Presto!

Working in preservation and archiving for the last few years has caused me to change a habit most people use everyday. The double-click. I am usually opening a file in a hex editor or control clicking on a file to open it in a different software application than is default. Maybe it’s just me, but having control over opening a file is essential. The thought of double-clicking on a file and the uncertainty of what is actually happening scares me a little.

Of course opening an application executable requires a double-click or a right-click/open process and from there you can open the file of your choosing. Executables are run-able files because they have the required pieces for the operating system and cpu to interpret and well; run. We need executables in order to make sense of the files we preserve. Without something to interpret our the data in our files they are just a bunch of one’s & zero’s.

Take a PDF for example. By itself, it is hard to make sense of the file. You need Acrobat Reader, or any number of other executable software programs to open and render the PDF.

But what if you could take a file and wrap it in an executable so it is all self contained, the file format and an executable in one file! No separate software needed! On the surface this seems like a great idea, which is why a few software companies had this as an option. An early competitor of PDF, Common Ground had the option to embed the DP file into a self contained viewer. Many archive software tools have the ability to make “self-extracting” executables as well. One obvious downside is being unable to execute on a different platform or a later operating system. But at the time they were very convenient.

One software in particular added the option to export a few different formats into a special wrapper making them viewable on any Windows machine.

New Soft Technology Corporation Presto! PageManager is document management software which can view many different file types. The software helps manage document and photo scanning and keep everything organized. The software often came bundled with home consumer scanners, such as the UMAX Astra scanner I bought years ago. With the Windows version of the software you can take one or more photos and “wrap” them into a Presto! Wrapper.

Once exported to a Presto! Wrapper the files within have a portable viewer wrapped up with them. One double-click and Presto!, you can view, rotate, export, and print your images. The wrapper has a your typical .EXE extension and identifies as such.

sf Presto6-s02.EXE
---
siegfried   : 1.11.0
scandate    : 2024-01-09T23:39:36-07:00
signature   : default.sig
created     : 2023-12-17T15:54:41+01:00
identifiers : 
  - name    : 'pronom'
    details : 'DROID_SignatureFile_V116.xml; container-signature-20231127.xml'
---
filename : 'Presto6-s02.EXE'
filesize : 818301
modified : 2024-01-07T23:48:01-07:00
errors   : 
matches  :
  - ns      : 'pronom'
    id      : 'fmt/899'
    format  : 'Windows Portable Executable'
    version : '32 bit'
    mime    : 'application/vnd.microsoft.portable-executable'
    class   : 
    basis   : 'extension match exe; byte match at [[0 2] [232 94]]'

hexdump -C Presto6-s02.EXE | head
00000000  4d 5a 90 00 03 00 00 00  04 00 00 00 ff ff 00 00  |MZ..............|
00000010  b8 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  40 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |........@.......|
00000020  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00000030  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 e8 00 00 00  |................|
00000040  0e 1f ba 0e 00 b4 09 cd  21 b8 01 4c cd 21 54 68  |........!..L.!Th|
00000050  69 73 20 70 72 6f 67 72  61 6d 20 63 61 6e 6e 6f  |is program canno|
00000060  74 20 62 65 20 72 75 6e  20 69 6e 20 44 4f 53 20  |t be run in DOS |
00000070  6d 6f 64 65 2e 0d 0d 0a  24 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |mode....$.......|
00000080  99 72 8f bf dd 13 e1 ec  dd 13 e1 ec dd 13 e1 ec  |.r..............|
00000090  5e 0f ef ec dc 13 e1 ec  b2 0c eb ec d6 13 e1 ec  |^...............|

The preservation of executables is, in my opinion, complicated. Running a 32 bit executable on a computer today might not even work. Then we have to get into the license of using the software and wether the license allows us to use it freely in perpetuity. So as much as this is an executable, knowing it is also a wrapper for regular images is important to know as an option for preservation. The files wrapped inside can be exported and preserved as a solution. So what makes this executable unique. Let’s look a little closer.

00005000  00 00 00 00 11 2e 40 00  00 10 40 00 80 1f 40 00  |......@...@...@.|
00005010  c0 24 40 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |.$@.............|
00005020  50 6d 76 69 65 77 20 69  73 20 63 6c 6f 73 65 2e  |Pmview is close.|
00005030  00 00 00 00 5c 00 00 00  74 6d 70 00 5c 54 45 4d  |....\...tmp.\TEM|
00005040  50 00 00 00 20 4e 65 77  53 6f 66 74 20 56 69 65  |P... NewSoft Vie|
00005050  77 65 72 00 34 31 36 44  37 30 36 43 36 31 37 39  |wer.416D706C6179|
00005060  36 35 37 32 00 00 00 00  41 6d 70 6c 61 79 65 72  |6572....Amplayer|
00005070  00 00 00 00 70 6d 76 69  65 77 2e 65 78 65 00 00  |....pmview.exe..|
00005080  41 6d 70 6c 61 79 65 72  2e 65 78 65 20 67 72 65  |Amplayer.exe gre|
00005090  65 74 2e 69 64 20 56 00  41 6d 70 6c 61 79 65 72  |et.id V.Amplayer|
000050a0  2e 65 78 65 00 00 00 00  2e 2e 00 00 2e 00 00 00  |.exe............|
000050b0  5c 2a 2e 2a 00 00 00 00  4c 6f 63 61 6c 20 41 70  |\*.*....Local Ap|
000050c0  70 57 69 7a 61 72 64 2d  47 65 6e 65 72 61 74 65  |pWizard-Generate|
000050d0  64 20 41 70 70 6c 69 63  61 74 69 6f 6e 73 00 00  |d Applications..|
000050e0  57 72 61 70 70 65 72 00  43 45 78 70 76 77 44 6f  |Wrapper.CExpvwDo|
000050f0  63 00 00 00 43 45 78 70  76 77 56 69 65 77 00 00  |c...CExpvwView..|

It is indeed a wrapper, the header looks like any other EXE file, but a little further into the file we can see some specifics to the viewer. In all my samples I can see the string “NewsSoft Viewer“. That might be enough to distinguish it from other executables. See some samples here.

I guess part of the question is wether identifying specific software executables is needed in preservation. Arn’t they all executables and should be treated similar? This isn’t the first type of executables I have seen like this. awhile back I came across another home software which allowed you to make a slideshow, complete with audio and wrap it into an executable to put on a disk so playback was easy for the user and nothing additional was needed. The software is called Family Album Creator, use at your own risk.