Recovering and converting Quattro Pro files

Long about March, 2013, I had a notion to recover/convert some of my old Quattro Pro spreadsheets, and discovered I didn't have the means to open some of the old, proprietary file formats. I asked for and got some suggestions from the HP alumni "TechTalk" forum, and figured out some more on my own. For posterity, possible utility, and as a cautionary tale then, this.

One fellow wrote: "See if you can dig up a copy of Dataviz Conversions Plus. I don't think it's sold anymore..."

DataViz lives on,, but without a whisper of that old product. They're now about "Documents To Go", "Passwords Plus" and "RoadSync", iOS and Android stuff.

" might be able to turn up a copy (although you'll need to be careful not to download a binary from a dodgy source)."

Yes, the dodgy source problem. Non-dodgy c|net comes up top of the search, with a "free download" link redirecting to where I could re-get a copy if I'd bought one... and "Software downloads may require a paid maintenance plan." is next on search results, and I guess is a legitimate site? They offer a "trial" version for free, and $70 to buy.

After satisfying myself that a Microsoft-Excel path wasn't forthcoming, and before prevailing on others to crack open my old personal financial stuff, I considered the native application. It's nice to hear that the X5 suite will still open old formats.

The "WordPerfect Office" suite from Corel is now up to version "X7." They don't seem keen on a version matrix of any sort, but I did see this helpful listing from a 3rd party:

Not counting backup media (much of which I can't read without a separate Herculean labor), I found 16 .WQ1 files (1990-98), 34 .wb1 files (1993-2002) and 71 .wb3 files (1998-2006). I've also got 8 .WK1s (1990-8; Lotus 1-2-3 v2.x), 7 .WKQs (1988-91; older Quattro), and 14 .WKZ files (1991-97; the Wingz spreadsheet that ran on hp-ux).

I've migrated a fair number of my files (as in, the ones I actually use from time to time) to newer formats. In some cases I had all three: .WB1, .WB3 and .XLS. Since I'm pretty good about filename discipline, I wrote a perl script to tabulate what/where/when:

  # post-process DIR /S listing to tab-separated columns of
  # (filename includes suffix as well)
  # 2013-03-13

  while (<>) {
    if (/Directory of (.*)$/) { $thisdir = $1; next; }
    if (m#(\d\d\/\d\d/\d{4}).............................(.*)$#) {
      $mdate = $1; $fname = $2;
      # Last . and one or more chars after it
      ($suffix = $fname) =~ s/^.*\.([^.]+)$/$1/;
      print "$fname\t$suffix\t$mdate\t$thisdir\n";

Then ran DIR /S *.wb? (and similarly for *.wq? *.wk? *.xl* in turn), digested, and made a new spreadsheet (what else?) to review and clean up some of the mess. That allowed me to cut the problem in half pretty quickly.

I dug up my WordPerfect Suite 8 install CD, and license document, installed Quattro Pro 8 on the system with winXP, and I can now open the WB1 and WB3 files, at least. It also resolved the mystery of why I'd only converted SOME of my old tax return spreadsheets in 2007. The unconverted ones have 10 or a dozen sheets (I made one per form, typically), and when I go to "save as" Excel format, it warns that it will only save the current sheet.

Which defined the work threshold that exceeded the remnant value of the files, for me.

If the Excel2003 converter add-on bits are in a single binary that someone has tucked away, I'm still interested in a copy of that; that may allow opening the wb1/wb3 more or less intact, and without having to save sheet by sheet (and recreate the inter-sheet formulae).

(And if you like history... the Wikipedia entry for Quattro Pro included a link to a reproduction of a Rich Malloy article in the summer 1987 issue of Byte magazine, surveying the state of spreadsheet art.

Borland/Quattro was not yet on the list. Excel was "the 1-2-3 of the Macintosh world." List prices were as high as half a $thousand (which I don't have to remind you was a lot of money back then), and manuals—manuals!—were typically 500+ pages.)

June 21, 2014