Digital archeology: recovering ClarisWorks drawing files

Three years ago I posted about how I’d gone back and recovered all my old websites I’d published over the years and packed them up into a Docker image, and last year I’d idly mused that I should go back and recover the multitude of websites that I’d designed but never actually uploaded anywhere. I finally got around to doing that over the weekend, and they’re all up on! Some are the original HTML source, some are just the Photoshop mockups, but that now contains the almost sum total of every single website I’d created (and there’s a lot of them). The only one missing is the very very first one… The Dire Marsh news updates are from early 1998, but I’d copied most of the layout from the previous site as evidenced by the (broken) visitor at the left that says “<number> half-crazed Myth fanatics have visited this site since 21/12/97”.

Prior to building way too many websites, I’d been introduced to the Warhammer 40,000 and Dune universes when I was 13 and had immediately proceed to totally rip them off get inspired and write my own little fictional universe along the same lines. This was all in 1996 and very early 1997, I even still have all the old files sitting in my home folder with the original creation dates and everything, but didn’t have anything that could open them as they were a combination of ancient Microsoft Word writings — old enough that Pages didn’t recognise them — and ClarisWorks drawing documents — ClarisWorks had a vector-based drawing component to it as well as word processing. I ended up going down quite the rabbit hole in getting set up to bring them forwards into a modern readable format, and figured I’d document it here in case it helps anyone in future.

Running Mac OS 9 with SheepShaver

The very first hurdle was getting access to Mac OS 9 to begin with. I originally started out with my Power Mac G4 that I’ve posted about previously but unfortunately it seems like the power supply is on the way out, and it kept shutting down (people have apparently had success resurrecting these machines using ATX power supplies but I haven’t had a chance to look into it yet). Fortunately, there’s a Mac OS 9 emulator called SheepShaver that came to the rescue.

  1. Download the latest SheepShaver and the “SheepShaver folder” zip file from the emaculation forums.
  2. You need an official “Mac OS ROM” file that’s come from a real Mac or been extracted from the installer. Download the full New World ROMs archive from Macintosh Repository, extract it, rename the 1998-07-21 - Mac OS ROM 1.1.rom file to Mac OS ROM and drop it into the SheepShaver folder.
  3. Download the Mac OS 9.0.4 installer image from Macintosh Repository (SheepShaver doesn’t work with anything newer).
  4. Follow the SheepShaver setup guide to install Mac OS 9 and set up a shared directory with your Mac. Notes:
    • It defaults to assigning 16MB of RAM to the created virtual machine, be sure to increase it to something more than 32MB.
    • Disable the “Update hard disk drivers” box in the Options sections of the Mac OS 9 installer or the installer will hang (this is mentioned in the setup guide but I managed to miss it the first time around).
    • When copying files from the shared directory, copy them onto the Macintosh HD inside Mac OS 9 directly, not just the Desktop, or StuffIt Expander will have problems decompressing files.

Recovering ClarisWorks files

This was the bulk of the rabbit hole, and if you’re running macOS 10.15, you’ve got some additional rabbit hole to crawl through because the software needed to pull the ClarisWorks drawing documents into the modern era, EazyDraw Retro (scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the download link), is 32-bit only which means it doesn’t run under 10.15, only 10.14 and earlier.

Step 1: Convert ClarisWorks files to AppleWorks 6

  1. Download the archive of QuickTime installers and install QuickTime 4.1.2, which is required to install AppleWorks 6.
  2. Download the AppleWorks 6 installer CD image (it has to be added in SheepShaver’s preferences as a CD-ROM device) and install it.
  3. Open each of the ClarisWorks documents in AppleWorks, you’ll get a prompt saying “This document was created by a previous version of AppleWorks. A copy will be created and ‘[v6.0]’ will be added to the filename”. Click OK and save the copy back onto the shared SheepShaver drive with a .cwk file extension.

Step 2: Install macOS 10.14 inside a virtual machine

This entire step can be skipped if you haven’t upgraded to macOS 10.15 yet as EazyDraw Retro can be run directly.

Installing 10.14 inside a virtual machine requires a bootable disk image of the installer, so that needs to be created first.

  1. Download DosDude1’s Mojave patcher and run it (you’ll likely need to right-click on the application and choose Open because Gatekeeper will complain that the file isn’t signed).
  2. Go into the Tools menu and choose “Download macOS Mojave” to download the installer package, save it into your Downloads folder.
  3. Open and create a bootable Mojave image with the following commands:
    1. hdiutil create -o ~/Downloads/Mojave -size 8g -layout SPUD -fs HFS+J -type SPARSE
    2. hdiutil attach ~/Downloads/Mojave.sparseimage -noverify -mountpoint /Volumes/install_build
    1. sudo ~/Downloads/Install\ macOS\ --volume /Volumes/install_build
    2. hdiutil detach /Volumes/Install\ macOS\ Mojave
    3. hdiutil convert ~/Downloads/Mojave.sparseimage -format UDTO -o ~/Downloads/Mojave\ Bootable\ Image
    4. mv ~/Downloads/Mojave\ Bootable\ Image.cdr ~/Downloads/Mojave\ Bootable\ Image.iso

Once you’ve got the disk image, fire up your favoured virtual machine software and install Mojave in it.

Step 3: Convert AppleWorks 6 files to a modern format

The final part to this whole saga is the software EazyDraw Retro which can be downloaded from their Support page. It has to be the Retro version because the current one doesn’t support opening AppleWorks documents (I’m guessing whatever library they’re using internally for this is 32-bit-only and can’t be updated to run on Catalina or newer OSes going forwards, so they dropped it in new versions of the software). It can export to a variety of formats, and has its own .eazydraw format that the non-Retro version can open.

Unfortunately EazyDraw isn’t free, but you can get a temporary nine-month license for US$20 (or pay full price for a non-expiring license if you’re going to be using it for anything else except this). It did work an absolute treat though, it was able to import every one of my converted AppleWorks 6 documents and I saved them all out as PDFs. There were a few minor tweaks required to some of the text boxes because the fonts were different between the original ClarisWorks document and the AppleWorks one and there were some overlaps between text and lines, but that was noticeable as soon as I’d opened them in AppleWorks and wasn’t the fault of EazyDraw’s conversions.

Converting Aldus SuperPaint files

There were only two of my illustration files that were done in anything but ClarisWorks, and they were from Aldus SuperPaint. Version 3.5 is available from Macintosh Repository and pleasingly it’s able to export straight to TIFF so I could convert them under current macOS from that straight to PNG. There were some minor tweaks required there as well, but it was otherwise quite straightforward.

Converting Microsoft Word files

All my non-illustration text documents were written with Microsoft Word 5.1 or 6, but the format they use is old enough that Pages under current macOS doesn’t recognise it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the current Word from Office 365 could open them, but I don’t have it so I went the route of downloading Word 6 from Macintosh Repository which can export directly out to RTF. TextEdit under macOS opens them fine and from there I saved them out as PDF.

History preserved!

Following the convoluted process above, I was able to convert all my old files to PDF and have chucked them into the Docker image at as well (start at the What, even more rubbish? section), so you can marvel at my terrible fan fiction world-building skills!

I’m not deluding myself into thinking that this is any sort of valuable historical record, but it’s my record and as with the websites, it’s fun to look back on the things I’ve done from the past.

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