Mac OS 8.5 a7c3 (Code Name: Allegro)
Company: Apple Computer, Inc.
Estimated Release: Fall, 1998
Note/Disclaimer: This “preview” was based on alpha software, software which is still in early, pre-beta development. Please be aware that various features of the system are subject to change in the final release. At the time this “preview” was written, a7c3 was the latest seeded build. Any alpha or beta builds released after this “preview” was written are not covered. My Mac Magazine was presented the opportunity to explore this build of Mac OS 8.5 by an Apple beta tester (who wishes to remain anonymous).
I will start off this “preview” by saying that I haven’t been so excited about the Mac since Apple released Mac OS 8.0 last year. Let’s face it: Eight was great. Apple delivered, and in dramatic fashion. However, while Mac OS 8.0 was weak in some areas, Mac OS 8.5 polishes up those lacking areas, fills in the gaps, and brings with it some much needed enhancements.
The Smarter Installer
Unlike its predecessors, Mac OS Install versions 1.0, 1.1, and 1.1.1, which served Mac OS 7.6, 8.0, and 8.1, respectively, the Mac OS 8.5 installer, Mac OS Install 1.2, does not launch the old Apple installer to do the installing. Instead, it’s fully integrated, installing all components of an installation from one window, without launching the Apple Installer. The time remaining for an installation is displayed below a progress bar, which, oddly enough, still uses the old 7.x flat appearance (See screenshot “Installing with Mac OS Install 1.2”).
If you choose to do a customized installation, you can pick which components you want installed and can select the installation mode: “Recommended Installation”; “Customized Installation”; or “Customized Removal”. You can also choose whether or not you want the Apple Hard Disk drivers updated (always recommended) and if you want an installation report created.
After Disk First Aid automatically checks your disk, the new installer takes on an “Adobe Installer” feel, displaying eight rotating pictures of the eight advantages of Mac OS 8, first introduced to the Macintosh community last summer with the release of Mac OS 8.0. These pictures rotate until the core system software is installed, at which time the other components are installed using the same window that was used when the core system software was installed.
A Twist on Appearance
The appearance control panel has been greatly revised since its first incarnation in Mac OS 8.0. It now features the “tabs” format, which has become widely-used by Apple in this latest update, making debuts not only in the Appearance Control Panel, but also in the Internet and File Exchange Control Panels, as well as in the new Find 2.0 application (See following section: “Find 2.0”).
The Appearance Control Panel features six “tabs”: “Themes”; “Appearance”; “Fonts”; “Desktop”; “Sound”; and “Options”. The latter five “tabs” and their features all combine to make a “theme,” which is basically a group of settings that changes the overall look and feel of your computer. Apple includes a bunch of themes, and you can easily custom configure your own and save it. Once saved, your theme is displayed under the “Themes” tab with all the others. Now let’s explore the parts of the Control Panel that actually make up the “theme”.
The “Appearance” tab lets you set the appearance, the highlight color, and the variation (formerly known as the accent color). There are three appearances: The “platinum” appearance, the “hi tech” appearance, and the “gizmo” appearance (better known as the “kids” appearance). The “Fonts” tab lets you set your large and small System Fonts, as well as your Views font (which was previously located in the Finder Preferences). You can also “smooth all fonts on the screen,” which turns on anti-aliasing and essentially does the same thing that Greg Landweber’s SmoothType extension does now.
The “Desktop” tab is basically the old Desktop pictures Control Panel integrated into the Appearance Control Panel, while the “Sound” tab lets you enable one of the coolest features of Mac OS 8.5: action-sensitive System Sounds. There is a set of sounds for each of the three appearances, and the sound effects are played for actions such as opening windows, dragging icons, and even using the WindowShade box! And even better, these sounds are in stereo, so if you’re scrolling on the right side of the screen, the sound comes out of your right speaker, and vice-versa. Of course, you must have stereo speakers for this effect. (The contents of the “Options” tab are covered in the section “Finder Window Enhancements”)
The new Find application includes a feature that Macintosh users have been drooling over since we first saw screenshots of it in 1996: The AIAT (Apple Information Access Toolkit, formerly known as V-Twin) Find-by-Content feature. However, Find 2.0 not only lets you find-by-content, but also lets you search the Internet directly from the Find application (provided that you have a live Internet connection at the time).
