Conversions Plus 6.0 Review
By Fred E. Kagel, Dir. Freehold Computer Training Ctr

While many utility programs have long faded, as Microsoft has incorporated them into the Windows operating system, Conversions Plus (CVP) is one utility that remains a must for file conversion between the Macintosh and PC platforms. I have been using Conversions Plus for many years and this is my third review of the program. The program is basically the same as it has been since my last review of version 4.6, but it just does more, is easier to use, and looks a lot better.

Look at file types in any program under File | Save As | Save As Type, and you will see an ever growing list. There are new programs, new versions of old programs, new file formats, and on and on. When you install a suite such as Microsoft Office, you get some text and graphic converters/filters. In fact, Microsoft Word has three Mac converters for Mac versions of Word and one converter for the Mac PICT graphics format. So why would you need Conversions Plus?

First of all, there are over 60 file formats on the PC and Macintosh which are supported by CVPó from the ancients like Multimate to the contemporaries like Word 2000, Lotus Millenium, and Wordperfect 9.0. Secondly, suppose you the need to convert 100 files from one format to another. You wouldnít want to do a Save As 100 times, now would you? With CVP, you can convert them all at once in batch mode.

The user interface of CVP is an Explorer-like window which has been greatly improved. To convert 100 files as above, simply select the files you wish to convert, click on the Convert button, select the desired conversion format and destination folder, and away you go. I noticed an Encapsulated Postscript converter with TIFF or PICT preview as a new conversion option. That should be great for Desktop publishing people.

A new feature called Name Doctor has been added in the Explorer menu. Name Doctor analyzes and cleans up file names and/or extensions. This is primarily for Macintosh files, for as we all know, Macs do weird stuff.

The program embeds itself unobtrusively into Windows. A right-click of any file brings up the Windows short-cut menu and CVP is one of the immediate options. Double-click on any funny file extension and CVP will provide some quick file format clues if it canít handle the format itself, and then it will pass you on to the Open With menu of Windows.

Clearly, differences between PC and Mac disk formats present problems, but CVPís MacOpener handles mix platforms seamlessly. One of my students opened PhotoShop files from a Mac formatted Zip disk without a hitch. CVP also supports Mac 1.44 MB floppies, CD-ROMs, and, the now defunct, SyQuest cartridges. You can even format removable Mac media on a PC. I did not see any support for the SuperDisk, but then again, I donít see the SuperDisk on the PC side, so why bother.

Conversions Plus also has a Quick File Viewer and Attachment wizard. These tools can be integrated with Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, or Microsoft Exchange Mail. The attachment wizard will also allow you to view a file which has "garbage" e-mail text, such as uuencoded, MIME, or Binhex. You may have seen these, the ones with the unreadable text characters. I would be very cautious here, because Iíve learned the hard way that previewing e-mail is really the same as opening it ó but that is another topic.

CVP has its own archiving program. In my review of the program back in 1999, I strongly resisted changing over from WinZip. However, a couple of features in CVPís DropZip grabbed my attention: 1) You can zip and e-mail at the same time with a single click of the mouse, 2) The program gives you the option to zip the original file if you inadvertently try to zip just the short-cut link, and 3) You can compress using Stuffit for Mac heads. I thought these were pretty neat features, the first two of which probably exist elsewhere, but I may be a version or two behind in my WinZip.

The program takes up 20 MB of disk space and worked without a problem in Windows ME. The only criticism is that retrieving "garbage" text from e-mail is still a real kludge and I would only use this feature of CVP as a last resort. As for my wish list, I would have like to have had a pop-up conversion for the various fax formats out there. And finally, missing from the program is the graphic file converter for the ART format, made increasingly popular by AOL. I highly recommend this program for PC/Mac work. Price on www.pricewatch.com is around $75.

© 2001 by Fred Kagel, Dir. Freehold Computer Training. All rights reserved. Permission granted to republish in non-profit publications provided this notice appears in its entirety. Contact fkagel@freeholdcomputer.com.


