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Opening Display Write Files

Charles from Olivet, MI writes:

A number of years ago, we put my mother’s diary on floppy discs using IBM Display Write. Is there any way to convert these floppies to a Microsoft program that will read them?

Hi, Charles.  That’s a great question that prompted me to go out and do some research, because the Display Writer, IBM’s old word processing machine, has been out of my mind since the last time that I used one in the eighties.

Here’s what my research has told me: The Display Writer saved files in one of several formats; .rtf, .doc, .fft, .rft or .dca.  The good news is that if the files are saved in .rtf or .doc format, then Notepad, Wordpad, Word and Open Office Writer should be able to open them.  They won’t maintain the formatting, though, and may have some junk (that’s a technical term) that you may have to delete, but you won’t have to recreate the entire document.

If they are in one of the other file formats, then there are a couple of things that you can try.  The easiest test to see if you’ll be able to open them without converting them would be to try to open them in Notepad.  Notepad is your best bet because it basically reads the straight ASCII text without any formatting.  In order to try this, open your notepad and click “file” then “open” like you would any document.  Then you have to play around a little.  First, change the file type in the lower right hand corner from .txt to “all files.”

Next, I’m going to suggest that you change the encoding.  But before you do that, try whatever the default on yours is (mine is Ansi, but I don’t know if that’s universal).

If your default doesn’t work, then try opening it with the other encoding types and see what happens.  If this works, you will have a LOT of junk to clear out, and you’ll still have to reformat it.

If either of these methods work, save it as a text document and open it in Word or Open Office Writer to do your formatting.

There is one more trick that you can try if neither of these work, and that is to use the Microsoft file converter.  Instructions for that can be found here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/office-2003-resource-kit/office-converter-pack-HA001151358.aspx. [1]

Hopefully this helps.

~Randal Schaffer