I have some very old Mathematica notebooks file (.m) files from Version 2. When I try to open them using Mathematica 8.0 (on a Linux system) Mathematica instantly shuts down (no error message - just closes). However they open and format correctly using WolframCDFPlayer. I can copy from the player but not as cell expressions so a lot of hand editing is required to split and format the cells in the new notebook.

Is there any, perhaps undocumented, way to read or import these files into the current version of Mathematica that would retain some degree of the original formatting?

  • $\begingroup$ If at all possible please upload one of these files for us to experiment with. $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    Oct 22, 2012 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ You mean *.ma files, right? I'm using 8.0.4 on Fedora 17, and Mathematica does the conversion. It doesn't automatically open the converted notebooks, however; you have to go back and open the converted notebooks yourself. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2012 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ @J.M. It is not a *.ma file. It is (named as) an *.m file. The top of the file contains a lot of font info. Then :[font = title; inactive; Cclosed; dontPreserveAspect; startGroup; ] Elliptic Curve Calculator :[font = subsubtitle; inactive; dontPreserveAspect; ] Version 2.0 .. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Burns
    Oct 22, 2012 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr.Wizard How do I upload a file? $\endgroup$
    – Ron Burns
    Oct 22, 2012 at 16:23
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Two things to try. First, see if renaming it to .ma works around the problem. Second, check to see if you're running 8.0.4. You say that CDF Player fixed it...but CDF Player and the Mathematica FE are basically the same program. However, you may have been running different versions, and maybe your version of Player is more recent. $\endgroup$
    – John Fultz
    Oct 23, 2012 at 2:35

2 Answers 2


The CDF reader solved the problem.

Opening the file with the CDF player does the conversion and writes a *.nb which then reads properly into Mathematica. Trying to open the file with Mathematica did not open nor write a converted file.

(Example *.m files from The Mathematica Journal Vol 1 illustrate the problem)

Thank you for the hints which led me look a bit deeper.

  • $\begingroup$ You might want to choose to accept your own answer, as you seem to have figured this out on your own. Just a suggestion. :) $\endgroup$ Jan 2, 2013 at 21:13

This tells how I saved some older Mathematica files with the .ma extension.

I found some older (1995) mathematica files in a CD in a used book. They had extension '.ma'. To use them I needed to convert them so that they would be recognized by V11.1.

To do this I did the following.

  1. Download the Mathematica CDF program. To find this look under resources in the Mathematica start-up window.
  2. Place the files to be modified in a their own directory.
  3. Change Windows folder options to show all extensions.
  4. Change the .ma extension to nb. If I did not do this CDF would not read them.
  5. Read the files into the CDF program.
  6. In the Edit drop menu down, choose Select All then Copy.
  7. Open a new notebook in Mathematica and paste the text into it.
  8. Save the file. I added the word 'reworked' to the end of the filename but before the extension.


Chpt1.ma --> Chpt1.nb --> into CDF --> copied text to new file in Mathematica --> saved as Chpt1reworked.nb.

There maybe problems the reworked notebooks in V11 as some Mathematica have changed, but this will get you started.


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