Q: I have a Mac G3 running Excel and have to import files created in Excel on a Windows machine. It gives me nothing but headaches.

A: When typesetting equipment made the transition from wood to hot metal type, printers started to call the variations in type "fountains of lead"--fonts, for short.

Today's personal computers run application programs, such as the spreadsheet Excel, that use similarly named fonts. You may have a Mac G3 running Excel and using an Arial font and a Windows machine running Excel and using an Arial font. But although the fonts carry the same name, they are not identical.

The Macintosh evolved embracing the four horsemen of typography: font, measure, leading and size. Graphics professionals feel that Windows machines are a pica late and a point short of this demanding art form. Regardless of who's right, the net result for you is that the fonts don't match, complicating file exchanges.

The solution: Step backward. Have the Windows people export the data as a plain text file. That way, none of the information about fonts will be conveyed. When you import it on your Mac G3, get a little utility program called "Text Soap" (which you can find at www.unmarked.com for $15) to get rid of all the extraneous tabs that seem to pop up at the end of documents in Windows Excel.

Q: I have occasional problems surfing with Netscape, but not with Internet Explorer.

A: It sounds as if you may have surfed over to a Web site that was coded to work with ActiveX controls and your browser did not support them.

In the early days of Web surfing, Web designers would put in a few lines of hypertext markup language (HTML) and everyone was happy that it worked at all.

Competition forced Webmeisters to add more lively elements. One programming innovation from Microsoft is a group of software controls called ActiveX. If you allow an ActiveX control to run on your Windows computer, it has all the same rights and privilege as any other program.

The newer versions of Internet Explorer come bundled with ActiveX capability. In fact, the default setting on Internet Explorer is to allow ActiveX controls to run. With Netscape, you will have to install a "plug-in" to enable ActiveX. These can be downloaded from the Web.

Q: I have 600 e-mail names stored in Fox Pro, and I want to import them into Outlook 98.

A: With a database program such as FoxPro, you can save a file containing the data in several different ways. One well-known way is with comma-separated text, which you save to a ".csv" file.

As a general rule, a ".csv" file can be imported into many different programs, including Microsoft's e-mail package, called Outlook. As with all general rules, however, the specifics drive you crazy. With Outlook, you need to know the version of the software you're working with.

Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer, is available in several versions. It works hand in hand with Outlook, which is also available in different versions, usually differentiated by year of release. What is hard to believe is that each version allows you to import different kinds of files. To wit, Outlook 97 allows importation of ".csv" files; Outlook 98 does not. To put icing on the cake, Outlook 2000 allows ".csv" to be imported.

If you have Outlook Express 98 and want to import ".csv" files, you will have to first import a small (237-kilobyte) piece of code called an "importer field mapping patch." Point your browser to officeupdate.microsoft.com. When you see "downloads," select "Outlook 98" and grab the patch.

John Gilroy of Item Inc. is heard on WAMU-FM radio's "The Computer Guys" at 1 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. Send your questions to him in care of The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or via e-mail at jgilroy@iteminc.com.