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Figure 3: Name that file! -- Have no idea what your PC-using friend just sent you? Not to worry: just drag the mystery file on top of the Dataviz FileView utility included with the commercial version of MacLink Plus. It will tell you what kind of file it is and inform you of recommended translation choices.

The other reason the Dataviz system is worthy of your consideration is the quality of their translations: more than 80 percent of the time, they are faster and more accurate than the translators or filters that come with a particular program... especially Microsoft programs. For example, MacLink Plus is the only system I've encountered that can correctly convert a Word document containing a table (including Word 5 for Mac) to either ClarisWorks or WordPerfect without crashing or freezing.

Time for the real fun to begin

I've skated around it for long enough now. It's time to deal with the middle of the Big 3 Questions: how to encode and decode a file attachment. (You may want to send the kids out of the room during this part.)

This concept involves the method by which the file is actually attached to an e-mail message. If you received a file from a PC or UNIX user, chances are the file has been "incorporated" into the fabric of the e-mail message itself. That's because some Internet gateways cannot deal with anything other than text, resulting in a message that includes the file in what's known as ASCII text. Or as you might have called it without realizing what you were looking at, "garbage text." If you highlight this text in your e-mail client, or save it to the desktop as a SimpleText file and then drag it on top of the right kind of utility, it will immediately turn itself into whatever file it used to be! So the trick is knowing what kind of encoded file it is.