How to open very old ClarisWorks or Appleworks documents


I am running OS X 10.11 El Capitan. For a while now  I have not been able to open my old ClarisWorks documents. ( I think maybe since Appleworks 6 or so.)  I have not thrown them out in case a solution would arise one day and thankfully I have found one.  You can open old ClarisWorks document using Libre Office.  It doesn’t seem to work on drawings, but it does work on word-processing documents.

  1.  Download Libre Office from here.  You can go for the  “still” version or “fresh” version. The fresh version is new with more features but the still version is more stable, I went for the still version.  Libra Office downloads for free, but after the download they offer for you to make a donation to them.

    Step 1: download LibreOffice
    Step 1: download LibreOffice.
  2.  Go to your downloads folder and click on the downloaded file called ‘LibreOffice_5etc.dmg. Drag the Libre Office app to the Applications folder.  This will install it.

    Step 2: install Libre Office by dragging it to your applications folder
    Step 2: install LibreOffice by dragging it to your applications folder
  3. Launch Libre Office by double clicking on it from your applications folder. It may take a while the first time that you launch it.

    This is what Libre Office looks like in your applications folder.
    This is what Libre Office looks like in your applications folder.
  4.  In  Libra Office click on ‘Open File’ or drag the file you want to open into Libre Office.

    Step 4: Click 'Open File' and choose your ClarisWorks file that you want to open.
    Step 4: Click ‘Open File’ and choose your ClarisWorks file that you want to open.

I had varying degrees of success opening old ClarisWorks documents in Libre Office.

Clarisworks and Appleworks drawings would open but I could not see the drawings, I could only see the text that was in the drawings.

In word processing documents, all the information seemed to be there but the formatting was not great.

It’s not going to open your documents perfectly,  but it might allow you to get some information out of your old files that  Pages won’t open.

For example, trying to open an old AppleWorks document in Apple Pages gave me this error below but LibraOffice opened the file.  The formatting was a bit poor but I could at least get the information out that I wanted.

Pages could not open an old AppleWorks file but libra office did open this file.
Pages could not open an old AppleWorks file but libra office did open this file.

Once you have opened the file in Libra Office  you have two options. You can copy the information and paste it into a new Pages document.  Or you can save the file (Using ‘Save As)  to save the file as a Microsoft Word document,  which you can then import into Apple Pages.

Libra Office does not allow you to save as a Pages document.



18 responses to “How to open very old ClarisWorks or Appleworks documents”

  1. GeriP

    Thanks! Worked like a charm.

  2. Thanks! Saved me a tonne of trouble.

  3. Roger Braintree

    Gobsmackingly effective — I’d completely given up hope of ever reading .cwk files again. All of mine are ‘compound’ docs — single text page with all the important stuff in a massive spreadsheet shrunk into a box on that page, and nothing else that I’ve found will do anything with them (shame on you, MacLink Plus)…

    Yes, the currency’s wrong, and the fonts are all over the place, but all the data’s there! In most cases the formulae are also good, although it looks as if something odd happens with % signs in formulae, as they get converted to a +, leading to some odd totals, so some care is needed amidst all the popping champagne corks.

    But overall, it’s eminently workable. Thanks so much for letting this out!

  4. Eric A Meece

    How can I import a clarisworks database into a libre office program?

  5. dSavannah

    goddess bless you! I thought my old AppleWorks poems were gone forever! Thank you!!!!!!

  6. A Davidson

    I have managed to open CWK text files with Textedit on OS 10.11.6.

    1. Richard Rolfe

      A brilliant solution that deserves to be better known – thank you very much

  7. THX1138

    Brilliant! Opened old Appleworks word processing documents PERFECTLY! All formatting, pagination, underlines, italics, etc – wow. Could not be more impressed. Thank you! :)

  8. jjf

    Thank you… I’ve been able to recover files that I’d thought gone forever — and for free! Running High Sierra 10.13.6, with Libre Office Version: — got graphics back, too! Thank you!

  9. Michael Harrah

    Libre office database wizard does not open in MAC OS 10.13.6 (High Sierra). I have installed java file to fix – but nothing.

  10. Dickon Whitehead

    Neo-office can also open them but with very variable success rates.

  11. Bill Waring

    Thank you for explaining clearly. It works just right.

  12. Longtime MacUser

    Great advice! I am reading old files that I thought we gone. I’m sure I’ll find problems, but just being able to get the text is terrific.

  13. David

    Can I just add to the praise of this solution. I have been able to read .cwk and appleworks 6 files on Windows 10 using LibreOffice as suggested above, off a Powerbook G3 from 2000!


  14. Mary

    I’m trying to upgrade an iBook G4 OS 10.4.11 without losing ClarisWorks manuscripts. Can you help me?

  15. Sue

    This is fantastic. I have an Appleworks file from 1996 which I have previously been unable to open. There is family information on there that I could not find anywhere else. Thank you so much!

  16. Sharon

    I have used LibreOffice for years to open Appleworks & Ckarisworks documents with success. I have updated to Big Sur on my MacBook Pro and they no longer will open up. Is there an update to LibreOffice for this or any other program that will?

  17. Allan

    I have never upgraded from Mojave (10.14) to Big Sur (OS 11.xx) because it makes some of my rarely used applications – but important ones – quit working. Among them my Microsoft Office 11 and Picassa! I am an amature genealogist, I have photos from the old, old old systems (Mac OS 8 and 9) that are in strange formats (PICT among them), that as far as I can tell, only Picassa. For converting old images in odd configurations – Graphic Converter is the mac-diggity!

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