In the mid 1990s I was working for a large construction/engineering consultancy. We'd often engage the services of an acoustic consultant who used a wonderful piece of software to convert all manner of weird binary instrumentation files to useful tabular data. As we were stuck using the terrible MS-DOS programs that came with the equipment, we were really impressed by this package. Our company was PC only, so we never got to deploy it for ourselves.

In order of decreasing certainty:

  1. It was a Macintosh System 7 program running on a PowerBook (either 68K or early PowerPC) around 1994-1997

  2. It was probably called Rosetta or Rosetta Stone or similar. Apple's own dynamic binary translator causes rather too much namespace clash for search engines to find it

  3. In addition to a huge array of built-in file format translators, it had a grid-like file viewer that allowed you not merely to select columns, but pick out binary fields and identify record sizes. Once these fields were defined, you could save it as a translator for particular types of data files

  4. It was rather niche, but dedicated users loved it and often got other users by word of mouth. It was Mac only.

Does anyone recognize this package? I've never seen anything like it, before or since. It might now be called a data forensics package.

Packages it wasn't (from answers/comments) — ResEdit, Fortner/Spyglass Transform, Resourcer

  • 2
    If the binary files were not common formats, i.e. you say 'weird binary instrumentation files', is it possible that it was something specially developed for this purpose as opposed to off-the-shelf software ?
    – Alan B
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 8:21
  • Instrument data are less often 'weird binary' as it seems, as hardware manufacturer usually clinch to known structures from other instrument makers (like HP or Tektronix) so looking via the format names/device names might be helpful.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 10:15
  • It was definitely off-the-shelf, but possibly from a small vendor. The weird binary files were raw dumps from sound level meters, and the consultant wrote the filters to read them himself.
    – scruss
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 15:26
  • Was that also capable of visualisation? Then Dicer or Transform come to mind? he latter being 'close' to 'Rosetta'? macgarden:[email protected]/Garden/manuals/… Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 19:10
  • ooh, Transform has some elements in common, but I remember using it with a later employer. It wasn't just a graphics/visualization package, it was more of a file forensics package
    – scruss
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 2:55

5 Answers 5


How about Rosanne?

Rosanne™ Rosanne is a collection of utilities which offer the user complete control over raw data. Users can sort files, extract selected records, summarize frequency counts, create sample files, perform matching on multiple files, and reformat data to new specifications, all on the desktop, and even on files of a million records or more. The Rosanne Utilities also support AppleScript™, enabling the user to link several actions together to complete an entire process. The Rosanne Utilities are recordable; users may perform a series of actions, and using an AppleScript editor such as Scripter™, see their actions translated directly into AppleScript commands. All of the utilities support multi-tasking and background processing. The Rosanne Utilities will assist you in picking your specifications, determining record length, creating output files and managing the storage of data. Rosanne Utilities: Copy - duplicates an input file. Format - creates an altered version of an input file, containing either subsets of the fields on the input file, or new fields. Select - creates a subset of the records on an input file based on some selection criteria. The Recode option allows the user to group data, or correct coding entries. Sort - orders an input file by a particular field or set of fields. Match - joins together two input files based on common values occurring in corresponding fields or sets of fields. Aggregate - creates an output file with summary levels. $595

Source: MacTech November 1995, pp. 77-78

According to The Tao of AppleScript, the publisher was Main Event Software in Washington, D.C.

  • It is also mentioned in "TAO of AppleScript" with such functionality ftp.infania.net/Documentation/Books/Apple/…. Never heard of it before with any attention though. Is that still online somewhere (like Rosetta, search results are swamped with first names, most of them including an 'e')? Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 15:01
  • @LаngLаngС Oddly, that FTP link wouldn't load in Chrome (KDE loads it fine though). Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 15:25
  • 2
    I can't rule Rosanne Utilities out: it sounds pretty close. @AlexHajnal - Most modern browsers no longer support ftp links: Chrome (and thus Edge) and Firefox definitely don't. It makes plugging through links here hard work, as many archives still live on ftp
    – scruss
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 16:28
  • 1
    @scruss FTP support seems to have been disabled when I "updated" Chrome (by default it's currently supposed to pass the request on to the OS but for me it isn't). To re-enable it, set enable-ftp to Enabled in chrome://flags/. I hope they don't eliminate FTP altogether in Chrome since I use FTP all the time for downloading GIS data. Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 17:42
  • (getting off topic here): FTP support will be removed completely after Chrome 91
    – scruss
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 18:10

The program is Quadrivio General Edit.

This is the ad I recalled from MacTech.

And here is an image from the last version:

enter image description here

As you can see, the system has a field where you type in stucts in C-like format on the right and it decompiled the data on the left. The templates appear to be stored in text format, parsed on load into the format you see.

