Reading ClarisWorks 3 Documents in Mac OS X

Posted in personal at 2:45 pm by danvk

I recently found a disk image I made from an old, circa 1997 hard drive. Back then we used ClarisWorks for all of our word processing needs. I quickly ran into my own version of the Digital Dark Age: how to read these ancient files? I spent enough time figuring this out that I owe it to the web to write up the process.

Here was the message I got when I double-clicked one of my Claris Works docs:

This gives a clue to the solution. The dialog doesn’t say that no program can read the file. It says that my computer cannot run ClarisWorks. This means that it’s found the ClarisWorks application on my old hard disk, but the program is so ancient that it cannot be run (Apple has gone through two CPU changes and one complete OS rewrite since ClarisWorks 3 was written).

The answer, then, is to run an old Mac emulator! There are several 68k Mac emulators out there, but I had my best luck with BasiliskII. Setting it up was not easy. Here were the steps that worked for me. Hopefully they’ll work for you, too:

Since I was working with a disk image, I had to convert it from .dmg format to a .img format. I did so with this command line (citation):

hdiutil convert Performa\ 640\ HD.dmg -format RdWr -o ~/Desktop/Performa.img

If you just have a few files, put them in a folder and tell BasiliskIIGui to share that. Here’s what my configuration looked like:

Hit “Save”, then “Start”. With any luck, you’ll see the emulator boot up and display a screen something like this:

You can now open the documents in ClarisWorks inside of the emulator. Unfortunately, ClarisWorks is unable to export in any format:

My solution was to download a PDF printer driver for Classic Mac OS:

I expanded it into my shared folder and installed like so:

Then select “PrintToPDF” in the Chooser (Apple → Chooser):

Open your document in ClarisWorks and do File → Print…. Hit “Preferences” and configure PrintToPDF like so:

I created a special output directory for PDFs, but you can do as you wish. Hit “Print” and you’re good to go!

In case anyone needs a copy of ClarisWorks, here it is (1.3MB download). If anyone objects to that link, I’ll happily take it down.

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