MacDrive 98 makes a PC disk drive multilingual

Apple’s Macintosh has been able to read and write PC-format 3.5" disks for many years. Now Media4 Productions’ MacDrive 98 application lets PCs return the favor. With MacDrive 98, Windows NT, and Windows 9x, PCs can access 3.5" disks, CD-ROMs, and removable hard disks formatted for use with Macs.

MacDrive 98 is invaluable when exchanging disks with Mac users. A good example of this interchange involves exchanging a desktop publishing file with a Mac-based service bureau. Although the service bureau I use can read my PC-generated disks, using MacDrive 98 to generate the disks eliminates any confusion or second-guessing that might occur.

Mac-compatible disks can also be a source of useful information. For example, I can use MacDrive 98 to access and use Mac-based clip art CD-ROMs and Adobe Type 1 font files with many Windows applications.

Although MacDrive 98 provides compatibility with the latest Mac formats, the software does have some limitations. For example, MacDrive 98 can’t read or write older 400KB and 800KB disks (for more information on different disk formats, see the sidebar, "Not All Disks Are Created Equal"). A minor limitation is the Mac's 31-character filename length limit. When you move a file with a long filename (more than 31 characters) from a PC to a Mac, the software truncates the filename on the Mac disk similar to the name conversion you encounter when working with DOS 8.3 filenames under Windows.

Install and Go
MacDrive 98 fits on one 1.44MB diskette, so installing the software is fast. The installation program adds hooks into the OS that let any application access Mac-formatted disks. The installation software also adds Control Panel configuration support and enhancements to the NT Explorer.

I found MacDrive 98 remarkably easy to use after installation. MacDrive 98 adds Mac disk formatting and disk copy operations to right-mouse context menus in the NT Explorer, as Screen 1 shows. These menu options are comparable to the existing format and disk copy operations that the NT Explorer already provides. The only difference is the MacDrive 98 options use Mac disk partitions instead of Windows disk partitions. NT Explorer differentiates Mac disks by displaying a small red apple in the lower right corner of the disk drive icon.

Within my company, MacDrive 98 lets our Windows-based systems automatically recognize Mac-based disks and makes these Mac disks available to any application. For example, we created documents using the Windows version of Microsoft Word and Adobe PageMaker on a Mac disk for subsequent use on a PowerMac.

When you use MacDrive 98, the NT Explorer displays an extra MacDrive 98 tab on the Properties dialog box for Mac files, directories, and disks. These tabbed dialog box pages list Mac attributes, some of which don't directly correspond to PC attributes that you can change on a per-file basis. For example, Mac files and folders have a named locked attribute, which is similar but not the same as the PC read-only attribute. Although PC applications can’t access the Mac attributes directly, you can change these attributes using MacDrive 98.

MacDrive 98 provided good performance. I was able to use Mac disks as easily as PC disks. The NT Explorer displayed disk directories just as quickly for Mac-formatted disks as for PC-formatted disks. Read and write performance on the same disk using different formatted media was also the same. The only real decision was whether to format a new disk for the Mac or PC.

Other Caveats
File attributes are not the only differences between Mac and PC files. Whereas each Mac file has a four-character creator and four-character file type associated with it, a PC file has a three-character file-type extension (e.g., .com, .exe) based on the old DOS 8.3 filename format. Mac filenames can include PC file-type extensions, but Mac applications won’t recognize these extensions. Fortunately, MacDrive 98 maintains a lookup table that contains Mac file creator and file-type entries that correspond with matching PC file-type extensions. This feature lets you use Mac and PC files without having to rename the files for each system. For example, whenever I use a PC application to access a file on Mac media, MacDrive 98 uses a lookup table to present the filename with the PC file-type extension that corresponds to the appropriate Mac file in the table.

MacDrive 98’s lookup table comes prepopulated with several entries for many popular applications, such as Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Windows. Although you’ll probably never have to modify an entry in the lookup table, MacDrive 98 gives you the option. You typically only need to add to the lookup table when you receive a Mac file that contains a file creator or file type that is not already in the table. In this case, you simply select a PC file-type extension to add a new entry. You can arbitrarily select the PC file-type extension or you can query the application vendor for a recommended PC file-type extension. The vendor’s Web site is a good place to check for this information. I have yet to add a new entry to the lookup table.

