David Strom

PCs and Macs - in harmony.

By David Strom

The battle between Apple's Macintosh and IBM-compatible PCs may rage well into the

next century, but most small business managers are more interested in keeping the peace

between the two factions. If the warfare has worn you down, don't despair: there are a variety

of products that make it easier to make both types of computers coexist.

However, finding your way to picking the right strategy isn't easy: it is hard to obtain

unbiased information from either Mac or PC bigots and it often requires combining products

from either side. So here's a guide to help the perplexed pick the proper product and promote

productive computing.

Questions to ask before getting started

First off, decide whether you need to share files, printers, or applications between the two

types of machines, and who has to share them. To help with your decision, consider the

up-front business reasons: do you want to spread the costand use of a Macintosh laser printer

over more PC users? Do you want to cut the cost of retyping a document on a PC that was

originally created on a Mac? Do you want to cut the costs of training users who move

between different platforms? Or do you want allyour users to run the same timesheet

application, no matter what kind of computer they might have?

Based on the business case, enumerate exactly the situation involved: do you need to have PC

programs access to Mac files? Or do Mac programs require access to data that was stored on

PCs? Or both? What about printers: do PCs  need access to Mac printers, or vice-versa? 

"Some of our Mac users still go to DOS for email," said Mike Drickey, manager ofcorporate

information systems for Hughes STX Corporation in Lanham, Maryland (301 794 5514). "We

seldom find all of the tools to perform all job functions ona single platform," says Leo

Spiegel, chief technology officer for LAN Systems, Inc., a nation-wide systems integrator and

consulting firm.  (NY, NY 212 995 7700) "As aresult, we have a considerable amount of

document exchange between PCs and Macs."

Later on, we'll help you decide on which product makes the most sense, given your specific

strategy and the costs involved. Most likely, you will end up using products from one of the

following four companies: Dayna Communications, Inc. (Salt Lake City, Utah 801 269 7200),

Insignia Solutions, Inc. (Mountain View, Calif. 415 694 7600), Farallon Computing, Inc.

(Alameda, Calif. 510 814 5000), and Novell (Provo, Utah 801 429 7000). These four stand

out in terms of the breadth of their product lines and the quality of their solutions.

Second, are you using mostly purchased applications or do you need to build yourown? If you

have some flexibility in choosing your applications, consider those that work across platforms,

such as Microsoft's Excel spreadsheets, Word Perfect's word processors, Lotus' ccMail

electronic mail software and Claris Corp.'s FileMaker Pro databases. With these and other

applications that have both a PC and a Mac version, you can create a document or a

spreadsheet on a PC, save it to a floppydisk, and then be able to read the file from a Mac

without having to do anything special. The file onthe Mac should look the same and have the

same formatting characteristics as theone on the PC. 

"I have not extensively tested the file compatibility across platforms, but I was able to open

up an IBM Pagemaker 4.0 file using the Macintosh version of Pagemaker.  It was a simple

document, but it did open and display and print flawlessly," says Scott Guillot, a PC

technician with Liguori Publications, Liguori, Mo. (314-464-2500 x594), a book publisher

with a variety of PCs and Macintoshes.

If you have to build your own applications (such as sales tracking databases or inventory

models), do they have to work on both PCs and Macs?  If the answer is yes, consider

products such as Novell's Visual AppBuilder, Oracle's Oracle Card,Bythe's Omnis 7, and

Brio's Data Prism.  All of these are products that come in versions for both Windows and

Macintosh, and allow corporate developers to write one set of programs that can run on both


Finally, as you think about networking your PCs and Macs, consider your overall computer

population, and how it will change over the next three years. If you have modest needs and

mostly low-end Macintoshes and 286-grade PCs, you might want to consider Coactive

Computing Corp.'s Coactive Connector  (Belmont, Calif. 415 802-1080, $149for PCs, $29 for

Macs). This is an external adapter that comes in two versions: one that connects to the PC's

parallel port and the other to the Mac's networking port. Coactive includes software that

allows DOS machines to share files among each other and also with Macintoshes, and

vice-versa. It uses about 60 kilobytes of RAM on DOS and you connect all computers with

simple telephone "silver satin" snap-in cords. 

You have several decision points: whether to move data around on floppy disks orto use a

network, how to integrate your printers, and what to do about building cross-platform

applications. Let's look at each in detail.

Moving data by floppies

Your first decision point is how to transport data around your corporation. Do you want to

move files back and forth between Macs and PCs, but don't want the added expense of

cabling everyone up to a network? Then swap floppies.

Most Macs these days have SuperDrive floppy drives and software built-in that allow them to

transfer files back and forth to DOS-formatted 3.5 floppy disks. However, the process is

somewhat cumbersome. A better solution is to purchase for your Macintosh users either

Dayna Communications Inc. DOS Mounter ($100) or Insignia Solutions Inc.'s Access PC

software ($165 to $499, depending on options). When either product is used on the Mac, any

DOS disk that is inserted in the Mac's floppy drive will show up on the desktop just like any

other Mac disk drive, and any Macintosh application can access the DOS files as they would

any Mac files. 

