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Re: Notebook Format History?

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  • Subject: [mg126675] Re: Notebook Format History?
  • From: John Fultz <jfultz at>
  • Date: Wed, 30 May 2012 04:11:47 -0400 (EDT)
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  • Reply-to: jfultz at

On Tue, 29 May 2012 05:47:52 -0400 (EDT), JCW wrote:
> Please forgive my dragging up ancient history: I have been using
> Mathematica
> from version 2.2 through 7.0. I remember at least one (maybe two?) format
> conversions that were necessary to update old notebooks to the newer
> formats. I also remember at least one batch-notebook-conversion command.
> Unfortunately I cannot remember the details:
> 1) Between which versions did these format changes occur? (I'm pretty
> sure there was one from the vs. 2.2 and x.mb format to the newer
> x.nb format. Was there another format change within x.nb versions?)
> 2) What was the name of the batch converter (or converters) mentioned
> above? (I know I have it in my archives, but it's difficult to find
> without a name!)
> Thanks in advance for any help!

I'm always one for ancient history.

There was only the one switch from 2.2 .ma/.mb files to 3.0 .nb files.  
Possibly, you might be remembering v6 when pre-v6 notebooks were opened with an 
compatibility tool added to the top, but the tool had nothing to do with the
file was merely an aid to updating some of the code inside the 

Also, .nb files are not wholly backward compatible.  They'll always open in
older versions, but as new features get added to Mathematica, inputs/outputs
depending upon those features may not render or function correctly in older
versions.  The most radical such change would be in v6, when we switched from 
using PostScript for graphics to more native constructs in the notebooks. Which 
means that pretty much any v6 or later notebook is going to produce graphics
which are wholly unusable by v5 or earlier (but the notebooks *do* open, and
textual content comes through just fine).

The converter for .ma->.nb is Developer`NotebookConvert.  It's still documented 
in the latest shipping Mathematica.


John Fultz
jfultz at
User Interface Group
Wolfram Research, Inc.

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