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Ever had someone send you a Microsoft Works file? And you only have Word? Or Pages? Once upon a time we had MacLinkPlus that could translate those and other odd files, but development was stopped on it a long time ago, and even the last PPC version had problems with Works files. While it would recognize them and let you see the text, it couldn't cope with translating them. You could copy and paste the text, but you then had to sort through the extra formatting garbage characters that come with Microsoft's notorious "fast save" feature. 

I don't know if they still use it, but Microsoft Word and Works (and probably others) came with "Fast Save" which would save with modifications and corrections appended to the end of the document. If you changed a paragraph on page 2 of a 12 page document, that new paragraph would end up, with reference data, at the end of your document until you use "Save As," when it would actually replace the old text. If you were working with book length documents, it did make the saves faster, but most people don't create documents that large. Additionally, most people didn't know that you really needed to "Save As" to compact the file. It was my biggest headache when placing text files in a PageMaker (remember PageMaker?) or InDesign document, especially when most of those files came from Windows systems.

I haven't had to deal with Works files in a while, but I received a frantic message from a friend a few days ago. She had a medical file from a relative that she needed ASAP, and she had nothing that would read it. Could I come to the rescue? Yep. Knowing that MacLinkPlus would no longer work when I upgrade to Lion, I had already removed it from my main computer, so I started looking at alternatives. What I found was a nice website, called Zamzar. It's simple. Select the file to upload, choose the format for the translated file, give them your email address, then go for it. As soon as the file is translated, you will be sent a download link. Now, translations are not perfect. I still had a bunch of extra formatting junk to get rid of, and of course the fast save info at the end of the document had to be pasted over the original which had not been deleted. The bottom line was that my friend had the information that she needed, and it only took a few minutes. Zamzar is free. They do have a paid service if you need storage capabilities or have lots of huge files to translate, but the free service is fine for the average person. And lest you worry about your files hanging around indefinitely, the only keep them for 24 hours. Bookmark this one for future reference. Oh, and they also translate audio and video files.

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2 Responses to Reading Microsoft Works Text Files

  1. Rich Len says:

    NeoOffice works great for this. As a teacher I get all kinds of file types from students. Handles most anything I can throw at it including MS Works and WordPerfect new (PC) and old (Mac Classic). When opened the Formatting is excellent and then just save to .doc or anything else.

  2. Phyllis Evans says:

    NeoOffice isn’t free. It requires a $10 “donation.” No free tryout first, and I have a problem with that. I support the indy developers. If I use it, I buy it, but I want to try it out first.