Applications such as Word Perfect, Microsoft Word and Excel, and Lotus' 1-2-3 are now

mostly trilingual (available for Windows, DOS, and Mac), making the job easier. "My Mac

and PC versions of Word Perfect translated easily, other products required significant work,"

says Peter Shulkin, the Information Systems manager at Siemens Meidcal Systems in

Danvers, Mass. (508 750 7500).  "We look for Windows/Mac twinsolutions such as Lotus'

ccMail, Aldus Freehand, and Microsoft Excel," says MikeDrickey.

However, it isn't effortless: even trilingual applications save their files in different formats and

may have different sets of fonts, features and commands. "Microsoft Word does not use the

same file format for Mac, DOS, or Windows products," says Leo Spiegel. "Fonts, formats,

tables, graphics are all problems here," says Mike Drickey.

Type fonts seem to be the biggest problem for many users that move information between

PCs and Macs. "Fonts are a headache: inconsistencies can render a document illegile even

when moving between computers of the same platform," saysLeo Spiegel. "One of the most

fundamental barriers is the dependence of a document's format on the fonts used to create it.

A document created in a specific font and sent to a user who doesn't have the original font

will lose most, if not all, of the original document formatting."

There are two different pedigrees for fonts: those from Adobe's Type Manager andthose from

Microsoft called True Type. "We reduce this risk by using standardized fonts (TrueType from

Microsoft) in documents that we anticipate sending between Macs and PCs," says Jeffre

Canfield, a consultant with Management Information Systems in Falls Church, Vir. (703 207

5141). Others agree that this strategy of sticking to one vendor's fonts is best. 

Fonts are not the only issue: beware of software that makes use of sound, video (such as

QuickTime movies) or other non-textual stuff. Getting these items to translate can be torture.

Another problem has to do with version of software that you are running on both platforms:

you should keep up with the latest software from your vendor to ensure that file formats are

as compatible as possible. For example, use the Windows and Mac version 4.0 of Pagemaker.

"I still get some funny characters that show up in Microsoft Word documents when I move

them from the Mac to the PC, but I've gotten so used to cutting them out that I never even

tried to find the cause. We've had better luck with Excel, as long as we've had all the same

fonts," says Rich Bader, president of his own consulting firm in Beaverton, Ore. (Rich Bader

& Associates, 503625 3460.

A final issue has to do with with the name of the file itself. DOS is more rigidin its file

naming conventions: you've got a total of 11 characters to call any of its files: THEFILE.TXT

is an example of a typical format. The Macintosh allows 31 character names that can include

spaces and upper and lower case characters. So if you save files from the Mac that you want

your PC brethren to be able to read, make sure to stick to the DOS format of eight characters,

a dot, and then three characters.

If you are really trying to keep things the same between the two platforms you might also

want to purchase the same monitors as well: several brands of what iscalled multisync

monitors are available, but the best ones are those sold by NECTechnologies, Inc. (Wood

Dale, IL 708-860-9500). The monitors come ready to be connected to a PC's VGA video port.

And, with the addition of a small $5 connector sold by NEC,you can also connect them to

your Mac's video port as well. 

Moving data by network

But if you need more than just moving floppies around and already have some portion of

your corporation cabled together, then a network may be more appropriate. There are two

basic strategies for networking Macs and PCs: creating peer-to-peer networks that don't

require the use of a central server, and those that do. 

While peer-to-peer networks are cheaper, those that have both Macs and PCs as clients and

servers are problematical.  Coactive, mentioned earlier, connects both together but does not

support Ethernet connections or more than 31 computers.

In the meantime, you can decide which method works best for you: 

-- PC as server, Mac as client.  For this situation, use a software product fromMiramar

Systems Inc. called Personal MacLAN Connect ($495 to $695, Santa Barbara, Calif.

805-966-2432).  It turns your Windows PC into an AppleShare-equivalent server, so that Mac

users can access files stored on the connected PCs.  However, PCs can't access files on the

Macs. [CHECK]

--PC as client, Mac as server. For this situation, you'll have to purchase Farallon's Timbuktu

for Windows ($199) product, which works the other way.  Timbuktu contains a AppleTalk

network adapter for PCs and software that allows aPC to connect to any Mac server and share

its files with Macintoshes connected via LocalTalk connectors, which Farallon also sells.

"Timbuktu does what it says it will do rather well, even over LocalTalk cabling," says Rich


If you have more than ten machines total, you might want to consider a central-server based

network, and we recommend Novell's NetWare. NetWare's file server runs on PCs only, but

you can hook up both PCs and Macs as clients. The file server is an extra expense and hassle

though when compared to the peer networks, which leverage existing client machines.

NetWare's Mac clients don't require any additional software on the Mac to share files on

NetWare servers, and the PC software is included as part of the price tag when you buy the

server software. You will require an added server-based software called NetWare for

Macintosh ($495 for five users) for versions of NetWare before 4.01 (a five-user version of

4.01 that supports both PC and Mac clients costs $1395).  NetWare automatically converts

longer Macintosh file names into the eight-dot-three name format that DOS is comfortable

with, so that both types of users can store their files comfortably on the server.

