While reviewing first posts, I got to review this question about why some files do not have extensions.

From the screenshot provided, it was clear to me that the OP was using Windows 10. Furthermore, the circled files (e.g COPYING, CREDITS, FAQ, README) usually have a .txt, .log or .md extension, which aren't shown in Windows if the Hide extensions for known file types option is not disabled in the Windows File Manager options.

So I flagged the question as off-topic, but then I was told that this was an audit and I failed, because this was a highly voted question! Indeed, the question is highly voted (12 upvotes/0 downvotes as of now) and has three high-quality answers (one with 30 upvotes as of now).

Now, I'm pretty confident that the absence of extensions is due to the Windows setting that I mention above. But, since the question is highly voted and the answers are pretty good (although referring to the Linux case of lack of extensions), I'm not sure how this should be handled. Should it be flagged as off-topic and closed, should it be edited to make sure that it refers to the Linux case, should there also be an answer about the Windows setting, or something else that I'm not aware that can be done?

P.S. For the audit part, I think that it is an unfortunate coincidence, because the question was indeed highly voted.

  • 4
    this question just need to have a suitable screenshot (Nautilus can't be used as it show the text editor - e.g gedit - for files like that) or something that show easily no extension files
    – damadam
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 13:49
  • @damadam Yes, that could be an option. Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 14:04

3 Answers 3


The OP seems to be using Windows. But besides that, the question itself is not related to Windows in any way (I explain exactly why this is below). I think the good options, at this point, are (a) to migrate the question to another site or (b) to edit and reopen the question. I slightly favor editing and reopening it, but I am not sure that's better and I think either is acceptable. We could also (c) do nothing further or (d) reopen the question without editing it, but I don't recommend either of those approaches here.

There's no need to guess whether or not the files really have extensions. The OP says the files are from MediaWiki, which is a free open source software project. Specifically, it is the software that powers Wikipedia and many other wikis. Its source code repository can be browsed online and doing so readily verifies that the filenames are exactly as shown in the question.

As currently asked, the question does not look like it is about Ubuntu. The screenshot very strongly appears to show Windows Explorer. One can even deduce that the files truly have no extensions, through a discerning examination of how Windows Explorer shows them. The circled files in the question show the generic file icon, which is used for files whose types Windows doesn't know, and thus can't associate with any application. As you've said, Windows Explorer never hides the extensions of unassociated files. It's possible for that generic icon to be used as the icon of some file type or application, but this is fortunately rare.

Deducing a file's true name from how it is displayed in Windows Explorer and other file managers is an interesting topic, and someone should write a monograph on the subject. But the files the OP was talking about are public, and a better way to find their names is to just check.

One approach is to migrate the question to Super User.

The OP is using Windows, which is on-topic there. It's a general software question, and I believe those are on-topic and fully embraced there. Furthermore, the OP seems amenable to migration:

Hi @ThomasWard I agree I have placed this question in the wrong forum, I am a hardware engineer and we try our best. I find the response and content here very useful, can we move this to a better location?

That might have been partly based on the assumption that the question couldn't be edited to be on-topic here (which it could, see below), but at the very least it suggests the OP doesn't strongly feel that it should remain here.

Another approach is to edit it so that it is on-topic.

This would be quite easy to do. It might be sufficient simply to replace the screenshot.

But it is possible to go beyond that, because MediaWiki is officially packaged for Ubuntu and available in the universe repository--which in a way makes the question already a bit more about Ubuntu than Windows. (The downstream has a patch, but the patch does not affect the naming of those files.)

ek@Gnar:~$ apt policy mediawiki
  Installed: (none)
  Candidate: 1:1.31.2-1ubuntu1
  Version table:
     1:1.31.2-1ubuntu1 500
        500 http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu eoan/universe amd64 Packages

Consider the following variation of the question:

Why do developers choose to not use file extensions for certain files? Here is an example from MediaWiki:

ek@Gnar:~/src$ apt source mediawiki
Reading package lists... Done
NOTICE: 'mediawiki' packaging is maintained in the 'Git' version control system at:
Please use:
git clone https://gerrit.wikimedia.org/r/mediawiki/debian.git
to retrieve the latest (possibly unreleased) updates to the package.
Need to get 35.4 MB of source archives.
Get:1 http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu eoan/universe mediawiki 1:1.31.2-1ubuntu1 (dsc) [2,428 B]
Get:2 http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu eoan/universe mediawiki 1:1.31.2-1ubuntu1 (tar) [35.3 MB]
Get:3 http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu eoan/universe mediawiki 1:1.31.2-1ubuntu1 (asc) [95 B]  
Get:4 http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu eoan/universe mediawiki 1:1.31.2-1ubuntu1 (diff) [112 kB]
Fetched 35.4 MB in 17s (2,038 kB/s)                                                               
dpkg-source: info: extracting mediawiki in mediawiki-1.31.2
dpkg-source: info: unpacking mediawiki_1.31.2.orig.tar.gz
dpkg-source: info: unpacking mediawiki_1.31.2-1ubuntu1.debian.tar.xz
dpkg-source: info: using patch list from debian/patches/series
dpkg-source: info: applying pear-phail-fail-shebang.diff
ek@Gnar:~/src$ cd mediawiki-1.31.2/
ek@Gnar:~/src/mediawiki-1.31.2$ ls -F
api.php                     debian/       includes/     opensearch_desc.php  StartProfiler.sample
autoload.php                docs/         index.php     profileinfo.php      tests/
cache/                      extensions/   INSTALL       README               thumb_handler.php
CODE_OF_CONDUCT.md          FAQ           jsduck.json   RELEASE-NOTES-1.31   thumb.php
composer.json               Gruntfile.js  languages/    resources/           UPGRADE
composer.local.json-sample  HISTORY       load.php      SECURITY             vendor/
COPYING                     images/       maintenance/  serialized/
CREDITS                     img_auth.php  mw-config/    skins/
ek@Gnar:~/src/mediawiki-1.31.2$ xdg-open .

screenshot of Mediawiki files in PCManFM-Qt

That's on my Lubuntu 19.10 system with the mediawiki source package, but the files appear to be named the same upstream as well.

