Secrets of the Office Masters: Details, Details
In common dialog boxes, trying to use information in the Type column is an exercise in frustration, thanks to Microsoft's marketing machine. After a default installation of Office XP, you'll have 75 registered file types, each starting with the word MicrosoftMicrosoft Word Document, Microsoft Excel Worksheet, and even Microsoft HTML Document 5.0. The effect is to make it impossible to distinguish the types of documents in a detailed list unless you expand the Type column to a ridiculous width.
Making all file extensions visible is a crude solution to this problem, but Explorer windows don't allow you to sort by this information anyway.
So here's a better idea: Regain control of the file types that you use most often, removing the useless Microsoft tag at the beginning of each one and making extensions visible for selected file types, such as HTML documents, where you might want to edit that change on demand.
In Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 95 with IE4's Windows Desktop Update, or Windows NT 4.0, 2000, or XP, follow these steps: Open any Explorer window (the My Documents or My Computer folder is a good choice), choose View, Folder Options or Tools, Folder Options, and then click the File Types tab. Scroll through the list of registered file types until you reach the Microsoft block, and begin editing each file type. Select a file type (Microsoft Word Document, for example) and click the Edit or Advanced button. In the Edit File Type dialog box, remove the unnecessary "Microsoft" from the Description of Type box. Click the Always Show Extension box to ensure that .doc extensions are always visible (and editable) in Explorer windows.
Repeat this process for other file types, such as Microsoft HTML Document 5.0 and Microsoft Excel Worksheet. Now, when you use Details view, you'll really see the details that matter.