What? PowerPoint 95 no longer supported?

So I had an interesting request come past me the other day.  A client had very old (as in created in 1995 and last printed or saved in 1998) PowerPoint files that he wanted to open…however Office 365 was not interested in opening it at all.

When attempting to open the file, PowerPoint 365 would throw up an error stating that “PowerPoint can’t read <filename.ppt> because the PowerPoint 95 file format is no longer supported”  Seriously Microsoft?!?  So much for backward support

The Error Message

After Googling a bit it seemed that Microsoft had a valid reason for it – it was no longer a “safe” format, so they canned support for it…anyway back to the request. There is an online service that one can upload these files to that will do it for free however there is a limit to the number of conversions done a day and I am not to comfortable uploading potentially sensitive (even though it is old) files to a server that I don’t know what will happen to it. There had to be a better solution…

I found a post somewhere that said that OpenOffice / LibreOffice used to be able to open the older formats….hmmmm…maybe if it could open it then it could save it as as newer format then also… So I went off to the LibreOffice website looking for a “portable” version of the app. Now for those of you who do not know what a “portable” version means, it means a version that you can download and run without having to install the application to your machine. Found the page and downloaded it – link here. It was a 160Mb download that I extracted to my C:\TEMP folder.

Running the application for the first time takes a while for it open and set itself up in the temporary environment, but once up and running it worked like a charm. I opened LibreOffice Impress (the equivalent program of PowerPoint) and then attempted to open the file…this is what I was greeted with:

Woohoo! It works!!!

OK so at least we could open it, now to try save it as something newer that Office 365 PowerPoint could open. File, Save As, File Type… Wow we have some formats to choose from!

Different file formats to choose from

Great! Now to find out if we can somehow convert files in bulk instead of doing the whole File, Save As process. I then stumbled upon another site where the members discussed how to have OpenOffice \ LibreOffice open up without showing a window (GUI) and then convert from a specific format to another AUTOMATICALLY!

So under my C:\TEMP folder I had the Portable LibreOffice version in its folder (C:\TEMP\LibreOfficePortable). I created another folder called PPT (C:\TEMP\PPT) where I placed the PowerPoint 95 test file (and made multiple copies of it to simulate a bulk conversion), and another folder below that PPTX (C:\TEMP\PPT\PPTX) where the converted files would go.

I then created a batchfile (convert2pptx.bat) that had the following in it:

for %%f in (*.ppt) do (
C:\temp\LibreOfficePortable\App\libreoffice\program\soffice.exe --headless --convert-to pptx --outdir "C:\temp\PPT\PPTX" "%%f"

To to breakdown what the above was doing:
1. In the current folder, any file that ends with .ppt, do the following
2. Run the soffice.exe file
2.1 as “headless” (so don’t open up and show the GUI)
2.2 convert the format to PPTX format
2.3 use the following folder as the output folder
2.4 keep the existing filename when saving it as PPTX

The script in action and the output files

Finally a solution for the client to bulk convert all his PowerPoint 95 files to a compatible version that PowerPoint 365 could open.

Pretty impressed (and thankful) that LibreOffice could do that…

MadMike posted at 2020-6-1 Category: Windows / WHS

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