Conversions Plus v4.6 Review
by Fred Kagel, Dir. Freehold Computer Training

Conversions Plus by DataViz has the motto "To convert and use files, no matter where they come from. Instantly." To wit, that is exactly what the program does. The program is actually a series of utilities. The first of these is an improved version of a file format converter, which I similarly reviewed several years ago. The interface has been snazzied up. The right mouse short-cut menu has been implemented with options to get information on a file, to view a file, to convert a file, or to launch a file. The viewer also lets you print files even if you don’t have the program that created the file.

Over sixty different file formats for the both the PC and Macintosh are supported and the conversion goes both ways. Word and Excel, short of Office 2000, are fully supported cross platforms. So wouldn’t you know it, I had to pick one that wasn’t supported — a Macintosh file created with Claris Works 5.0 on my Dad’s iMac. The Conversions Plus program told me that the file type was unsupported for conversion, but identified the type and asked if I wanted information on how to use the file. Not surprisingly, I had several choices: 1) Tell Dad to save the file as version 4.0 of Claris Works or to save it as another file type common to the PC, 2) Go ahead and read it in notepad or a wordprocessor as text, better known as the workaround method, or 3) Wait for the company to update a translator for that file type. A quick check of the website at www.dataviz.com did not reveal any upgrades or additional translators. However, an e-mail response came the next day informing me that version 5.0 of Claris Works "will be added to our translator library on our next release which may be sometime near the end of the summer, possibly the end of the year." The e-mail also confirmed choice #1 above.

All other conversions I tried worked flawlessly. A plus (pun intended) is the improved ability to convert files in batch mode. Also, the built-in file viewer works with wordprocessors, spreadsheets, some databases, and standard graphics files. I say, standard, meaning that it works with the likes of JPG, GIF, EPS, PICT, PCX, TIFF, BMP, and WMF. Conversions Plus does not work with fax file formats. The program is a lot easier to use than it used to be.

The second utility of Conversions Plus is the ability to open "garbage" e-mail: uuencoded, MIME, Binhex, etc. First test was an uuencoded attachment from a newsgroup. Conversions Plus recognized it, gave me the info, viewed it, and converted it no matter what the file extension was. In this respect, Conversions Plus has an edge over Winzip, which also converts uuencoded files.

With Winzip version 6.3 (the one I currently use), I have to spoon feed it the proper extension.

I wasn’t so lucky with my second embedded file from the curse of the Internet, AOHell. However, the pop-up help and instructions told me to copy the file to the clipboard and then convert it. I did that, but Conversions Plus didn’t guess that it was an embedded ZIP file and didn’t correctly convert it. Oh well, maybe Conversions Plus wouldn’t forgive me since I did not make it my default compression program. Could have been my fault, too, because I found the clipboard method kludgy. I’ll kludge my own solutions, thank you, but I expect a commercial program to be a click and go — definitely needs to be improved.

The third utility of Conversions Plus was the main attraction for me, the MacOpener. This utility lets you read, write, and format Mac files on floppies (1.44 only) and removable media such as Zip disks. Mac CD-ROMs can also be opened on a PC. All tests worked flawlessly.

As hinted above, Conversions Plus includes yet another compression utility, which I decided not to opt for. While Winzip has been knocked out by the bench mark tests of other compression algorithms, old habits are hard to break.

Installation of the program was straightforward and allowed for custom installation to a drive other than my near capacity C drive. Program loads in under 20 MB of space and doesn’t bloat the Windows\system folder with dlls. The program runs in Win 9x and NT 4.0. Documentation, at which I never had to look, is in Acrobat (PDF) format. A hard copy User’s Guide was adequate.

Conversions Plus is a serious must-have utility for anyone working between Mac and PC platforms and is now established in its own right as a PC-only utility. Average retail price is $100, but I seem to recall seeing it for considerably less than that price.

PROS: Converts and uses files, no matter where they come from. Instantly and in batch mode; clean interface, simple to use.

CONS: Clipboard conversion is kludgy. Given the resurgence of Mr. Jobs & Co., more timely translator updates are in order.

VERDICT: Definitely a buy if you need it — and you WILL.

© 1999 by Fred Kagel, Dir. Freehold Computer Training. All rights reserved. Permission granted to republish in non-profit publications provided this notice appears in its entirety. Contact fkagel@monmouth.com or visit www.freeholdcomputer.com.

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