Opening Johan’s Quattro Pro files in Quattro Pro 6 for Win 3.11

Opening Johan’s Quattro Pro files in Quattro Pro 6 for Win 3.11

I read Johan's fascinating post this morning about the obsolescence of Quattro Pro formats. In the post he included a set of Quattro Pro spreadsheets and invited others to try to access them using the original software or an old version of Excel.

Luckily I have an old version of Quattro Pro available so I thought I'd give it a go. The results are quite interesting (I believe anyway!).

I was going to post this as a comment but found it was a bit unweildy due to all the pictures so decided to just post another blog. 

I don't have Quattro Pro for DOS readily available but I did/do have Quattro Pro version 6 for Windows 3.11 installed on a disk image already. So I downloaded Johan's files and tried opening them in it . 

To do this I had to add them to a floppy disk image (I used WinImage for that) and attach that to the QEMU emulated machine using the Qemu Manager GUI for Windows:

I then started opening the files. 

Beginning with the KBASE.WQ1:


Interestingly, two of the columns that caused issues for Johan when opening the file in the most recent version of Quattro Pro, also casued issues in version 6. The data was displayed as *****s This was rectified by increasing the width of the columns:

The KBASE.WQ2 file was identical (from what I could ascertain):


Things started to get interesting with KS4001.WQ2:


The chart in the screenshot is very different to that in Johan's screenshot:

KS4001.WQ2 in QPX7


I decided then to try saving the file to a format that more recent software could open. I tried XLS, Lotus 1-2-3 (v3) and Quattro Pro v6 as Johan had noted that LibreOffice could open that Quattro Pro version:

Save-as Options QP6

Once I'd saved those versions I tried opening them. First I tried the XLS file in Excel 2010. Once I'd turned of security settings that prevented me from "editing" the file, I was able to open and fully interact with it. However the Chart was completely missing and the rounding appears to have changed in many cells:

KS4001.xls in Excel 2010

I was unable to open either of the other versions in Excel 2010 (it did not "recognize" the formats).

I then tried opening both the XLS file and the Quattro Pro 6 file in LibreOffice Calc v4.1.3.2 and the both opened similarly to how the XLS file opened in Excel 2010:

KS4001.WB2 in LibreOffice Calc v

The Lotus 1-2-3 file would not open at all in LibreOffice. 



I then opened the KS4000.WQ2 spreadsheet, like with Quattro Pro X7 it asked me what I wanted to do with the hotlinks (it is amazing how similar the functionality is actually):

KS4000.WQ2 in QP6

I first selected "Open Supporting" and this was the result:

KS4000.WQ2 - open supporting

In this case it appears that Quattro Pro 6 was able to find the supporting spreadsheet and update the links. I am reasoning that that happened as when I go to the "Notebook –> Update Links" menu and choose to "Change Link…"

Update Links Menu

 I was shown the following dialogue box:

Change Link

Which appears to give me an option to change the links away from the (presumably) already linked "KSBASE" file. Importantly, the folder the KS4000.WQ2 file loaded from was the same folder that both of the KSBASE files were available in also. This may be a prerequisite for Qauttro Pro 6 to be able to automatically reestablish the links between the files. Alternatively, the original link in the KSBASE file may have been a relative link to that file in the same folder as the master KS4000.WQ2 file. 


This was quite a rush job, and if my experience from undertaking the Rendering Matters research is anything to go by, doing this more thoroughly would take longer (9 minuts per file once setup, on average), but uncover more differences. 

I've uploaded the converted files for others to look at (in a zip file – the blog software wouldn't accept .WB2 format!?).


I don't have much to say about all of this here. I did this as a direct response to Johan's request. I'd be interested to hear what others think about what Johan has uncovered, especially in the light of these attempts to migrate/openthe content using other modern software

If there is anything else others would like me to try with these files let me know. I have Lotus 1-2-3 and an early version of Excel installed on the same disk iamge so I could try other migration paths that might, for example, preserve the chart in the KS4001.WQ2 file. 





1 Comment

  1. johan
    October 31, 2014 @ 3:12 pm CET

    Hi Euan,

    Thanks for taking the time to do these analyses, this is really helpful! Here are some comments to specific issues you mention:


    You mention the "issue" of data being displayed as asterisks. This isn't really an issue, it's just QP's behaviour if the contents of a column exceed its width (I still remember this from my own Quattro Pro for DOS days!).


    I already had a nagging feeling something wasn't quite right about the chart in Quattro Pro X7! Incidentally I was able to track down an old printout of one of those charts (not the very same one, but one very similar), and this confirms your emulated version is the correct one.


    Yes, I also made sure all files are in the same directory, but to no avail. Your post did put me on the track of some link options in Quattro Pro X7, which allow you to open, refresh, delete or change links. I tried them all, and neither was able to make things work (the Delete Links option even caused Quattro Pro to crash).

    Rounding: formatting issue, values identical

    I had a quick look at your exported XLS file. I was particularly interested in your observation on the rounding of cell values. I got the same results myself, but as it turns out the only difference is that in the XLS file more decimal places are displayed: the actual underlying cell values are identical in both cases, and it doesn't affect any of the calculation results. So this is mainly a formatting issue, and I wouldn't consider this to be critically serious in this specific case.

    No support for Quattro Pro 6 and Lotus 1-2-3 in MS Excel!

    You mention that Excel couldn't open neither your exported Quattro Pro v6 nor the Lotus 1-2-3 file. This is because Microsoft completely dropped support for all versions of those formats. See also the following link (which was also buried in my original blog post):

    File formats that are not supported in Excel 2010.

    Lotus 1-2-3 in danger zone as well?

    I tried opening both files in LibreOffice The Quattro Pro 6 (WB2) file opened without problems; the Lotus (WK3) file resulted in an error (Read-Error: There is no filter available for this file type). I had previously come across this with another WK3 file myself. I couldn't find any specific info on which particular Lotus versions are supported by LibreOffice, but I did come across the following overview for OpenOffice (which I suspect is pretty much the same):

    For Lotus 1-2-3 only the WK1, WKS and 123 extensions are listed (and I can confirm having successfully read old WK1 files myself), and it seems there's no support for more recent versions of the format (corresponding to the WK2, WK3 and WK4 extensions). This all seems to suggest that many of the Lotus 1-2-3 formats may be in the "danger zone" as well, perhaps even similarly to the Quattro Pro for DOS formats. From what I remember Lotus 1-2-3 was widely used before the rise of MS Excel, so I think this is all a bit worrying. Interestingly I don't often see spreadsheets getting a mention at all in digital preservation circles (but maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places?). So maybe it's really about time we should start something like a "solve the spreadsheet problem" campaign. Incidentally a potentially fantastic resource for this would be the old Lotus FTP site (here's the mirror at Internet Archive).

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