Conversions Plus Lets Windows Users Work with Mac Files and Drives

    by  (c) 2003 First published online in LowEndMac ,  April 30, 2003 Mac2Windows  column

    As the minority platform, Mac users have to try harder. As a result, Apple has included the ability to read PC-formatted diskettes since Apple File Exchange shipped with System 6 in the late 1980s.

    Mac users have had to learn to live with the quirks of PC file naming -- up until 1995, limiting file names to cryptic 8 letters, and even today remembering to add 3-letter file extensions to email attachments and other documents destined to be read by a Windows PC.

    Sometimes, though, the shoe is on the other foot. Once in a while a Windows PC user has to work with disks or files designed for the Mac. This is the often case for users who have a Mac at home but have to use a Windows system at work, for example.

    DataViz is a company with a long tradition of helping Mac users read documents when they don't have the application that created it. Limited versions of their MacLink Plus filters have been included by Apple with some versions of ClarisWorks/AppleWorks -- and even with some operating system versions -- to help users open a wide range of documents.

    Early versions of MacLink Plus included primitive (by today's standards) connectivity between Macs and PCs; I have a version that includes a serial cable with an oblong PC connector at one end and a round Mac serial connector at the other. Software for DOS and Windows 3.1 and for the Mac allowed the two systems to connect and transfer files, which the MacLink filters translated into commonly used Mac formats.

    Currently, Apple is once again including a limited subset of DataViz's MacLink file translators with AppleWorks, providing users of that program the ability to open files created with Mac and Windows versions of Microsoft Office and other programs. And DataViz continues to market the full version of MacLink Plus (no longer including a serial transfer cable), giving users a the ability to view, open, and translate a wide range of Mac and PC data files without needing the program that originally created them. The company claims to have sold over 10 million copies of MacLink over the years.

    They've taken this long tradition of producing high quality data translators and concerns with Mac/Windows compatibility and produced a product for Windows users. Their MacOpener 2000 (US$50, $30 upgrade) and Conversions Plus (US$70, $40 upgrade) programs give Windows users abilities that Mac users take for granted -- the ability to read Mac-formatted disks. In addition to Mac-formatted diskettes, CDs, and SCSI drives, the latest versions let Windows users read Mac-formatted FireWire hard drives, including the hard disk in Mac versions of Apple's iPod.

    While Conversions Plus includes all of MacOpener's abilities to read Mac-formatted storage media, it adds the same range of file translators; this allows Windows PC users to, for example, open old documents created in MacWrite or the PC AmiPro in their current version of Microsoft Word. (Conversions Plus -- but not MacOpener -- includes a copy of EphPod, a music management program that allows Windows users to send music files to the Mac-formatted iPod).

    Both MacLink and Conversions Plus include a large list of word processor, spreadsheet, database, and graphics file filters, but they lack the ability to read page layout documents. (Too bad -- I'm sure there is a niche market for the ability to open, say, old Ready-Set-Go documents in PageMaker or Quark XPress or Word. Or even to open PageMaker 3 documents in modern versions of PageMaker). Check Dataviz's list for a full list of included translators.

    While complex documents -- complete with imbedded graphics, tables, and special formatting -- will inevitably pose problems, Conversions Plus (and the Mac-equivalent MacLink Plus) does as good a job as possible, allowing users to deal with a wide range of documents, whether created on the other platform or with older, and often no longer easily available software versions.

    DataViz has recently dropped prices, making these admittedly niche products more attractive, though they may still seem expensive for casual users who might only need them once in a while. Moreover, the company tends to require customers to pay full upgrade price for what I consider fairly minor revisions.

    There are a number of competing products to allow Windows PCs to read Mac-formatted media, but if you need to also read a wide range of Mac (or older PC) document formats, DataViz's Conversions Plus is your best bet.

Search WWW Search www.zisman.ca

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