There are three “tabs” in the main Find window: “Find File” is exactly what the old Find file was, retaining all the basic Find features; “Find by Content” will search the contents of documents for a specific word or phrase. However, in order to find-by-content, you have to create an “index” of your disk, which can be a lengthy process (anywhere between 10 minutes to 4 hours). Fortunately, there is a built-in scheduler for indexing, so you can set your computer to index your hard disks when you are away from the computer. However, if you want to be working while the Find application is indexing your hard disk, you can always set the system to be “more responsive while indexing” in the Find 2.0 preferences.
The last “tab” in the new Find application is “Search Internet.” In this tab, you can select one or more different Internet search engines. Then, simply by typing in a word or phrase, it will automatically search all these search engines and display them in a Macintosh-friendly list view window. This is the true definition of “the Internet at your fingertips”! All the good search engines are included, such as Alta Vista, Lycos, and InfoSeek. You can even search Apple’s Tech Info Library (more commonly referred to as TIL). Never again will you have to use a browser to search the Internet!
Finder Window Enhancements
One of the most requested features after the arrival of Mac OS 8.0 were global views for icons, buttons, and lists. Apple has delivered, with a solution called “Standard views.” You can configure a set of Standard views (in Finder Preferences) for icons, buttons, and lists, and every time you go into a View options dialog box, you can select “Set to Standard views” and the window will automatically be configured with your set of standard views. In previous alphas, you could set every window on your hard drive to Standard views automatically, but this was removed for some odd reason. Whether it will return is not known, but with the system inching closer to beta status every day (the first beta build should be out by the time you read this), it is unlikely that this will be reincarnated in Mac OS 8.5.
Another Finder enhancement that was long overdue was customizable list views. Now, you can resize all the columns in a list view and rearrange what order you want the columns in. And you can always “reset column positions” back to the Mac OS default.
Also new to Finder windows are the mini-icons next to the name of the folder open. By clicking and holding down the mouse over this mini-icon, you can move the folder to any location without closing the window and selecting the original icon of the folder. Other Finder enhancements include double scroll arrows available at both ends or in the bottom right corner of each window, and proportional scroll bars, which are proportional to the content left to be scrolled in the window. All these settings can be enabled under the “Options” tab of the Appearance Control Panel.
Help, HTML style
Activated under the “Help” menu, the new “Help Center” is HTML based, using the Apple Help Viewer 1.0. Whether or not the old “Mac OS Help” using the Apple Guide will stay is not clear in this build, as all the old Apple Guide files are still included.
A new “Question Mark” icon graces all the control panels where the old, familiar “light bulb” icon is now. Pressing this will bring up the Apple Help Viewer, and will do a search for that Control Panel’s topic automatically and almost instantaneously. Searching in the new Help System is very fast, courtesy of the V-Twin search engine, and it uses asterisks (*) to list how relevant the search results are: five being the most relevant, one being the least.
The new Help System is a step in the right direction because it’s so easily expandable. Hopefully more developers will adopt and integrate Apple’s new Help System into their programs.
Control Panels, new and old
Many existing Control Panels have been greatly enhanced, featuring new icons and interfaces. I will list some of the more prominent ones and their respective changes here.
Many other miscalleaneous improvements have been made to the Finder and other areas of the Mac OS in this upgrade.
I’m sure that you are just dying to see more screen shots of Mac OS 8.5, right? That’s why we have many more at our website! The URL for the screen shots is http://www.mymac.com/exclusives/macos_85. All screenshots at our web site are full-size on a 800×600 pixel display.
Mac OS 8.0 was great, but Mac OS 8.5 is magnificent. It has features that have long awaited introduction into the Mac OS. The appearance, and more importantly, the functionality of the user interface has been vastly improved. Installing is now easier, Control Panels have been reworked, searching is now more user-friendly. This “preview” can only begin to describe the depth and thought that has been put into this upgrade.
Mac OS 8.5 will be a success; whether or not it will be a bigger success than Mac OS 8.0 has yet to be seen. One thing’s for sure, though: we have been blessed with an operating system that is truly the definition of personal computing, a definition that our Wintel counterparts will never know, a definition that Mac OS 8.5 will only improve on. Congratulations to everyone at Apple, you guys have done it right. Again.