The image above does not show one important part of the app, a screen where the raw binary data was display (along with ASCII, as in ResEdit) and you could select data with the mouse and use that to define the struct. Here is a very small image from the ad that shows it in the lower left (on the right size of the pane):

enter image description here

Surprisingly, QGE was updated until at least 2007 and made the jump to OS X. I assume that was done using Carbon, given the classic Mac OS controls. The company's web page was active until 2016, but has since disappeared, likely the same time that Carbon did.

  • 1
    Almost definite it isn't that, sorry. The program was all about import and export, not just viewing internal structures. QGE looks more like a programmer's tool
    – scruss
    Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 22:41
  • Nope, the end result was a script that would convert the original file into tabular output using the structures you defined. As MacWorld put it, "Basically, General Edit is a toolkit for writing the Import/Export commands under the File menu, and provides lots of help if you’re new to this job. " Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 17:56
  • So you used the edtitor you see above to build out the structs on the left, and once it was the way you wanted it you could save it out and then one-click the conversion of any other file into whatever output format you wanted. Of course, that didn't HAVE to be text, you could output whatever you wanted even other binary formats. Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 18:29
  • But the program we used wrote the finished files. It didn't create scripts in the way that QGE did. I also don't remember the editor section looking at all like that
    – scruss
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 20:29

Are you maybe thinking of ResEdit? Its ability to convert data was mediocre at best, but it seems to hit your other points.

almost magic

ResEdit was highly extensible. There were lots of 3rd party plug-ins, many of which seemed to work "like magic". Even if a resource type didn't have a special editor, it was easy to create a template for the format.

It was a Macintosh System 7 program running on a PowerBook (either 68K or early PowerPC) around 1994-1997.

ResEdit first appeared in the mid-80s, but continued to be updated by Apple until MacOS X. It worked on both 68k and PowerPC, and in particular did work on mid-90s PowerBooks.

It was probably called Rosetta or Rosetta Stone or similar.

"ResEdit" does sound like "Rosetta".

In addition to a huge array of built-in file format translators,

It worked with resources, not files. But it did support hundreds of different types of resources, some of which were audio resource types.

it had a grid-like file viewer

The resource type viewer:

resource type viewer

that allowed you not merely to select columns, but pick out binary fields and identify record sizes.

The binary editor:

binary editor

Once these fields were defined, you could save it as a translator for particular types of data files

By creating the appropriate TMPL resource, you could create a more friendly editor for a given resource type:

TMPL-based editor

It was rather niche, but dedicated users loved it and often got other users by word of mouth. It was Mac only.

Definitely Mac only. You had to download (for free) from Apple; it was not installed by default. Very useful to have, practically required if you were developing software for Mac.

If this is not what you were thinking of, you could also browse through the UMich archive.

  • No, not ResEdit. This was for converting between data formats.
    – scruss
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 15:19
  • Had such fun with ResEdit in college in 1987/88. Changing the disk insert sound to be a digitised 'ooooh!' sample.
    – Alan B
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 10:22

I'm going to put this up for now, although I'm still trying to find more info and I may be incorrect. It does not hit all of the buttons, I still seem to recall another app for this. But in the meantime, see if this rings a bell:

The app in question may be Resourcer. It was a common feature in MacTech (and others). It used a system of templates, stored in TMPL resources, that allowed the user (you) to make new templates to handle new resource types. For each field you could select among a number of editors - hex, table, ASCII etc. It also came with many example templates as well as built-in editors for all the common types.

However, unless I am mistaken, it only worked with resource forks. That would eliminate it as a general purpose tool, as I assume things like audio would be in the data fork. I am trying to get a manual to see if it could edit data forks.

Although the company web page still exists, emails bounce and none of the downloads work on my machine - they extract a .img but it contains an ISO that won't mount. If someone can mount them we may be able to see for sure. But it appears none of these contain the manual - in the mid-90's, a 500-page manual in e-format was unlikely anyway.

  • Thanks, but it definitely wasn't this. The tool was for managing data files, and resource forks have no use outside the world of Macintosh. This tool took binary or text data, collected from applications or hardware, and allowed you to view and convert it in many ways.
    – scruss
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 20:16
  • How do you extract the StuffIt? Unarchiver presents me a seemingly 'OK' content directly (& ie: no img/iso; only problem being that it's really for OS8/9 or the carbon OS X version, so it's all 'no-parking' for me now ;) Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 22:00
  • @LаngLаngС - I used Unarchiver successfully on an older 2.2 demo which I ran under SheepShaver (holy, getting THAT to work!) and found that it is indeed not a data fork editor. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 12:43

Are you thinking of MacLinkPlus by DataVis? When I was in college in the 90s I used this on all manner of conversion projects, including raw files



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