A central server also makes other applications possible, such as electronic mailor sharing

modems for communications. Novell has products for both Macs and PCs for both kinds of

applications, and there are a wide variety of other products available as well.

Sharing Printers 

If you are considering a NetWare network, it is relatively easy to set it up to share printers

between the two platforms, provided they are able to talk Postscript. You connect the printer

either to a PC's parallel port or to the network directly, and with the right series of software

commands both Mac and PC applications can send print jobs easily.

If you don't have NetWare, there are several other solutions. The best bet is tobuy a printer

that supports Postscript and that can receive print jobs on two ports: a parallel port for PCs

and an AppleTalk port for Macs. Various models are sold by Hewlett Packard Co. of Palo

Alto, Calif. (415-857-1501) and other companies. These printers can figure out what kind of

print job is being sent to them, and switchaccordingly, so that you don't end up with a pile of

paper with useless characters printed on it.  Make sure you get at least four megabytes of

memory to handle complicated print jobs, and that your printer can be located convienently

near both Macs andPCs that are going to be connected to it. Also make sure that both ports

can be connected and active concurrently: some of the older printers had lots of ports but

couldn't switch on the fly among them without a cumbersome setup procedure.

If your printer doesn't have autoswitch and multiple port features, you can purchase an add-on

box that does: Extended Systems Inc.'s BridgePort ($495 to $595, depending on options,

Boise Idaho, 208-322-7575) is one example of this kind of product.

Running Applications Across Platforms

One final consideration has to do with the kinds of applications you intend to use and

whether they will span across platforms. If you can make do with using existing packaged

applications, and these applications are available for both Macs and PCs, then you are

finished with your decisions and should have things easy. But what aboutthe situation where

you need to run applications that aren't available on both platforms, such as Intel's PC fax

products or Borland's Quattro spreadsheets andParadox databases? You can follow one or

more of three separate strategies to get over this hurdle: translate, emulate, or electronically

publish a document. All three involve some sort of compromise.

The first strategy is to translate the file format into something usable. The best product for the

Mac is DataViz's MacLinkPlus ($169, Trumbull, CT; 203-268-0030). This has hundreds of

translators to convert data files from say, Word Perfect on the PC to Word on the Mac. The

software also include's Dayna's DOS Mounter as part of the package. "This software usually

does a better job than the built-in file conversion features found in many applications such as

Microsoft Word and Word Perfect," says Leo Spiegel. 

For the PC, the best products are Mastersoft's Word for Word, Keyword, or Inset System's

HiJaak. However, the more complex the translation, the more likely you will loose some

information.  "Fonts, formats, tables and graphics are all problems here, regardless of the

means of translating," says Mike Drickey.

You may not need a separate translation product for many spreadsheets and databases, which

typically have better-defined file formats than word processorsand graphics programs.

"Virtually all the products we use follow the defacto standards of xBase (dBase-compatible

files) or are compatible with 1-2-3 files," says Mike Drickey.

A second strategy is to run an emulator, so that PC programs can work inside your

Macintosh. Insignia Solutions Inc.'s SoftPC ($499) is one example of this type of product.

You run software on your Mac which creates a DOS window on the desktop. Almost any PC

software can then run inside this window, and you can even cut and paste objects between the

DOS and Mac applications. You can also print from those DOS applications that support

Postscript printers directly to the Macintosh-attachedprinters, and use the Mac's mouse inside

the DOS window. 

"SoftPC is so slow that it is suitable only for the most occasional user," says Leo Spiegel.

Plus if you want to run Windows, you'll need a Quadra or Centris with the faster 68040


Finally, you might want to use one of the new technologies that separate document creation

from the platform itself, and allow you to electronically distribute images. Basically, what

these products do is capture the image that is sent to a printer, and allow you to view (but not

modify) that image on the other platform without the need to have software that created the

original file.

Three products are available that can move documents between Macs and Windows-capable

PCs: Adobe's Acrobat (prices begin at $195, Mountain View, Calif., 800 833-6687), Farallon's

Replica ($99), and Common Ground from No HandsSoftware ($190, Belmont, Calif., 415

802-5800). The three companies sell two components to their products: a creator application

that captures and distributes the file, and a viewer application that allows anyone to see the

file but not make any changes. 

There are some differences: Adobe's reader must be purchsed separately ($50), Replica's

readers are free, and Common Ground ships a viewer with limited functionality (printing and

reading the document, but not searching) for free.  Adobe is shipping both the Mac and

Windows pieces, and has promised DOS and Solaris versions later thisyear. And single

platforms are currently available for the other vendors: the Mac version of Common Ground

and the Windows version of Replica. Their companionproducts will be available by year-end. 

All three technologies are relatively new and limited by the resolution and sizeof your

monitor screen: "People who want to be able to read documents with at least two-thirds of the

page visible at one time will have to buy 17 inch [monitor] screens." says David Coursey, in

his August edition of industry newsletter PC Letter (415 312 0683, San Mateo, Calif.)

BIO:  David Strom is a columnist for Infoworld and is president of his own Port Washington,

NY-based consulting firm.

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David Strom David Strom Port Washington, NY 11050 USA US TEL: 1 (516) 944-3407