Where does this document come from?

An unintended consequence of changing and upgrading machines is that I don’t always reinstall every application in the interests of space and economy, with the result that sometimes I come across a file, years later, which I can’t open and have no idea what I used to make it with.
Case in point: I made a wiring diagram for my boat in 2020 and luckily saved it as a pdf. The original source document (which I’d like to edit) is alongside it with the suffix ‘.document’. I opened it in a text editor to see if the creator was mentioned anywhere, but no luck.
Is there any way of reverse looking up to discover the creator application?
Or, any guesses what I might have used to make such a document?

If the app uses type/creator codes (was mandatory for classic MacOS, but optional for Mac OS X), you can view them with the GetFileInfo command (installed as a part of the XCode developer tools, I believe):

For example, for two Microsoft Word documents (filenames changed to protect the innocent) I see:

$ GetFileInfo foo.docx 
file: "/Users/.../Documents/foo.docx"
type: "WXBN"
creator: "MSWD"
attributes: avbstclinmEdz
created: 04/30/2020 09:44:12
modified: 04/30/2020 10:29:55

$ bar.doc 
file: "/Users/.../Documents/bar.doc"
type: "W8BN"
creator: "MSWD"
attributes: avbstclinmedz
created: 09/16/2014 12:17:48
modified: 09/16/2014 12:17:48

In the above example, the creator code (MSWD) indicates that the documents were created by Microsoft Word. The type codes (WXBN and W8BN) indicate that these are Word XML and Word-type-8 documents, respectively.

But since that dawn of Mac OS X, apps no longer need to use type/creator codes for documents and many do not. For instance, a text file I just created with GNU Emacs does not provide them:

$ GetFileInfo foo.txt 
file: "/Users/.../tmp/foo.txt"
type: "\0\0\0\0"
creator: "\0\0\0\0"
attributes: avbstclinmedz
created: 01/09/2024 12:19:58
modified: 01/09/2024 12:19:58

Note the four null-characters for type and creator. Meaning it doesn’t have them.

1 Like

Thanks David!
…but no dice
file: “/Users/iain/nnn.drawing”
type: “\0\0\0\0”
creator: “\0\0\0\0”
attributes: avbstclinmedz
created: 05/21/2020 13:34:34
modified: 05/21/2020 13:34:34
MBPro-16-1123:~ Iain$

Here’s what fileinfo.com says: DRAWING File - What is a .drawing file and how do I open it?.


Thanks for the steer to ‘fileinfo’, which suggests it was created in ‘Artboard Drawing’. Not an app I can ever recall installing, but in any case no longer supported by developer Mapdiva. Interesting task then to try and find a downloadable version anywhere online. Most links are broken, but <mac.softpedia.com/> had it. Sadly won’t open my file under Sonoma, but will persevere. Thanks!

I’ve always been amazed at the old files that LibreOffice will open - it might be worth a try (https://www.libreoffice.org)

Looking at fileinfo, Artboard Drawing was a vector illustration programme.

The PDF you created from Artboard Drawing should therefore contain vector data (assuming you didn’t rasterise (convert to pixels) the diagram when exporting).

You should be able to open the PDF in a vector drawing programme eg Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer and edit it. Another TidBITSer may be able to suggest similar software if you don’t have access to either of those programmes.

(Edit spelling)

One application to consider is Growly Draw . The developer, an individual, makes a number of free, pared-down programs. I’ve been using Growly Checkbook for a couple of years and find it to be quite satisfactory for my needs.

1 Like

Another idea: rather than looking at the original file, try looking opening the PDF in Preview.app. Use Tools > Show Inspector and look in the (leftmost) General Info tab to see various metadata. When I export a PDF from OmniGraffle (another drawing app), the resulting PDF shows eg Content creator: OmniGraffle 7.11.5 there - I wonder if there is anything similar for this boat diagram.


Ashley - top suggestion. Thank you so much, I didn’t know (or had forgotten) that a PDF would include this information.
Extra confusion came as I actually have this program, but updated to version 3 which would no longer recognise or open the .drawing file. Happily, the older version is still on the App Store, so I downloaded it and ‘boom’ as they say at Apple.
Happy ending.
Many thanks for all your suggestions.


Thank you jml49

Thank you Gobit. And ‘TidBITSer’ should definitely be a thing.