Converting Mac OS 9 .pict screenshot files to jpegs

The Shift+Cmd+4 key combo is common from all the way back to Mac OS 9 (and maybe earlier?) to all Mac OS X and current MacOS versions and takes a screenshot of a selected area on the screen. On current MacOS versions the file saved to your desktop is in png format (Mac OS X versions around 10.4 saved screenshots in .tiff format), but on OS 9 it’s in a less common .pict format.

By today’s standards the .pict file format is even more unusual as it uses Classic Mac OS file system features called a ‘resource fork‘ and a ‘data fork’. The issue with copying these .pict files from a Classic Mac OS filesystem to a modern file system is described here – when you copy the file you get the ‘resource fork’ but lose the ‘data fork’, in this case losing most of the image file data. When I tried this and viewed or converted the file on MacOS each of the files only has a section of the image, or none at all.

To convert to a jpeg or other more commonly used format today, this post suggests using the Resize! app, which is still downloadable from

The trouble with this approach is if you’ve already copied the .pict files from OS 9 to a SMB network drive, you’ve already lost part of the file and it won’t convert as expected.

The best option as described in the first post is to convert to a jpeg or gif on OS 9 before moving elsewhere. I’ve seen posts suggesting to use Quicktime Viewer, but the version I have on mg G4 running OS 9.2.2 doesn’t have a Save As or Export feature, not that I could find anyway.

Instead what I found that worked for me was to download GraphicsConverter from Mac Garden here and use Save As changing the file extension to .jpg

2 Replies to “Converting Mac OS 9 .pict screenshot files to jpegs”

  1. If you have a Linux machine (or a CD/DVD/USB flash drive that you can use to temporarily boot a PC into Linux), another approach that works is to take advantage of its native support for HFS+ like this:

    1. Format a USB flash drive as HFS+ (I did it on Linux with mkfs.hfsplus -w -v 'Volume Name' /dev/sdX)
    2. Stick it into your MacOS 9 machine
    2. Copy the pictures onto the flash drive without converting from PICT
    3. Stick it into the Linux machine
    4. Use ImageMagick’s convert command like you would with any other file format.

    In my case:

    for X in Picture\ *; do convert “$X” “$X”.png; done

    Also, wouldn’t it be the data fork that’s preserved and the resource fork that’s discarded when transferring the files through non-Mac means?

  2. Ugh.

    I remembered that WordPress should accept accept CODE and PRE, but then forgot it should accept OL tags and botched my manual numbering in while revising.

    Don’t post in the middle of the night, kids!

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