Help me figure out how to convert various files on a Mac.
January 27, 2015 7:47 AM   Subscribe

How do I convert from Word 94 to Word 2010 when I can't get the original files to open? How do I convert Powerpoint files to Keynote?

My boss is having two issues with his files: he can no longer get his Word 94 files to open at all, and he has Powerpoint presentations that play beautifully and flawlessly on his Mac laptop but won't work when he plugs his laptop into the projectors at various universities where he is a visiting speaker. He thinks converting his presentations to Keynote would fix the latter problem. Most of these presentations are in older versions of Powerpoint.

What do I need to know to fix these issues? Do I need to get somebody in to fix these for him, or take his Mac to an Apple store, or something, or is this something we can fix ourselves?

I'm extremely proficient in using Word but use Powerpoint almost never, and don't know a lot about file conversions.
posted by joannemerriam to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When you say Word 94 do you maybe mean Word 2004? What sort of error message is he getting when he tries to open the files?

And can you be more specific about how the presentations “won’t work” when connected to a laptop? Blank screen? Garbled text?
posted by bcwinters at 8:03 AM on January 27, 2015

One last-ditch trick you can easily try on ancient word processor files (not guaranteed to work, unfortunately) is to try opening them in the plain text editor of your OS (Notepad on Windows, various different ones on Linux, and I think it's called TextEdit on OS X?) and that may at least let you recover a somewhat garbled version of the text in the document. (But other people are probably going to have better suggestions—only devote the effort to cleaning up a mess of text once you've eliminated other options.)
posted by XMLicious at 8:13 AM on January 27, 2015

Response by poster: He told me Word 94 - I think the files are from 1994. It seems like a Word 2004 file would open. It just says it's incompatible and won't open it. He opens them from Word.

I haven't seen the presentations not work and am not sure how to replicate that error since it has only happened when he tried to play them at conferences. He says they freeze and/or "won't work." I don't have any specifics on that unfortunately, just that he wants me to figure out what needs to be done to convert them to Keynote (a program I have never used).
posted by joannemerriam at 8:47 AM on January 27, 2015

Best answer: Both the online services for Google Docs and for Office 365 can import back to Word 97 files. It's low or no cost to try those options. There was no Word 94, so I'm not certain what you mean there.

IF you can do that, then you can export in a version you can open locally on the Mac, a docx or pptx format, for example.
posted by bonehead at 8:50 AM on January 27, 2015

The major problems with PP are how he's linked to multimedia files. If he hasn't, most problems are likely straightforward.

One wrinkle Mac-source presentations have is font-mismatches. You want to be certain that fonts are handled properly in the conversions.
posted by bonehead at 8:52 AM on January 27, 2015

Response by poster: He probably has videos and photos embedded. The presentations are usually on surgical procedures so at least some of them will have video of procedures.

Switching everything to basic fonts (Times, Arial, Helvetica?) would be relatively trivial I assume.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:58 AM on January 27, 2015

Best answer: As I remember (I had this issue myself with Word files from the mid-90s), current versions of Office have the capability to open these files, but they're prevented from doing so for security reasons by a Windows Registry setting. I tweaked this setting and could open the files.

Google "old Word files blocked by registry" for more info.
posted by killdevil at 9:08 AM on January 27, 2015

Best answer: Have you tried just going to keynote and trying to open the PPT file and seeing if it converts?

It seems more likely that the projector issue is a different issue than just PPT vs Keynote honestly. What do you mean by "don't work"? Can you reproduce the error? Is getting a newer version of PPT an option instead? I use both of them and when you open a PPT file in Keynote there's some font/formatting loss. Totally fine if you are up for it but might be more of a mess than finding another way to manage the problem.

When I've had intractable issues with PPT/Keynote I've literally gone in once and copied all the static slides to images and dropped them into a new Keynote file and then used the Keynote tools to add the multimedia stuff. If you know PPT it should be fairly trivia to learn Keynote. Similar tools, just a different interface.

At some level there are different ways to approach this problem depending on whether you have more time, money, or acceptable level of frustration.
posted by jessamyn at 9:57 AM on January 27, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks - I will try that!
posted by joannemerriam at 10:20 AM on January 27, 2015

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