Apple's 1998 Introduction of the Mac OS Extended Format, also known as HFS+, created a scramble among developers of disk utilities as they prepared upgrades to support the new format, which increases a drive's effective capacity by reorganizing the way files are stored. Among vendors of disk-mounting utilities for Microsoft Windows, DataViz introduced HFS+ support in MacOpener 4.0 ( ; $60 list price; Reviews, January 1999). Now Media4 Productions has closed the gap by adding HFS+ support to MacDrive 98 3.0, the latest version of its disk-mounting software. Either program is an excellent choice if you want to use Mac media with a Windows PC.
Except for adding HFS+ support, MacDrive 98 3.0 is identical to version 2.0. With it, you can use Macintosh disks on a Windows 95, 98, or NT 4.0 PC. The program handles floppies, Iomega Zip and Jaz cartridges, CDs, external hard disks, or any other disks available in a PC version. You can read and write data to the disks as if they're Windows media. With HFS+ support, the program can now handle media in the new disk format as well as the older HFS format.
The program remains an install-and-forget-it utility. Without using any special commands, you can access Mac disks from the Windows desktop, in Windows Explorer, and from Open and Save dialog boxes in Windows applications. The only time you'll even remember you're working with Mac media is when you see the apple that MacDrive 98 adds to disk icons. However, when you right-click on the disk icon to bring up Windows' contextual menu, the utility adds Macintosh-specific media options, such as the ability to format a disk for the Mac.
Although it's similar to MacOpener, MacDrive 98 offers a few extra utilities that its rival does not. For example, it can identify the creator and file types of Mac fileshandy when you're trying to update extension maps in Mac-disk-mounting software, in cross-platform networking software, or in Mac OS File Exchange. Another handy utility lets you copy Mac disks from your PC's drives. On Media4's Web site, you'll find several other utilities that remap special symbols between Mac and PC files so they'll appear correctly when you open a document.
MacDrive 98 doesn't work with Windows 3.1, but neither does MacOpener, which previously supported the older Windows version. DataViz dropped Windows 3.1 support in MacOpener 4.1, a recent update. (MacOpener 4.1 is also included with DataViz's $100 Conversions Plus 4.6 cross-platform file-translation utility.)
Both MacOpener 4.1 and MacDrive 98 3.0 let you easily and transparently open Macintosh files on Windows PCs. MacOpener once had an edge because of its HFS+ support, but it's now almost impossible to choose between the two. Their prices are almost the same, and their key features are the same.
Nevertheless, we prefer MacDrive. It has a few niceties that MacOpener does not, allowing you to map file-name extensions more easily and providing the handy iconic reminder when you're working with Mac media. Most people probably won't use these extra features, but it's nice to have the added capabilities if you need them.
RATING: PROS: Mac disks are seamlessly accessible to PC users; easy to add file-extension maps; easy to format Mac disks on a PC. CONS: None significant. COMPANY: Media4 Productions (515/225-7409, http://www.media4.com ). ESTIMATED STREET PRICE: $70.
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