Apple computers (also known as Macintosh or Macs) and Windows computers (commonly referred to as PCs) have long remained on opposite sides of the fence as far as file compatibility goes. Although these different platforms are still unable to share actual programs, we have come a long way in bridging the gap between the two. Today, many of the files created on Mac are compatible with PCs, and those that aren't can often be converted without spending too much time and energy.
Understanding the Differences
Migrating files from a Mac to a Windows computer is a fairly simple process; being able to access those same files with your Windows software is another matter altogether. Today, more developers are creating documents in formats that can be read by either platform without requiring conversion or translation. These include Microsoft Office, FileMaker Pro and Adobe Creative Suite, among others. File formats such as .pdf, .jpg and .txt are universal, and don't require conversion.
Know What You're Dealing With
However, not every file format is universal on both platforms. While the line that separates Macs and PCs has grown far thinner, file conversion is still not a perfect science. Some files can easily be converted into a format that can be read by Windows software, and some have to be saved into a universal format, and some older applications (mostly small name programs) are simply unable to be converted or saved into any type of file that can be read by Windows software.
Save in a Different Format
Most programs on Macs give you the option to "Save As" or "Export" the file into a different format, and allow you to save the data to a Windows-compatible file. For example, a Mac-only address book software package that has no Windows equivalent can be saved or exported into a .csv or .txt file, and then that data can be imported into a Windows database program, without a loss of data and the fields intact.
Same Software, Different File Formats
Some programs that have versions for both platforms (Quicken, for example) have different file formats for each OS. Unlike some Windows programs that can read files created by the Macintosh version of its software (like Microsoft Word files), Quicken requires that the file be converted into a format that can be read by the Windows version of the software. Likewise, some audio files that are created on the Mac are unable to be read on Windows, but can be saved to a format that it can read.
Finally, a number of utilities are available that can perform the conversion process. Some of these are able to convert Mac-only files (AppleWorks, for example) into Windows-only programs (Microsoft Works). Some of these are free, while others require a shareware fee. The success rate varies tremendously, as some do a good job, while others mar the converted files with junk text and formatting data, and cause you to waste time cleaning up the converted files.
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