I'm not saying we need to go that far in editing it, though in my opinion it would be acceptable if we did. But perhaps the above example of what the question could look like will be useful if we do edit it. Needless to say, any of the above may be used with or without modification, by anyone, in editing the question.

Given that we can easily edit the question to be on-topic--and that it's asking about files that are also in Ubuntu's repositories with the same filenames!--one argument for keeping the question is that, as you alluded to, it already has answers that are valuable to us here. On the other hand, those answers will likely be valuable elsewhere, too.

The long-standing official guidance by Shog9 seems to indicate that we should modify and keep the question rather than migrating it:

Respecting your own community

As members of a community, your first loyalty should be to that community. When evaluating a question, you shouldn’t be looking to push it off on some other site; instead, ask if it could be appropriate and on-topic for you, the experts who the author decided to ask. Be a bit jealous of your site – don’t blithely turn askers away simply because their question could be asked somewhere else. Don’t hit them over the head with your scope, help them tailor their question to fit into it – and if that means your site’s scope overlaps a bit with another site’s, so be it.

From "Respect the community – your own, and others’" by Shog9. Emphasis in original.

In my opinion, this guidance is consistent with having closed (put on hold) the question in its current form. But if applied straightforwardly, it would suggest that the best course forward is to edit the question and reopen it, at least if the OP is comfortable with this approach.

On the other hand, in a very deep way there is, perhaps, something Windows-specific about the question: among users of all operating systems, Windows users are probably the least accustomed to seeing files without extensions. Furthermore, Windows users might make the same incorrect assumption you made--that the files really did have extensions after all--and having the question somewhere Windows users are more likely to find it by browsing or searching could help mitigate that.

Given that, and how the OP seems to be fine with migration, I think either approach is acceptable in this situation.

  • Thank you for this. Would it be an option to edit the question here, because the answers are good for the Ubuntu community, and perhaps advise the OP to also ask the same question in SuperUser, since, as you say, "Windows users are probably the least accustomed to seeing files without extensions" and it would be a useful question there too? Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 21:33
  • 1
    @user3140225 It's frowned on for the same user to post the same question on multiple Stack Exchange sites (not counting questions that are closed). Different SE sites' communities disapprove of this to different degrees--for example, Unix & Linux even has an off-topic sub-reason for it--but as far as I know none really think it's good practice. So probably not. Unless the version posted elsewhere is significantly different. I think that, if the answers are valuable enough to us here that we want to keep the question here, then we should keep the question--and edit it to help it fit our scope. Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 2:02

I should probably point out that the OP of that question is looking at a tarball/ZIP of data and source code. MOST of those files for LICENSE, README, etc. don't have extensions as those are typically text files as indicated in an answer on the question.

THIS SAID, my comment on the question stated "I don't see how this is an Ubuntu question" which means it was on my radar to get closed or such because it's not Ubuntu related. (Which, by the way, just happened because OP couldn't show me justification about how this was an Ubuntu question; I gave it a grace period before I closed it.)

  • Thanks for taking care of this! While what you state about these files not having an extension is generally true, it's not always the case. And we couldn't be sure, unless we had knowledge that the option I mention was disabled. Regarding your comment, I did see that, but I didn't know if you or another mod was going to take action, neither was I sure about what to do myself, so I brought it to meta. By any means, I didn't mean to insult you or anything. Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 15:48
  • 2
    @user3140225 Except we do have evidence that functionality is enabled - we see the .php file extension and the .json file extensions.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 15:54
  • 1
    That is not conclusive, since Hide extensions for known file types only hides extensions that have a program associated with them. .php files could well be unassociated, as well as the others. Please see this SuperUser question. I think that the only file that could indicate that the option is disabled is a .ico file, that seems to be associated with IrfanView, but again I'm not 100% sure. Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 19:15
  • @user3140225 this is an argument for elsewhere but their icon shows those files associated with notepad++ possibly. This discussion, however, is not relevant here. The point is the question is offtopic here because it's not really about Ubuntu so...
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 19:17
  • Yeah, you are right! Thanks again for taking care of it and for answering here! Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 19:20
  • I believe Thomas Ward's conclusion that functionality is enabled seems correct, as the .ico file type is a known file type for all Windows installs, and it appears in the list i.sstatic.net/Enu9r.png
    – K7AAY
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 17:35

Firstly, imho, a highly voted question should not be trashed lightly.

In the present case, changing the screenshot wouldn't change anything in essence, and including a Ubuntu screenshot would not make it more on-topic.

Now, it's not Ubuntu-specific, it's not Windows-specific, nor Mac OS, Solaris, SG/Irix, AIX, HP-UX, DEC Alpha, PDP-11 or whatever system specific, and it's not a developer question. However, it's clearly computer-related, and interesting to the community, and as such it's acceptable here.

AFAIK, there's no place for system-neutral, computer-related, non-developer questions on SE, and I'm not sure such a place should exist anyway, because there would be too many people posting system-specific questions there, thinking it's system-independent. Which means such questions should be accepted on any system-specific place where they appear. Imho, of course.

EDIT : It seems I was essentially wrong, since :

  • There's a place for such questions, Super User being for whatever computer-related doesn't explicitly fit anywhere else

  • Off-topic questions are moved (with their answers), not deleted, which was another concern of mine because the question had quality answers already

Hence, my answer has changed, and I suppose that question could be moved to Super User without harm.


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