Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 3 NO. 2 / SPECIAL ISSUE #4


Transferring Text Files

By Jim Pierson-Perry

Welcome to our second column on running Macintosh and PC software on the ST. For you newcomers, this is a forum for looking at software that goes beyond what is currently available on the ST and for examining the best ways to integrate the ST with a Mac or PC environment. The programs we discuss run under Data Pacific's Magic Sac (ver. 5.7 or higher) or Avant Garde System's pcditto (ver. 3.0). Our topic this issue is transferring text files among the different computer systems.


To start, why would you want to transfer text files? An obvious reason is to be able to start a report at work on a PC and to continue writing it at home on your ST. Another is to combine reports created on different computers into a single report or newsletter. You can use your ST to transfer files to and from the Mac or PC; thus, the ST makes an excellent intermediary for passing text files between a Mac and PC.

There are four disk formats involved. The ST format can only be read by the ST, but the ST can read MS-DOS format disks. There are two formats for Macintosh files: the original Macintosh format and Magic Sac. Mac format disks can only be read on the ST with Data Pacific's Translator One disk controller. Without it, you are limited to Magic Sac-format disks.

To format and copy disks in the three non-Mac formats, I recommend DC Formatter, a public domain utility by Double Click Software. It's available in color and monochrome versions and has an in-depth help resource that makes the program largely self-explanatory. I have used it for several months and it has performed flawlessly. You can find it on major online services, such as CompuServe and GEnie.


Perhaps the easiest way to transfer a text file from one machine to another is to convert it to straight ASCII text, a more or less universal format between programs and systems. The drawback to using this method, however, is that you will lose any style and text formatting commands that you added when creating the file. Unless the word processing program you are using has a sister on the "target" system, however you may be limited to ASCII text transfer.

Regardless of the starting computer, the first step in transferring a text file is to save it in ASCII format, often called "text only." Virtually all word processors allow you to save files this way, either with a "Save as ASCII" command or by printing the file to disk. Some programs will offer you the choice of whether or not to use line breaks. In typical word processor mode, text is wrapped around the end of each line as you enter it. Saving a file with line breaks puts these "carriage returns" at the end of each display line by inserting a series of line feeds. If you intend to import the text file into another program, you do not want these extra characters. If you cannot avoid using linefeeds, there are several public domain programs that will "strip" them out of your file

If you are a PC or pc-ditto user you can also use the DOS Copy command to type text directly from the keyboard into a file without a word processor. Enter the command COPY CON d:xxxxxx at the DOS prompt, where d:xxxxxx is the drive and text filename to be created, and press Return (or Enter on a PC). From that point on, everything you type will go into the text file. Press F6 and then press Return to exit and save the new file on an MS-DOS formatted disk.


For transfers to and from the Macintosh, I prefer the Mover program, included with the Magic Sac. It can read and distinguish between Magic and Mac formats (when used with Translator One) while the other popular file translator, Transverter, can only recognize the Magic format. Going from ST to PC simply requires copying the file onto a boot MS-DOS disk, formatted using either DOS or DC Formatter. In this way you can move files from a Mac to a PC compatible disk using only your ST--and the entire transfer time is under five minutes!

For those of you with a Mac, you can use the Apple File Exchange Utility to convert Mac and MS-DOS file formats directly within the Mac environment. This would be especially useful if you download a PC text file via a modem.

Now that Microsoft Write is available for the ST, you can transfer files between it and Microsoft Word version 3 on the Mac--as long as you stay within the capabilities of Write that are common to both programs. Word is a highly evolved descendent of Write and has capabilities beyond the ST version.

Write files on the ST are stored in Word version 1 format, a simpler format than that used by the Mac's Word version 3. This means you can transfer files directly from Write to Word and preserve its formatting, although the fonts will change due to the different font packages used by the programs.

Transferring files in the other direction, from Word version 3 to Write, is not quite as clean. Text styles (such as italics and underlining) and formatting (such as paragraph justification) exist in both programs and transfer correctly. However, carriage returns are not carried over; your text will run together and you must add them manually. Any characters or formatting in the Word file without counterparts in Write are fair game for translation errors. Examples of these are double underlining, borders and characters from the Word symbol font. Again, fonts will change due to the different font packages used by the programs.

For the actual transfer and conversion, I use Write under GEMDOS and Word version 3 under Magic Sac and Magic-formatted disks. Going from Write to Word, I use Transverter version 3.10 and the "Keep line feed characters" option. (My copy of Mover version 1.3 did not work properly in the ST to Magic mode.) When the file is opened by Word, it is recognized as a Word version 1 format and imported with appropriate internal conversion.

If you're transferring from Word to Write, first make sure the file is saved using Word version 1 formatting (available through the SAVE AS command in the FULL MENU mode of Word version 3). I used the Mover version 1.3 program to do the actual transfer and translated carriage returns in the Word file to carriage return plus line feed for use with Write. Trying to use the Transverter program for this conversion resulted in a loss of all formatting information and sporadic memory errors when Write tried to read the converted file.


WordPerfect Versions 4.1 for the ST and IBM use an identical file format, so that text files created on one machine are directly transferable to the other. Macros are not yet transferable, but WordPerfect Corp. is working on a way to do this. IBM WordPerfect version 4.2 will read version 4.1 files transparently. But if you are transferring version 4.2 files to the ST for use in version 4.1, use the "Save as Version 4.1" option on the PC to make your files fully portable. Unfortunately, the Mac version of WordPerfect uses a custom file format. Although it has an option to let you save files in version 4.2 format, the ST version can't read them. (The only way to get the files to the ST would be to save them as 4.2 files, load them into PC WordPerfect version 4.2, save them in 4.1 format and then transfer them to the ST.) Transferring files from the ST to the Mac should work fine, but WordPerfect Corp. hadn't tested this as of press time, so they're not 100% sure it will work.

Once you become familiar with the ease of transferring files among systems, you can start to take advantage of Mac and PC programs that offer capabilities far above what is currently available on the ST. I can now write raw text on my ST, port it to a Mac for its special printing effects, styling and fonts, then combine it with graphics and print it on an Apple Laser Writer!

Who says different computers have to be incompatible?

Jim Pierson-Perry is a research chemist and semi-professional musician, living in Maryland. He is a frequent contributor to START, and recently won the 1988 "Contributor of the Year" award from Antic Magazine.


Magic Sac 5.91, $149.95; Translator One, $279.95. Data Pacific Inc., 609 West Speer Blvd., Denver, CO 80203, (303) 733-8158.

pc-ditto, $89.95. Avant Garde Systems, 381 Pablo Point Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32225, (904) 221-2904.

Microsoft Write, $129.95. Atari Corporation, 1196 Borregas Ave, P.O. Box 3427, Sunnyvale, CA 94088, (408) 745-2000.

WordPerfect 4.1 for the ST, $395. WordPerfect Corporation, 288 West Center Street, Orem, UT 84057, (801) 225-5000.