SOUNDJAM MP,

Casady & Greene

What: MP3 toolbox. Details: Like its PC brethren, SoundJam plays MP3 files, both downloaded and streamed, with ease and efficiency. SoundJam also converts other sound file-formats, such as .wav, .aiff or QuickTime, and audio CDs into MP3 files for storage in a hard-drive jukebox or transfer to a portable MP3 player. Stored tracks are retrievable by title, artist and eight other categories, ensuring instant aural gratification without the annoyance of digging through piles of misfiled CDs. While playing plain old CDs, SoundJam can also fetch track and title information out of an Internet database, so you can select "7 Chinese Bros." by name instead of trying to remember what track 2 was. The CD-ROM version of the player includes a five-foot patch cord to connect your Mac and stereo for optimum playback; it's a nice touch, but unless you are living in a camper or college dorm your computer is unlikely to be within stereo plug-in range. Don't worry: With SoundJam's onscreen graphic equalizer and presets, even iMac speakers sounded pretty good. Listen for yourself -- the downloadable version comes as a free seven-day demo. But you should also check out the MP3 software listed at http://www. mp3.com and consider that RealNetworks plans a Mac version of its comparable but free RealJukebox. Bottom line: Not the first or the best, but it works on Macs. -- Jennifer Toomey

Power Mac, $50 ($40 for direct download at http://www.

casadyg.com)

MACDRIVE 98, Media 4 Productions

What: Passport for Mac disks in Windows territory. Details: This does for Windows what Apple's File Exchange tool does for Macs, allowing you to forget what kind of disk -- floppy, Zip, CD, whatever -- you're shuffling from one computer to the next. Mac files show up on a PC with (usually) the right icons and can be read and written without a hitch; the program is even clever enough to hide characters in file names that Windows won't allow, such as slashes, without changing the original names. Be aware, however, that this won't translate file formats for you, which gets annoying when even a simple text file gets garbled (Mac and PC text formats differ in a few key ways). And in Win 95, MacDrive's control panel is inoperative without Internet Explorer 4 installed; to grab the updater fixing that bug, Media 4's tech support has to e-mail you a non-public Web address. Bottom line: Necessary for some, but glitches and a relatively high price are grating. -- Rob Pegoraro

Win 95-98/Win NT, $65, http://www.media4.com