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  Two Ways To Port Files Across Platforms

There are basically two ways to port files between Macintosh® and Windows® platforms - over a network or by removable media (disks). The following chart best illustrates the point:

Networking With PC MACLAN

Windows NT and Windows 2000 support the Macintosh file system and will allow connectivity to Macintosh computers over a network. However, these operating systems are more expensive and not meant for the freelance or SOHO (small office, home office) user. Most web designers and freelance artists on the PC platform use Windows 95/98. The best solution I have found for networking Macs® and PCs is PC MACLAN, from Miramar Systems, Inc. of Santa Barbara, CA (acquired by Computer Associates and since discontinued). This affordable software package is installed on a PC running Windows 95/98 and will connect a PC to a Macintosh network running AppleTalk®.

The Power Mac®

When Apple Computer introduced the Power Mac (or "PowerPC™"), new possibilities began to open up to bridge the gap between the Mac and Windows platforms. The Power Mac will read and write files on PC formatted disks and translate them into the Macintosh file system without any additional software. A Power Mac will do this right out of the box. The Windows 95/98 operating systems, unfortunately, do not read or write Macintosh formatted disks without special software. The Mac is friendlier to the PC than the PC is to the Mac for this reason.

Windows 98 Second Edition

Windows 98 SE (Second Edition) includes Internet Connection Sharing (ICS), which allows more than one computer to use a single Internet connection. Starting with Mac OS 8.5, it became possible to share this connection with a host PC running Windows 98 SE with ICS. With a single Internet connection shared by both Mac and Windows computers and by utilizing PC MACLAN, the freelance or SOHO user can harness tremendous power for a very modest investment.

Porting Files With Removable Media

Users who wish to share files between Macintosh and Windows computers who are not connected by a network can do so with removable media such as floppy diskettes or Zip® disks. A Mac can read and write to a PC-formatted disk but a PC running Windows 95/98 cannot read and write to a Mac-formatted disk without special software. If you plan to share files between a Mac and a PC, the simplest method is to use a PC-formatted diskette or Zip disk. You can read and write files to it with either the Mac or PC and the files will be readable on both platforms. But if you have a PC and you receive files on a Mac-formatted diskette or Zip disk, then you will need a special utility for the PC to be able to read and write to the Mac-formatted disk. Two popular packages for this purpose are MacOpener®, available from DataViz®, Inc. of Trumbull, CT: http://www.dataviz.com and MacDrive®, available from Mediafour Corporation of West Des Moines, IA: http://www.media4.com. This type of software is only required for the PC. It is not required for the Mac.

The Internet - The Ultimate Network

The Internet has proven to be the great equalizer between users of all platforms. The Internet falls under the category of network transfer. However, in this case, no special software is required to port files across platforms. All that is required is that files be uploaded to a server, then downloaded by the user via FTP or HTTP or via email as a file attachment. Still, users must account for the differences in the Mac and PC file systems to ensure that files reach their target as intended. For example, users can't send Mac fonts to PC users without special preparation (more here). I'll cover this in more detail elsewhere in this site, but it is mentioned here as a reminder.

MacBinary, BinHex and Aladdin Stuffit®

Whereas it is possible to port files across platforms on PC-formatted removable media, another means is required to port Mac files over the Internet or to copy Mac files using a PC. In this case, Mac files have to be "flattened" using software to encode them into a one-part file by combining the two forks together. Once encoded, files can be safely copied using a PC. After porting the encoded files to a Macintosh drive they can be decoded and restored.

When Mac files are available for downloading from the Internet you will often see several file formats to choose from. The following table describes some of the most commonly used formats:

File Extension
File Format
Aladdin Stuffit

Each of these formats flatten the two forks of the Mac file system into a single data fork which can be safely ported between the two platforms. Files encoded with these formats can be stored on Mac or PC disks. When ready to be used, they can be decoded on the Mac. The following utilities will encode and decode Mac files as described above:


MacBinary II+ is a freeware program available from the following link:

BinHex 5.0 is a shareware program available from the following link:


HQXing 1.3 is a freeware program available from the following link:

Aladdin Stuffit

One means of flattening Mac files is to use a file compression utility such as Stuffit, available from Aladdin Systems of Watsonville, CA: http://www.aladdinsys.com. Stuffit can encode and decode files using the SIT format. The SIT (Stuffit) format on the Macintosh is equivalent to the ZIP (Winzip or PKZIP) format on the PC. Each of these formats is virtually the file compression standard for their respective platforms. Aladdin Systems offers shareware programs at their web site to encode and decode Mac files into the Stuffit format. The Aladdin Expander™ is available for the PC and The Stuffit Expander™ and DropStuff™ are available for the Macintosh. A commercial version of DropStuff is available for the PC.

The Mac shareware Stuffit Expander program will decode all of the above formats and the Mac shareware DropStuff program will encode in all formats but MacBinary.

Aladdin offers Stuffit Deluxe™ as a total solution for all of the above formats but it is strictly a commercial product. However, it is very convenient on the Mac. Stuffit Deluxe will encode and decode Mac files in all of the above formats (even the ZIP format), thus simplifying the situation by using a single application for all formats.

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