Converting Word 97 Files

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by jordii, Feb 2, 2016.

  1. jordii macrumors regular

    Sep 9, 2008
    I never imagined that my data would rot this quickly!

    I have lots of Word 97 files. Even if I add extension ".doc", I can't get Pages or other word processors to open them. TextEdit will open them, but with a lot of nonsense characters. Worst of all, Spotlight's not indexing the files (and there's important data there).

    Microsoft offers an ancient "Microsoft Word 97, 98, and 2000 Converter for the Macintosh" to update to Office 2004, but it won't launch on modern hardware, nor can I launch my copy of Office 2004.

    I have hundreds of these files, so I'd like to bulk convert/update them (preferably to RTF or PDF). LibreOffice is the sole word processor that can open them, but there's no scripting, and no bulk conversion.

    Also, many files wind up named "Untitled". I'd like them to retain their current name, and, if at all possible, their created/modification dates. I've been recommended Larry Wall's 'rename' for the former issue, and "-r oldfilenewfile" for the latter. I'm hoping for a less geeky solution (i.e. hoping there's an app or script out there).
  2. JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
  3. jordii thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 9, 2008
    Without adding a "DOC" extension, Pages (v5.6.1) can't recognize the file as openable.

    Adding that extension allows Pages to try to open the file, but it reports "Can't be opened for some reason". I've tried this with a variety of Word 97 files. I'll report the problem to Apple, but can't imagine it'd be high priority.

    Any advice out there?
  4. JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
    Are you absolutely sure they are Word 97 files? My recollection is Word 97 was a Windows format.

    Also, could you post the exact error message?

    Do you have an example file with no personal information that you could upload?
  5. jordii thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 9, 2008
    Yes, you are apparently right. Must have been Office 1998. Was definitely Mac.

    "(FILENAME) can't be opened for some reason"

    Two samples, zipped:

    LibreOffice opens them flawlessly. TextEdit adds garbage characters, and so does Bean. Pages won't touch them without extension, and fails attempts to open them when you add one. If you test, keep a backup, because once you've added an extension, they're not quite the same as the originals even if you strip the extension.
  6. JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
    I can open both files in Word 2011 even without adding an extension provided I open them from the file menu in Word. They won't open from finder.
  7. jordii thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 9, 2008
    I don't own Word 2011. Do they show garbage characters atop, as they do via Text Edit?
  8. JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
    Nope. Looks perfect to me. No garbage characters.
  9. DeltaMac macrumors G3


    Jul 30, 2003
    Same here. Both files open from the file menu/Open with Word 2011 (running on OS X 10.11.4)
    And Word 2011 shows full formatting of those files, with no garbage characters.

    The document types show as Word 1.x-5.x, and the file dates show 1996, which would be older than Word 98, or Word 97.
    That may be where you have some difficulty when the files (at least your samples) are older than you think they are.
  10. JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
    That makes sense. Pages is only supposed to be able to open Word 97 or newer.
  11. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009

    I downloaded your sample files.

    Try this:
    1. Download LibreOffice 5 and install it on your Mac. It's free.
    2. Launch LibreOffice, and open the Word docs.
    3. They open right up!

    Once you have them opened, I believe LibreOffice will "save them back" into a format readable by recent Word releases (I don't use MS Office myself).

    Or, just save them in LibreOffice format...
  12. Partron22 macrumors 68020


    Apr 13, 2011
    Buying an old iMac (1999-2001) that can still run System 9 can be part of the solution here, especially if you've still got the old install disk, or 160MB HD tucked away somewhere. I keep the old thing in the basement, where it still runs a reasonably useful version of iTunes (under 10.5.11), when I'm not translating documents from the 80's.
    $10 would be a reasonable price for one of these, and you can boot off a 500GB external.
  13. jordii thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 9, 2008
    For future people with the same problem, this is by far the best solution on the Internet.

    Install LibreOffice (which is free).

    Download and decompress this script by double clicking;

    Put it in your user folder.

    Open terminal, and type this: ruby word_to_pdf.rb

    It will ask you to choose a folder. Choose a folder with ancient Word documents in it.

    The script will create PDF versions of all outdated Word Files in that folder (and in any sub-folders), with all the original formatting retained (i.e. no garbage characters). They'll have the same name as the originals, aside from the PDF extension.

    The script will also label the original Word files as "red" (so you can find and trash them...or back them up somewhere).

    And the new PDFs will have the same modification dates as the original, so you don't lose that data.
  14. bwbecker macrumors newbie

    Nov 18, 2017
    Is this script still available?


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