How to find out Mac creator / type info on a PC?
September 9, 2009 2:24 AM   Subscribe

Is there a windows utility to read the creator / type information of old (pre OSX) mac files?

I've inherited a lot of old mac files (probably .eps or old .ai's or something but I'm not really sure at this point) and I'm trying to get them open on my windows machine. I think I probably have the most likely applications I'll need to open them, but brute force guessing what program to try is time consuming. Is there a straightforwards (preferably freeware) utility to help automate this process? My googling has revealed this util which looks... a bit unwieldy; and this mac app which would do the job if it ran on windows!
posted by jzed to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
The UNIX file command has the most extensive database of filetype identities that I know of, and is straightforward to use given some (entry-level) UNIX knowledge. It runs under cygwin on Windows.

Scanning through its database file (called "magic"), I see extensive Adobe support, including EPS. YMMV on more esoteric stuff.
posted by cj_ at 3:56 AM on September 9, 2009

Best answer: If you want to do this without utilities open a file of a known creator type in an editor that can handle binary and search for its creator id. Note the location ( I can't find a file spec anywhere of where the codes are stored in the file ). You may want to do this with more than one file to avoid false hits for the code but I doubt that is a real worry because i would guess that the metadata would come first). Now open the file in question and look in the same location then do a lookup in a creator code database.

The codes are plain text so this should work.
posted by srboisvert at 4:42 AM on September 9, 2009

If the OP finds TC unwieldy (I assume because they make you install it as a sendto by hand) cygwin will be a nightmare.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:46 AM on September 9, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, I'm finding TC unwieldy mostly because there's a fair amount of files, I was hoping for something that was one step, or had some sort of batch processing functionality. Actually, I hadn't even tried the TC util when I wrote this AskMe; having now given it a go I can't even get that working! Possibly because it's intended for NT (I'm on XP)?

cj_, thanks for the suggestion, unfortunately I'm a unix n00b so I think I'd spend more time getting my head around that than this is worth.

steve: I gave your method a go, it works well for files I have created myself on my windows box (by which I mean you are right, the metadata is at the beginning of the file), but the Mac files aren't yielding any useful info - doesn't look like there is any metadata.

So, I'm guessing that means the creator / type info just isn't readily availiable (unless I'm missing some obvious converting-files-from-a-mac step that's I'm unaware of). Looks like I might have to default to my brute force method :(
posted by jzed at 5:10 AM on September 9, 2009

What isn't working in TC? (It should be fine in XP) Give details.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:18 AM on September 9, 2009

Response by poster: I just get a 'The system cannot find the file specified' message in the command prompt window. Possibly what is going wrong here is that I don't have a winnt folder to place the .exe in... I took a guess that it'd just need to be on the system path, and put in in c:\windows. That doesn't seem to be working though!
posted by jzed at 5:34 AM on September 9, 2009

Best answer: Creator and type information aren't stored in the data fork of a file, which is the only part that is commonly stored on a non-Macintosh filesystem. NTFS is capable of holding this metadata in theory, but no software you're likely to have encountered will have done so.

What that means is the type and creator information fields were probably lost when the files were copied from a Macintosh-formatted disk to something else. It's likely that whoever did so took no steps to preserve the fiddly Macintosh file metadata and you're now stuck in this unenviable situation.

If you're just trying to figure out what the files are and don't actually care about the type and creator codes per se, you want to use file to determine what the files are. Once installed (and admittedly cygwin's installer is sort of mildly annoying in the typical Windows software ways), you just type "file" and some filenames into the command line. It's easy and denigrating yourself as a n00b doesn't make just typing the word "file" and a filename harder, really. Honest. I swear.
posted by majick at 5:35 AM on September 9, 2009

Best answer:
"So, I'm guessing that means the creator / type info just isn't readily availiable"
Quite possibly it isn't. Pre-OS X, creator / type info was stored in either the file's resource fork or the filesystem's metadata area (I can't remember which), not in the data file itself.

Unless you've got the files packaged up in a format that preserved this data (e.g. HQX / Stuffit archive), or you've got the Mac-formatted disks to read, you're probably SOL.

If it's any consolation, this is the same problem old Mac users faced when confronted with DOS / Windows files - without the metadata, MacOS treated everything as an untyped document and you had to guess at what type of file they were...
posted by Pinback at 5:36 AM on September 9, 2009

Conversions Plus
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:47 AM on September 9, 2009

Response by poster: OK, thanks eveyone! I reckon what majick and pinback are saying is true, and I think also I was runnning into a side issue that unfortunately some of the files are corrupted. I've managed to use srboisvert's method on one of the files sucessfully, and I've determined that most of the files are probably Quark files. And perhaps I'll try and get cygwin up and running and educate myself a bit more on that front next time I have a chance :)

on preview: thanks blazecock, I'll check that out!
posted by jzed at 5:49 AM on September 9, 2009

I took a guess that it'd just need to be on the system path

No--it needs to be in the SendTo directory. It's most likely in C:\Documents and Settings\[user name]\SendTo

That way it can be invoked by a right click.

Not to say that if you're willing to go the cygwin route, there aren't also additional benefits. You get the whole set of Unix commands (also available in OS X) to use.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:03 AM on September 9, 2009

type/creator was stored as metadata: outside the data or resource forks. If the files weren't encoded with MacBinary/BinHex, you've lost the metadata (and probably the resource forks too). This isn't necessarily the end of the world for the data as lots of app didn't put anything in the resource fork of datafiles anyway but getting the type/creator isn't possible.
posted by chairface at 3:35 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

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