “obfuscated”. Most functionality is still there just in a few different places with a few special quirks.

“Associate a file type or protocol with a program”

Control panel –> Default Programs –>  Associate a file type or protocol with a program

Sounds like just the thing right? Wrong. You can muck around with associations a little but only if they are already available. No way to add a new one here, sorry!
Creating a new file association with Vista

You can do this by clicking on a not-yet-associated file which will launch the “Windows cannot open this file” dialog box.
Once you do that you will be asked:

fileassociations1 If you select the “Select a program” options you then you then get something like this: fileassociations2
Whats missing?

* Although you can “Type a description…” here there is no easy way to edit that description later.
* There is no way to set the icon for this file association.
* It is not possible to remove an association once created.

But it is possible with a little hunting.

There are two methods I have found and each have their merits and drawbacks:
1. Edit the registry.

This KB article seems like it would still apply to vista – “Changes in File Types and File Association Features in Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003”

You can also specify icons and type desriptions via the registry manually if you really want.
2. Find a program to do the registry hacks for you.

Unfotunatly there does not seem to be many around. One I found is “File Type Doctor” in Creative Element Power Tools.

Its a 45 day trial and has a few odd quirks but seems to do the trick. Just watch out, the list of extensions in the File Type Doctor seems to have a display problem. If you navigate the list with the up/down keys it seems to work OK. Also, be aware that changes you make are real time. There is no Save/Cancel for this editor!