Corel ArtShow

File extensions are the easiest way to quickly identify a file format, but they can be misleading. This is the reason in Digital Preservation format identification tools like DROID are important to look closer at the file structure to more accurately identify formats. The other complication is some extensions are used for more than one format. Extensions like .DOC or .ISO can be used with many formats.

The PRONOM registry which DROID uses will list extensions associated with each format signature, but for some, they only have an extension and no signature. It’s nice to have an official ID to go with a format but with no signature it only matches based on extension.

This caused a problem awhile back for me while working with some files with the extension CDX. Which according to PRONOM, there are 5 completely different formats which use the extension, and probably others.

My CDX was related to some indexing software called Cindex. At the time the only format with a signature was for the WARC summary file CDX. The other was for a CorelDraw Compressed format with no signature. Confusing right? When I would run format identification on my Cindex files, they would default to the CorelDraw Compressed format, identified by extension. It was easy enough to create a signature for the Cindex format as I had enough samples to know the patterns needed for correct identification. But I was curious about the CorelDraw format. Should be easy to find, right?

Wrong. Finding a sample of this format was very elusive. All I had to go by was the name given to the format by PRONOM and the extension. I scoured every Corel CD and image I could get my hands on. For months I looked and could never find a single CDX file. Each CorelDraw software I was able to run did not have any ability to save in the CDX format. I scoured clipart discs, other Corel software, like Designer, PrintHouse, Photo-Paint, nada, nothing. I started to wonder if the format even existed. That’s when I noticed in the filters included with CorelDraw a reference to the ability to import a CDX but not write to one.

Description=CorelDRAW Compressed (CDX)
FilterFullName=CorelDRAW Import Filter
Version=Version 6.00
Company=Corel Corporation
Copyright=Copyright © 1988-1995 Corel Corporation

This led to me finding a reference on the old Corel FTP site for knowledge base number 4550.

It mentioned something called ArtShow, where version 5 supported the file format CDX. ArtShow was a gallery of winning designs released on a CD-ROM and book each year. The first one being ArtShow 91, then ArtShow 3, 4, 5, 6, and finally 7 was the last. Each one released used a different proprietary compressed format for storing all the designs, these formats exist nowhere else. The question remains, why didn’t they use other popular Corel formats like CDR, CMX, or CCX which were used on many other clip art titles.

It took some time but I was finally able to find copies of a few of the Artshow CD-ROM discs, especially numbers 5 & 6. Which had the CDX format and the second generation CPX formats.

Each format had a easy to recognize header making a PRONOM signature easy to create. PRONOM already had the PUID for the two formats CDX & CPX, so sending in the signature added to the registry and hopefully will help distinguish between all the CDX formats!