If you've ever read an e-mail attachment that's reduced to gibberish, then you need to install a utility such as Aladdin Systems' StuffIt Deluxe. Most files require special processing before they can be sent electronically; unfortunately, every OS has its own formats. Processing usually entails encoding files for transmission as well as compressing them. This utility lets you work with encoded and compressed files in a variety of popular formats, including StuffIt (.sit), Zip (.zip), UU (.uu), BinHex (.hqx), and MacBinary (.bin).
StuffIt Deluxe also provides several convenience features, including the ability to compress or expand files by appending or removing a corresponding file-name extension. Unfortunately, StuffIt Deluxe 5.0 was hobbled by several bugs, including incompatibility with previous versions (see Reviews, April 1999). Since then, Aladdin has released an update that addresses most of these problems, as confirmed by our tests. However, if you don't need all of StuffIt Deluxe's features, Aladdin's DropStuff supports fewer formats for $40 less. And StuffIt Expanderavailable free on Aladdin's Web siteprovides basic file-expansion capabilities.
StuffIt Deluxe 5.1 / RATING: PROS: Creates smaller files than previous versions. CONS: Previous versions incompatible with new file format. COMPANY: Aladdin Systems (831/761-6200, http://www.aladdinsys.com). PRICE: $80.
A few years ago, a behind-the-scenes utility from DataViz, called MacLink Plus, translated word-processing and other documents on the fly. Since the release of Mac OS 8.5, however, MacLink Plus is no longer included with with the Mac OS. For about $100, though, MacLink Plus Deluxe offers the same functionality, along with a revamped interface and several new features, including support for Microsoft Office 98.
MacLink Plus's strength is providing translation services for various Mac and PC file formats. The new release adds several new translators; supports batch processing; and lets you specify default settings for word-processing, database, graphics, and spreadsheet files. A handy option in the MacLink Plus application window lets you preview the contents of any file the program recognizes.
MacLink Plus 10.1 / RATING: PROS: Reliable translation; preview function. CONS: Could be more transparent. COMPANY: DataViz (800/733-0030, http://www.dataviz.com ). PRICE: $100.
Sometimes, the only way to work with a PC document is to run the Windows application that created it. Here, too, utilities can help by letting you run Windows programs on your Mac. With Connectix's VirtualPC, you can run a full version of Microsoft's Windows 98 on your computer, using an emulated Intel Pentium processor. (Connectix also offers PC DOS and Windows 95 versions.)
However, although a Macintosh running VirtualPC Windows 98 captures the look of the genuine article, it can't match the feel or speed of the real Intel-compatible iron.
Naturally, the speedier your Mac's processor, the faster VirtualPC runs. On older, pre-G3 computers, performance will be poky at best. If you need to run only the occasional PC application, VirtualPC will do the job. But if you routinely need to use PC software, you're better off buying a PC or installing a card with an Intel-compatible processor, such as Orange Micro's OrangePC (714/779-2772, http://www.orangemicro.com ).
VirtualPC Windows 98 / RATING: PROS: Runs most PC software. CONS: Much slower than a real PC. COMPANY: Connectix (800/950-5880, http://www.connectix.com ). PRICE: $179.
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