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ISSUE 521: The high tech office- Oct 19 1999

ALAN ZISMAN

Apple fanatics really can enjoy the best of both their Macs and Windows PCs

Readers with Macs may have felt left out in recent columns as we looked at choices PC users face.

We know that many of you are ferociously attached to your Macs. You may not have a bumper sticker reading "If you want to take away my Mac, it'll be over my dead body," but you probably appreciate the sentiment.

Still, you are forced to admit that the business community is pretty much hooked on PCs. Apple has recognized that reality and for years Macs have been able to read and write to PC high-density floppies (at least while Macs came with floppy drives) and recognize basic PC file types. A number of applications can also read files created in the other platform's version.

But in many cases, these basic capabilities aren't enough. Three products that help Macs and Windows PCs co-exist have recently released new versions. Let's take a look.

Dataviz (www.dataviz.com) has a long history of releasing Mac/PC compatibility products. Its core product, MacLink Plus is now up to version 11. Earlier versions were bundled with some versions of the Mac's system software. This is no longer the case. If you need Mac Link Plus, you're going to have to buy it (about $159).

In a nutshell, MacLink Plus lets you read virtually any sort of data file including word processor, spread-
sheet, graphics and more, simply by double-clinking on it, regardless of what application created it and re-
gardless of whether it was created on a Mac or a PC. You can then view the files in MacLink or convert them into a file format your current applications can read.

The new version adds support for newly updated applications such as AppleWorks 5, Microsoft Office 2000 -- which can't be read in the old version that may be bundled with your Mac. It can also convert files that you're able to read into a format that you can share with Mac or PC co-workers using different software.

The program can work with e-mail attachments. Its file viewing feature is also useful for Microsoft Office users worried about catching macro viruses through the mail. You can read the contents of an attached Word document in MacLink without any risk of infecting your computer.

The new version of MacLink has a much more usable interface than the older versions. OS 8 users will find it added to the Command-click popup menus. As an added bonus, it opens a range of compressed files in both Mac and PC formats.

The company has also updated Conversions Plus. It is essentially the same product, but for Windows users. If your company has both Mac and Windows users, get both.

Sometimes, though, being able to work with PC data files isn't enough. While you can easily work with those PC Word 97 documents in Mac Word 98, sometimes there's just no way around it. You need to run an actual PC program.

Maybe, for instance, your company has a custom-written database application. If you can do most of your work on your Mac, but sometimes need a PC, you don't need to clutter your office with two computers.

Several companies are producing PC-emulation software that runs on a Mac. Connectix (www.connectix.com) has re-
leased a newly updated Virtual PC version 3.0. Like its main competitor, Soft PC, Virtual PC installs as a program onto your Mac, grabbing a bunch of hard drive space to act as a virtual PC hard drive.

It works by the seeming-magic of emulation translating PC machine language into the Mac equivalents. Like any other translation, it takes time. Your virtual PC will be slower than the Mac its running on. Modern Macs are powerful enough, however, that you will be able to use it for most purposes. For typical office software, e-mail and more, the speed on my 266-Mhz iMac is quite acceptable.

Like earlier versions, you can get Virtual PC bundled with DOS (about $85), Windows 95 ($249) or Windows 98 ($289) and can even install other PC operating systems. *



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan