View from the Classroom

Making Your PC Work with Your Mac

- 2000.02.14

We've had a rush of teachers from my school purchasing their first home computer. Unfortunately, most of the sales have gone to Windows boxes. I'll save the reasons why for another column.

Once the teachers have their new home computers, they usually express their satisfaction with the machine in reference to Internet access. Then they also express an emotion that I'm sure many readers who have a Mac at home and a PC at work, or vice versa, feel. They express their regret that the two systems aren't more compatible. When asked, I always give the wayward Win-staff-members the following recipe for Mac/Windows compatibility.

All of our Macs at school have some version of ClarisWorks or AppleWorks installed. They also all have some kind of writable removable media drive (floppy, Syquest, Zip, CD-RW, etc.). My first thought for staff members with a Windows box at home is, "Why did you buy that Brand-X box?" But my first suggestion to them is that they purchase AppleWorks for Windows for their home computer. While document compatibility between the Mac and Windows versions isn't perfect, it comes pretty close. Of course, the versions need to be matched. For example, AppleWorks 5 for Windows won't touch a ClarisWorks 4 for Macintosh document!

AppleWorks 6 boxWe're currently caught in between AppleWorks versions, as AppleWorks 6 for Macintosh is due to ship in about 30 days, according to the Apple Education Store for K-12 Individuals. AppleWorks 6 for Windows will follow some months behind. The Macintosh 6 version is priced at a very attractive $39 (ed. price, remember), while Apple Ed still lists AppleWorks 5 for Windows at $99!

If you don't have access to educational pricing, probably the best move on purchasing AppleWorks might be to pick up ClarisWorks 5 for both versions, do the free upgrade to AppleWorks 5 (Win 1585K, Mac 5497K) from Apple, and upgrade to version 6 later, if necessary. PowerOn Computer Services lists a price of $29.99 for ClarisWorks 5 for Macintosh. MacResQ usually lists the same deal in their print ads, but I haven't been able to confirm availability of it online. The AppleWorks 5 for Windows version is available from many PC sellers for a bit less than Apple's price.

MacDrive2000A second suggested software for the home PC is Media4's excellent cross-platform compatibility enhancer, MacDrive 2000. Don't let the "2000" put you off. MacDrive works with Windows 95, 98, 2000, and NT. It allows your PC to read Mac formatted disks from your PC with very few glitches. While partial compatibility could be obtained by saving your AppleWorks documents from your Mac to a DOS formatted disk, graphics included get pretty well munged with the DOS disk.

I began using the MacDrive 95 version a number of years ago after reading a glowing review of its capabilities. I won't try to duplicate that effort, as Bill Fox and others have already done excellent reviews of previous versions. Then, a couple of years ago, I responded to a posting I saw on the Macintosh News Network that Media4 Productions was looking for beta testers for a new release. I was already an avid paid user of MacDrive 95, so I quickly followed up on the lead and heard back from Media4's Rick Powell a few weeks later.

I use MacDrive, now that I've accumulated a number of legal licenses, on a variety of machines. Since I produce sharewares for both the Mac and Windows platforms, MacDrive helps with the transfer of many large and small files between my Mac and Windows machines. While I could save the Mac files to a DOS formatted disk and then use them in Windows, the names usually get badly munged in the process. My sharewares are not tolerant of file name changes, as they are groups of interacting PDF documents, so MacDrive or some other utility are essential time savers. Transferring the raw ClarisWorks files from Mac to Windows on a DOS disk produced an absolute naming disaster that MacDrive nicely corrects.

At the end of one beta test cycle for Media4, I was struck at the difference in style of some companies with regard to their beta testers. At the end of the test cycle for Bride of Buster (System 8.1), a final candidate build was posted to the beta site, but the passwords were not shared with my beta test group. I wrote my contact at Apple, requesting the codes. It had been an interesting test cycle with a guy in Michigan and I playing around with a nasty problem of Zip disks not ejecting properly. I waited in vain for any response from Apple. With the beginning of the test cycle for 8.5, I wrote my contact again and was told he'd moved on to another post at Apple. He referred me to his replacement who informed me my services were no longer required!

At the conclusion of the Media4 test cycle mentioned above, I received a gracious note of thanks from the head of the beta test program, along with a URL to download the final version - and a password to use it. A few days later, a boxed version of the release arrived with yet another license and a cool T-shirt!

I've also found the various shareware authors with whom I've worked to be equally gracious at the end of a cycle. They really can't afford to pay beta testers, but usually a free license is offered. Probably one of the biggest advantages of testing in this area is having the ear of the author to suggest changes or added features.

In the most recent Media4 test of MacDrive 2000, we started with an alpha version that was remarkably stable, although it didn't carry the full feature set. We moved rapidly through a beta cycle of one a week or one every-other-week. It made for some fast and furious downloading, uninstalling the previous version--always a real "treat" in Windows:-(, installing and testing the new version, and then reporting any significant results to Media4.

I also found the folks at Media4 to be rather tolerant of my penchant for adventure. I installed beta 3 of the new release on my Orange Micro version of Windows 95 that, of course, resides inside my Mac. I'd privately been doing so for some time. During the previous cycle, Rick Powell had advised me that doing so and accessing the main Mac hard drive could produce disastrous results in damage and data loss. After that, I never tried to access the main hard drive again, but Rick really didn't mention zips, did he? This time Rick advised me that the Mac and Orange Micro Windows both would try to access the zip simultaneously and might produce a calamity. I've seen just such results, but find that using a clean zip is a great cheat for moving files between the Mac side and the Windows side of my machine. I don't risk data that isn't backed up, however, as Rick's advice is probably true.

One of the interesting notes in the beta documents was a request that you let Media4 help you if you encountered data loss or corruption while testing for them. I'm sure they might learn something from the process to help with their software builds, but it also seemed a class move to offer to help their beta folks. Often, companies stress that you're on your own if the alpha or beta trashes your drive.

It somehow seemed poetic justice that I downloaded several of the recent MacDrive betas on my Mac. Several years ago, while testing Bride of Buster (Mac OS 8.1), the modem on my Mac was ill and the school's network was down. I had to download several of the Mac OS betas on our Acer Aspire!

How does all the above gibe with my Busman's Holiday posting, I Don't Do Reviews? I'm not quite sure, but I'm certainly not sending all the MacDrive loot back to them:-). Maybe it's best to say that there are other products that will accomplish what MacDrive does. I just haven't had reason to use any of them as yet. Also, since receiving an erudite email from Andy Ihnatko, my views on freebies certainly aren't set in concrete.

I find the combination of AppleWorks for Mac and Windows along with MacDrive to be a real production enhancer for those of us that must work on both platforms. MacDrive 2000 is available from a number of sources currently:

I gave a link last week to an eBay auction for a PowerCard 601/100 that is used to upgrade the Performa/LC 570 series to a PowerMac. Unfortunately, the seller changed the description after the column ran and the upgrade card wasn't for the Performa. Sorry about that, but if it makes you feel any better, I'd bid on it, too, before I saw the change and had to rescind my bid.

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View From the Classroom columns copyright 1999-2000 by Steve Wood.

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