Getting Macs and PCs to share

by Alan Zisman (c) 1999. First published in Toronto Computes, January 1999

MacLinkPlus Deluxe
Conversions Plus
About $149
DataViz: 80-733-0030

?Macs rule!?
?PCs kick butt!?

Can?t we all just get along?

Like it or not, Macs and PCs have to co-exist? often within a single company, school, or even home.

To a certain extent, the two platforms can and do communicate. Many applications share file formats between the two platforms, or at least can read files created on the other platform. For years, Apple has included a utility with its system software (under various names?Apple File Exchange, PC Exchange, and more), so a Mac can read and write to a PC-formatted floppy.

And e-mail is a great way to bridge the gap. When I finished writing this article on my PC, I attached it to an e-mail message, and sent it off to my Mac-using editor.

But all too often, this isn?t enough. Unlike Macs, PCs can?t read Mac-floppies. And there are lots of different file formats out there. In fact, it?s not uncommon for a PC-user to get an unreadable PC file, or a Mac-user to get an unreadable Mac file.

Connecticut DataViz is the great peace-maker.

Their MacLinkPlus on the Mac and Conversions Plus for Windows have set the standard for file conversion between the two solitudes, but also for files generated within one platform or the other. In fact, Apple used to include limited versions of MacLinkPlus, both as part of its system software, and with its ClarisWorks application.

 Now, both products have been updated, to version 10 on the Mac and 4.5 for Windows. Each offers new and improved interfaces, up to date converters, and new features.

Both the Mac and Windows version lurk quietly in the background?but when you double-click an unknown file type, they pop up, offering to be of assistance. (Yes, both operating systems do that too. The difference is that with the appropriate DataViz product, in most cases you actually can read the file!)

And in most cases, the conversion works well, bringing across not just the text, but formatting, fonts (where possible), and embedded graphics.

Right-clicking (in Windows) or Control-clicking (in Mac OS 8.x) on a datafile brings up a context menu, offering the ability to view or translate the file directly. While Windows offers an optional QuickView utility, it only works with a small range of file types, and lacks the conversion possibilities available in Conversions Plus.

Both versions also work with e-mail. They offer lots of power for dealing with attached files, allowing you to translate them to a format you can use. As well, they can properly deal with compressed files, and Internet UUEncoding?which can appear in e-mail or newsgroup messages as ?garbage text?.

Finally, you can open the utilities directly, getting access to the programs? recognition, translation, decompression, and viewing capabilities for any file on your system. This makes it easy to work with groups of files at one time. The interfaces, while similar, are not clones?they each reflect the quirks of their chosen platform.

The Windows version adds the capability to read Mac disks?floppies, zip disks, and more.

A must have for people working in a mixed Mac/PC environment, or for anyone who frequently encounters unreadable file types.

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