Converting Keynote presentations with PICTS?

After having postponed transiting to 64-bit as long as I could, I finally did it. For some people such upgrades may be a source of excitement, but I dread them.

However accepting the inevitability and after having relegated the functionalities of some 32-bit applications that I depended upon to Linux machines and having found replacements for others, I decided to give it a go.

What gives? Keynote can no longer read of half of my presentations! It is those unforeseen consequences that I hate. I’ve stopped using MS Word long ago because of compatibility issues, but Apple is now following the lead of Microsoft, apparently.

The problem appears to be that there are many .PICT figures in my older presentations. I know the format (one of the oldest Apple graphical formats, if not the oldest one) is depreciated, but I am unpleasantly surprised that all of a sudden and without warning they have been replaced by a rectangle with a cross in it.

Does anyone know of a trick or utility to convert those old Keynote presentations? Making presentations with Latex is a drag, but at least there is a promise of backwards compatibility…

I don’t actually have any old presentations to test with, but here are 2 ideas:

  1. Try opening the presentations with Libre Office. I don’t have experience with it dealing with old graphic formats, but I have been able to salvage the text of ancient MacWrite and WriteNow files with it.

  2. If you can extract the images, you might try converting them to jpegs and putting them back. I think Graphic Converter can do that.

That may work, but it will be an issue of last resort… I suppose that one can locate these resources with the bundle. I’ll have a look at LibreOffice, but I don’t have much hope. Thanks for the suggestions!

For what it’s worth, Acorn can also open .pict files - at least, some of the ones I have here.

It looks like this was an issue when Keynote was updated to v8.2. One person suggested that if you can somehow get hold of v8.1 you can open and resave the files and they’ll then open fine in recent Keynote versions:

You might need to run Mojave in a virtual machine as well? Further searching on the internet might turn up a better solution, but I don’t have time at the moment. You are definitely not the only one who’s run into this. :cry:

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I have had this problem in older Keynote presentations for several years (because I’m a regular “updater” to newer MacOS versions). It affects PICTs and it also affects some older video formats (such as “RealMedia” from back in the day). Mostly, I have tackled the problem with the following steps:

  1. Work on a COPY of the affected Keynote file, not the original.
  2. Download and install “The Unarchiver,” a free, Apple-qualified utility for disaggregating Mac document files such as Keynote files. It’s available [here].(
  3. CTL-CLICK on the Keynote file and choose “Open with…” Navigate to your installed “The Unarchiver” application. Allow “The Unarchiver” to open your copy of the problematic Keynote file. It will create a folder containing all the elements of your Keynote file.
  4. Find the PICT elements in the folder. Convert those PICTs to a newer graphic format, such as jpeg. There are lots of utilities which can do this. Graphic Converter (mentioned by a previous commenter) is an excellent one, but there are others.
  5. Once you have converted the problematic PICT elements… open the COPY of your Keynote file and navigate to the problematic slides. Click on the problem PICT in Keynote. Click Format: Image: Replace Image. When replacing the image, choose the newly-converted version of the image from the folder created earlier by The Unarchiver. Keynote will replace the problematic PICT with the new jpeg, and will retain all other characteristics you gave to the original PICT (such as borders, shadows, animation, etc.)

You can use the same procedure to replace problematic videos. With videos, use “Handbrake” (another outstanding free and widely used utility) to convert old video formats into more modern ones readable by Keynote. Then “replace” the videos within Keynote to retain all other characteristics you’ve previously applied to them.

Once the elements of your COPY of the Keynote file is completely updated, after testing it, you can discard the original.

This is somewhat tedious, but a lot less tedious than re-creating the entire Keynote file.

Good luck.


That may be the utility I need! Many thanks for the suggestion! Usually there is only a handful of legacy PICTs in my presentations, things that got copied, and copied, and then copied again… (Some images may date back to System 7, if not earlier.)
For my teaching I relieved an old Macbook Air from its server duties because it is still capable to display the older Keynote files (nor the newer ones, of course, but that was not to be expected). Not a long-term solution, though.

I found that very old PICT files (i.e. from the 1990s) would not open properly in Graphic Converter, but would look fine if opened in Libre Office. In order to save in a reasonable format (say JPEG), you need to use the Export… command in the File menu.

I love The Unarchiver, and it’s actually set as my default to handle all zip and other archive files, instead of Apple’s built-in utility. However, it’s not strictly necessary for disaggregating Keynote (or Page, or Numbers) files. You can simply add .zip as the file’s extension and then double-click it. MacOS will then decompress it with whatever is set to handle zip files (the built-in utility by default). I believe this works with modern MS Office documents too, and possibly others.

If I remember correctly, PICT files do not necessarily contain pixel data. They are conceptually meta-files (strictly speaking, a file with one or more PICT resources in its resource fork) containing sequences of QuickDraw graphic primitives which are used to render the file contents on different devices (e.g. displays and printers).

In the past, when MacOS used QuickDraw (Classic and I think also Carbon), this was a quick and easy file format to support. Today, not so much. In order to support the full capabilities of a PICT file, converter software needs to implement the entire QuickDraw API, including any bugs that apps may expect to be present.

So I’m not surprised that some files can’t be converted by all apps. A file that just contains bitmap data will be easily convertible to anything. A file that contains drawing commands is only going to be convertible if the app doing the conversion supports the commands used by the file.

It’s also worth noting that a PICT file containing drawing commands will render differently depending on the output device. Lines and curves will render smoothly even when scaled, while bitmaps will (obviously) not.


Actually most of the PICTs I’m dealing with are vector graphics, indeed they are basically QuickDraw scripts. But some early OS 9 painting apps created PICT files too. Neither is accepted by the latest version of Keynote.

Just a quick followup…

Due to the metafile nature of PICT, a converter should ideally try and convert it to a vector graphic format, like SVG.

If you convert it to a bitmap format (like JPEG or PNG), any vector graphics in the PICT will be rendered at the resolution of the output bitmap and will no longer be scalable.

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