The lack of a matching entry in the lookup table doesn’t prevent you from using or copying a file. MacDrive 98 will simply use an empty PC file-type extension. Also, MacDrive 98’s lookup table entries can use wild card characters. For example, a text file typically has a PC file-type extension of .txt, and the lookup table entry has a **** creator value and a text file-type value. I was able to use the Windows Notepad to edit text files that I generated on a Mac using different Mac applications.

MacDrive 98’s creator and file-type support works for existing files and the creation of new files on Mac media. When I copied a file from a PC disk to a Mac disk, MacDrive 98 set the creator and file type based on the PC file-type extension. The software responded similarly when I used standard Windows applications such as Word to save a document on a Mac disk. I was then able to use the Mac disk on a PowerMac and have the computer recognize and open the file as a Word document.

MacDrive 98 let me save and load the lookup table, which makes using the same table on multiple PCs relatively easy. I then loaded the table on other PCs running MacDrive 98. Unfortunately, the process requires user intervention to load a new lookup table. Consistency between lookup tables is important; otherwise, one user might save a file using one version of the lookup table only to have it converted to another type on another user’s PC using a different version of the lookup table.

Are Two Heads Better than One?
Mac files contain two types of information stored in the data fork and the resource fork. The data fork stores the application information (e.g., documents, spreadsheets), and the resource fork is a hierarchy that contains items (e.g., bitmaps, icons, fonts) for the program to manipulate.

MacDrive 98 provides read-only access to the resource fork. This feature is available via the NT Explorer when you select a Mac file. Right-clicking a Mac file and selecting View Mac Resources from the context menu presents a hierarchical list of resources. You can view individual resources or save them to a file. MacDrive 98 stores these resources in the data fork, making them accessible to PC applications. You must use a Mac-based resource editor to add, change, or delete resources in the resource fork of a Mac file.

When you move Mac files from a Mac disk to a PC disk, the Mac files lose the resource fork information. MacDrive 98 moves only the data fork information between disks.

Many years ago, two formats (MacBinary and BinHex) emerged to address the problem of dealing with dual-fork Mac files. Both formats provide an encoded, dual-fork Macintosh file as one data file, or Mac file with only a data fork. You can easily add files created using these formats to mail attachments or copy them to PC format disks without any loss of information. Of course, neither a Windows application nor a Mac application can use the information unless it knows about the formats and how to extract the information. Several Mac and PC applications, including many shareware applications, provide a mechanism for creating and converting MacBinary and BinHex files.

MacDrive 98 recognizes these encoded files on a PC or Mac disk by looking for .bin and .hqx file extensions. To extract the information using the NT Explorer, you right-click the file and select Extract Original Mac File from the context menu. When you follow these steps and are saving the file to a Mac disk, MacDrive 98 saves all the information for the file. If you’re saving the file to a PC disk, MacDrive 98 saves only the data fork. Keep in mind that you can convert only one file at a time.

MacDrive 98 can create MacBinary files from Mac files on a Mac disk. The destination can be either a Mac disk or a PC disk. As with any MacBinary file, the information saved includes both the data and resource fork, the original filename, the file’s icon, and Mac-specific file attributes.

Not Quite a Mac
MacDrive 98 won’t turn your PC into a Mac, but it’s the next best thing for NT users. If you deal with Mac users on a regular basis, you’ll probably make good use of MacDrive 98 and you won’t have to bend over backward to do so. With the exception of the MacBinary and BinHex support, the rest of MacDrive 98’s support is either transparent or readily apparent to the average PC user. All they need to do is look for the red apple or check for the word Mac in the menus. I found MacDrive 98 to be an invaluable addition to an NT-based PC.

MacDrive 98 2.1.2
Contact: Media4 Productions * (515) 225-7409
Web: http://www.media4.com
Price: $70
System Requirements: Windows NT and Windows 9x, Supports disk, CD-ROM, and SCSI disk storage devices