Tired of downloading unsupported file formats from the Web? Try pulling everything together with Verity's KeyView Pro.

I don't know how many times I have downloaded a product-demonstration movie, screen shot or white paper, only to find that I can't do anything with it. All too often my browsers choke on files with extensions such as PNG, leaving me with unusable chunks of stored data and wasting my time. Even some formats I could normally read, such as TIFF, might have come from an Apple Macintosh and refuse to show up on my PC.

KeyView Pro 6.0 lets me view about 200 file formats. The program will run in stand-alone mode to examine files already downloaded to the hard drive, or as a companion to a Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator browser. It replaces Microsoft Quick View functions and is a lot more versatile.

I have seen a slew of viewer programs for looking at various file formats, but most stop right there. KeyView Pro also converts the files into usable formats. If you need to work in a PNG graphics file, have KeyView turn it into, say, a JPG for your graphics program.

The conversion utility worked quite well. I took a single image and converted it to 15 different formats. KeyView, or another program that natively supported the file type I created, could open it every time. Image quality did not degrade.

Word-processing files were no trouble, either, so why bother keeping a bunch of bulky office suites on your hard drive just to read co-workers' documents? KeyView Pro's file conversion was in fact a bit more reliable than that of the various word processors, and it almost never garbled any characters inside documents.

I tested the utility with Mac and Unix files, which it could display and convert to PC formats. My troubles with Mac TIFF files are now a thing of the past.

The program was a bit sketchier at handling multimedia files. AVI, MIDI and QuickTime displayed properly, but the KeyView controls were not as good as those of the native viewers. I found a few multimedia files that KeyView could not open. More disturbingly, whenever I tried to run an MOV file, KeyView said it could handle it but merely displayed a blank white screen. The sound on the MOV file could be heard, but no video showed.

Other features of the program were less perfect than the viewing engine. For example, KeyView Pro could both compress and encrypt, but it sometimes tried to compress graphics files that were already compressed, leading to an extra layer of complexity that did not decrease file size but made it larger.

Taken as a complete package, KeyView Pro can fill in a lot of holes and relieve you of the need for multiple viewer programs. The road might still have a few potholes, however.

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KeyView Pro 6.0

Verity Inc.

Sunnyvale, Calif.

Grade: B

Phone number: 408-541-1500

Web address: www.keyview.com

Price: $59

Purpose: Viewer for multiple file formats

Pros:

+ Can view most file types and convert alien formats to usable ones

+ Works with new and old

operating systems

Cons:

-- Can't handle every file you might encounter

Real-life requirements: Any version of Windows, 3.0 or higher; 386 or faster processor; 5MB free storage