I have a lot of old Mathematica version 2.2 .ma files that simply crash the current (10.4.1) version of Mathematica if I try to open them.

Is there some way to convert them to .nb notebook files?

Is 5.2 the latest version that will do the conversion? And if so, will that older version run under: Windows 10? Windows 7? OS X 10.11?

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    $\begingroup$ Probably not a practical approach for most people, but I always have version 5.2 installed on a computer I'm using. Its ability to fusslessly deal with *.ma files is one among many reasons why I keep it around. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2016 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ @J.M. I have a soft spot for 5.2. I liked that release. $\endgroup$
    – Yves Klett
    Apr 22, 2016 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ I can confirm that 5.2 runs on Windows 10. $\endgroup$
    – RunnyKine
    Apr 22, 2016 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, does anybody still use 32bit? :) $\endgroup$
    – RunnyKine
    Apr 22, 2016 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Runny, hey, my netbook is 32-bit, you insensitive clod! :P (But seriously, I'll jump on the 64-bit bandwagon soon as I can afford to do so.) $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2016 at 22:16

2 Answers 2


This MathGroup discussion should answer your question, so I'll cite it here:

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 x.ma 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 format...it was merely an aid to updating some of the code inside the notebook.

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 wolfram.com

User Interface Group

Wolfram Research, Inc.

  • $\begingroup$ NotebookConvert is not working for me to convert the version 2.2 .ma files. I load Developer and use SetDirectory to make the old notebook's directory the current working directory. If I then evaluate an expression of the form NotebookConvert["old.ma"] (where file old.ma exists in that directory), I get no error but nothing seems to happen -- I find no old.nb in that directory or anywhere else. $\endgroup$
    – murray
    Apr 24, 2016 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ @murray Please share with us some of your problematic notebooks in order to allow us to test the possible solutions. You can use any filehosting service for this, for example sendspace.com or solidfiles.com $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2016 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ Two such Version 2.2 .ma files on which Version 10.4.1's DeveloperNotebookConvert` seems to do nothing may be downloaded from solidfiles.com/v/y8k22ZqKXAZvM $\endgroup$
    – murray
    Apr 25, 2016 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ On my system (Windows 7 x64) evaluation of Developer`NotebookConvert["FIRSTLAB.MA"] crashes FrontEnd both with version 8.0.4 and 10.4.1. Obviously this functionality is currently broken. From the other side version 5.2 on my system opens these files and converts them without any difficulties. $\endgroup$ Apr 27, 2016 at 8:08

How to save Older Mathematica Files With The .ma Extension.

In order to use them I needed to convert some older (1995) mathematica files I found in a CD in a used book so that they would run on 11.1. They had extension ".ma".

To do this I did the following. 1) Download the Mathematica CDF program. To find this look under resources in the Mathematica start window. 2) Place the files to be modified in a there own directory. 3) Change windows folder options to show all extensions. 4) Change the ma extension to nb. With my ".ma" files if I did not do this CDF would not read them. 5) Read the files into the CDF program. 6) In the edit drop down choose Select All then Copy. 7) Open a new notebook in Mathematica and paste the text into. 8) Save the file. I added the word reworked at the end of the filename but before the extension. Example Chpt1.ma-->Chpt1.nb->>into CDF->>copied text to new file in Mathematica --> saved as Chpt1reworked.nb.

There maybe problems as some instructions have changed, but this will get you started.

Good Luck


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