One of the big promises of computers in general and the Internet in particular can be summed up in two words:
communication and connectivity. We're supposed to reach out and touch someone to share experiences and share information.
If anything, this increased sharing has made it even clearer that sometimes computers and software just can't get along. While it's a safe bet that one person's version of Microsoft Word can probably read a file created on someone else's version of Microsoft Word, what happens when your sister in New York e-mails you a picture of her newborn as a PICT file -- and none of your software reads PICT? It looks as if sis had better send you the picture in an envelope, right?
Don't look now, but DataViz just might be able to save her some postage. Version 3.5 of Conversions Plus has, according to the packaging, "thousands of different file translators!" This includes not only graphics, but files from word processors, spreadsheets, and databases for the Mac and the PC.
Actually, there aren't thousands of translators
; there are thousands of translation combinations
. For instance, between four formats, there would be twelve possible translating combinations. It's a numbers game. In truth, Conversions Plus can handle about 300 or 400 formats, which is still pretty impressive.
Conversions Plus comes on six floppy disks, and installs easily under Windows 95. The program itself is fairly intuitive, and has options for controlling the level of automation desired. These options include preserving or eliminating a file's extension, renaming files with duplicate names, automatically compressing graphics, and more. Conversions Plus can go to either extreme; it can be left to convert directories full of files on its own, or the user can tailor each individual conversion manually, dealing with as many or as few details as desired.
As advertised, Conversions Plus handles the most popular file formats, but my first attempted conversion failed; the program balked at the IFF/ILBM graphics format. (IFF/ILBM originated on the Amiga, but several graphics programs for the PC still read and write it. I hope DataViz adds this in the near future.) However, it easily converted every other file I threw at it, with the converted file looking exactly like the original, regardless of origin.
Conversions Plus is updated on a regular basis (the current version at this writing is actually 3.53), and DataViz has thrown in a neat wrinkle: the program has an expiry date, around the anticipated time of a new version's release. Some time before that date, the program warns you that it is about to expire, and tells you how to go about contacting DataViz. Only time will tell how well this works.
Included with Conversions Plus is another DataViz product, MacOpener, which does the unthinkable:
it allows users to seamlessly read, write, and format Macintosh disks. This is unthinkable because this sort of thing usually works the other way around. Since PCs dominate the marketplace, other platforms (such as Macs, Amigas, and Atari STs) have software allowing them to deal with PC disks, all with varying degrees of simplicity. Few of these programs can properly deal with Windows 95's long filenames.
MacOpener turns the tables by allowing PC users to use Mac disks as easily as many Mac use PC disks. When working with DOS or earlier versions of Windows, you have to use separate commands to format Mac disks, and assign new drive letters to work with them at all. Under Windows 95, however, the process is truly transparent. Pop a Macintosh disk into the drive, click on its icon from My Computer, and there it is -- if it weren't from the word "Mac" in the title bar, you'd never know the difference.
In any case, the disks are accessible from anywhere in DOS or Windows, and treated like any other disk. MacOpener also lets you read Mac-formatted Zip disks, SyQuest cartridges, CD-ROMs (even dual-format CD-ROMs), Mac hard drives, and more. In fact, the only Mac media it doesn't seem to deal with are double-density floppy disks.
This is an essential utility for any PC owner who shares data with friends, relatives or coworkers.
It takes up little room (7.5 MB under Windows 95), works like a charm, and the price is right. What more could one ask for?