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Using AccessPC

I tested AccessPC with a Kennect Drive 2.4 and Rapport as well as an Apple SuperDrive. Besides those two drives, AccessPC supports an external SuperDrive, the Kennect Drive 360 and Drive 1200, the 3.5" and 5.25" external DaynaFile drives, the PLI TurboFloppy 1.4, and the Outbound Portable with the FDHD-compatible drive. In addition, a Mac equipped with Rapport can read, but not write DOS disks in an internal 800K drive, and AccessPC does work with this combination as well. It does not work with non-floppy drives such as the Iomega Bernoulli series or any of the SyQuest removable cartridge hard drives. Can’t have everything yet.

The controls for AccessPC are located in the Control Panel, reasonably enough. The AccessPC controls have three basic components. The first section, at the top of the Control Panel window, contains a scrolling list (at least it scrolls if it needs to) of the DOS file extensions and their associated Macintosh mappings. For those who don’t use DOS much, the extension is the three letters that follow the period after the eight character file name. So in the file MYFILE.DOC, MYFILE is the file name and DOC is the extension. Not all DOS files have extensions, but it’s good practice to use them and some programs assign them automatically. AccessPC allows you two ways of assigning a Macintosh mapping to any given DOS extension. If you are a power user (or wish to be), you can unlock the text input boxes for creator and type and type the correct four letter codes in yourself. Normal people will just click the "Mac App…" button, select the right application, and then select the correct document type from the pop-up list of possible document types. The process is extremely painless and well-done.

The second set of controls are merely two check boxes, one labeled "Save Mac Info to Disk," and the other labeled "Format Support." The first option is extremely useful because it allows you to either save Macintosh information on the DOS disk or not, depending on what’s most appropriate. For instance, if you have to work on a locked or copy protected disk, you obviously don’t want to save the Mac information on that disk. However, if you have a normal DOS disk and want your files to retain their icons and positions in the windows and all that jazz, then you have to save the Mac information on that disk. There are two other side effects to not saving the Macintosh information to the disk. First, resource forks aren’t copied, so even data files that have resource forks will lose them. Applications are completely crippled. Second, the file names are changed to become legal DOS file names, which can make them pretty unreadable. Of course, normal DOS file names are often unreadable even when people assign the names, so we can’t censure AccessPC on that account. If you don’t want to prevent all Mac information from being written to the disk, you can hold the Option key when you click on the check box, at which point AccessPC will present you with the choices broken down. You have the option of selecting or not selecting each of three check boxes, the first called "Finder information," the second called "Resource forks," and the last called "Desktop file." If you want to save the icon colors and locations as well as the Macintosh file names, check the first box. If you want to save the Mac resource forks, check the second box. And if you want to save the icons related to each file, check the final box. Needless to say, checking all three is the same as check the "Save Mac Info to Disk" button on the main Control Panel screen. The Macintosh info features can be toggled at any time and take effect as soon as you mount a new disk.

Insignia provided the "Format Support" button because some drives, most notably those from Kennect, already have the ability to format MS-DOS disks. If you allow AccessPC to format disks on one of these drives, you merely get an initial dialog box from AccessPC asking whether you want Mac or MS-DOS format, and no matter which you click, the Kennect dialog allowing all possible options comes up immediately thereafter. I haven’t tested this carefully, but it seems that formatting a disk with AccessPC’s format support installed is slower than just allowing the Drive 2.4 and Rapport to do it. In any case, if you have the Kennect drives, it’s best to shut off AccessPC’s format support so you don’t have to answer an additional dialog box each time you want to format a disk of any sort. The format support can be toggled at any time but requires a restart for new settings to take effect.

The final set of controls available from the Control Panel allow you to mount the SoftPC hard disk documents as disks on the desktop. If you used SoftPC heavily and wished to keep all your DOS files in the SoftPC hard disk (which I don’t, since SoftPC very nicely allows me to define a Macintosh folder as an E: disk), this could be extremely useful. As it is though, it won’t even let me mount my one SoftPC hard disk as a volume because it has more than two or three fragments. Oh, well, maybe I’ll defragment with Silverlining later and try again. Insignia thoughtfully added this feature, though it’s not a reason to buy AccessPC.

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