TEN for X and NINE for 9
Which Mac OS is Best for YOU?

On May 28, 2002, in Opinion, by John Nemerovski

Last month I asked MyMac.com’s writers why they prefer one Macintosh operating system over another. In my consulting and tutoring, I’m getting a lot of resistance to OS X, and I needed words of wisdom from more experienced X-men and women.

Now, four weeks later, I realize that OS X is not for everyone, but it is well suited to brand new Macintoshers and seasoned “power user” veterans. What follows are comments from MyMac.com staff, and we all welcome your rebuttals and cross-examinations.

John Nemerovski


Jeffrey McPheeters begins with a well-reasoned account:

Assuming the person has not already moved to OS X (some have and shouldn’t have bothered), here’s what I recommend:

Step 0: Don’t pass go, don’t spend $130, UNTIL:

  • you own a *supported* Mac system INCLUDING graphics card/chip (a 300mhz G3 iMac with ATI 128 is way better than the older models)
  • have 384MB of RAM (they say 256, think about doubling that)
  • feel you have the time to learn a new OS that will take 30-40 hours of “flight time” before you begin to feel confident you can take off and land the thing; and probably 100 hours or more before you really start to wonder how you ever got along with OS 9 (assuming that the following steps are evaluated correctly for your situation)Step 1. Check your printer for OS X support, then any other peripherals you use that talk directly to a driver: scanners, external USB or FireWire hard drives. Feel free to ask the folks on Apple’s support discussion boards if you’re not sure, but I’d first check the manufacturer’s web site under support to see if there is any mention of OS X. Take it as a bad sign if there isn’t, but that still doesn’t automatically rule out that the device doesn’t work in OS X. Some devices don’t need drivers for OS X, particularly some memory card readers and hard drives in particular. Printers do need support, either from Apple’s included drivers or from the manufacturer. If you are using a webcam then you’d better check, because support is just now appearing for that segment.Evaluation: If not supported and you need to print, scan, etc. then don’t bother to upgrade. If supported, and probably no problems using OS X to print, scan, etc., or you don’t really need the peripherals, or were going to buy new ones anyway, then…

    Step 2. Clean out your /System Folder/Apple Menu Items/Recent Applications, reset the number of remembered recent applications to 10 or 15, then use the computer normally for 3 days. Load in that list of recent applications. If you find that some of the critical apps are not carbonized or don’t have a comparable tool, which means you’ll be using Classic or re-booting into OS 9 at least daily, then wait.

    Evaluation: For example, Outlook has no OS X version and probably won’t. If you use e-mail A LOT and don’t want to change e-mail clients right now, you’d better proceed carefully. Entourage is the only “upgrade” from Outlook Express as far as Microsoft is concerned. It’s not free, and it doesn’t support (technically) Palm syncing yet (though it will be soon they tell me.) Apple included Mail.app, which is fine for the casual e-mail user, and there are import scripts from Outlook, but I personally think Outlook Express+AppleScript is more powerful than Mail.app. Photoshop? You need to upgrade to 7.0. If you spend 5-6 hours per day with heavy duty PS projects, it’s probably not time yet… New version, bugs to work out, you know the routine.

    However if most of your recent app list looks similar to mine: Quicken, Explorer, iCab, InDesign, GoLive, Freeway, Word, Entourage, Excel, FileMaker Pro, Interarchy, BBEdit, TextSpresso, Graphic Converter, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Acrobat, Acrobat Reader, Font Reserve, URL Manager Pro, Web Confidential, Photoshop…then you may be ready for step 3.

    Step 3: If you spend less than 2 hours per day using a Mac, and if 50% of your time will be using an application(s) that is expensive to upgrade but isn’t technically the tool that earns you your bread and butter, then there’s no real reason to upgrade until you actually are ready to purchase a Mac that comes with OS X pre-installed. If you spend more than 6 hours per day on a Mac, and could conceivably work for days on end without needing to use Classic or boot into OS 9, and you are normally using 3 or more apps at a time, and the cost of upgrading any software to Carbon versions is no big deal, or you were looking for a reason to buy that new 1Ghz DP G4, then you already upgraded so why are you reading this? Oh, you didn’t? Well, don’t wait any longer. The sooner you get started, the better.

    If you are in between, the key to grasp is that OS X is a BIG change from OS 9. The less experienced you are with OS 9, the easier it will be to grasp OS X. If you’ve been using the Mac OS since the earth was cooling, then it’s going to take some getting used to. But here’s some food for thought if indeed that’s your situation (I was there just shortly after it cooled a bit, but early enough to use v6 for a year or more): Mac OS 9 is a long way from the early versions of the Mac OS. You didn’t just learn Mac OS 9. You learned a primitive, underpowered, but elegant OS and gradually adapted to the new features as they came along. I suggest it’s going to be easier learning Mac OS X now, while it’s still in the early stages of feature-enrichment than it will be in a year or two when Apple’s added umpteen new features and tricks just like OS 9, only better (and likely different). I’ve found that by giving up some of the handy shortcuts OS 9 has to offer, I’ve been given the opportunity to learn some new and even more efficient ways of doing things that OS 9 never could have afforded.

    In our family with everyone using their own Mac, I use OS X almost exclusively, the 14 year old uses and prefers it, but still uses OS 9 for some key games and some school work that requires Virtual PC (it’s still faster in OS 9…enough so that it’s easier for him to just boot from OS 9 when he’d doing his school work – and when you’re 14, speed seems all-important). The 11 year old is still using OS 9, would be just as happy in OS X, but there’s no real point until we upgrade his iMac to one of the new ones later this year perhaps. Same story for the 6 year old, although he really likes to sneak into his big brother’s iMac because he’s figured out that QuickTime movies can play in the Finder on OS X and he knows where the movie trailers are kept!

    Final Analysis: based on the software shipping from the major vendors and the amount of shareware titles now shipping, it’s definitely the right time for Apple to be shipping OS X as the default OS. But in reality, only 40-60% of the existing users would find their computing experience enhanced by OS X vs OS 9. That number will gradually increase as the year progresses and by 2003 I expect that 70% of the Mac users will be using OS X as their preferred OS, even if they, like myself, keep an OS 9 machine running. Hey, I’ve still got an LCIII running 7.6 and one of my file server won’t go past 9.1!

    Thing is, after talking with so many Mac users, trying to convince a long time Mac user who’s skeptical about OS X that it IS inherently a more productive platform (disclaimer: again, not more productive for EVERYONE at this time, but potentially…) is not unlike it has often proven trying to convince a Windows Die-Hard that the Mac OS is essentially a more productive platform. They have to take the “leap” and try it long enough before they “get it.” I know I did, and it wasn’t much different than when I migrated from the PC to the Mac in ’89 as far as the disorientation I felt.


    Next, contributing editor and webmaster Adam Karneboge says:

    It is so amazing to me that people are still waiting to switch to OS X. It is so much easier to use, and makes so much more sense than the classic OS. Here is my top 10 list (in no particular order) of why people need to make the switch to OS X.

    1.) Multitasking – Holding down the mouse button, using menus, and *gasp* scrolling no longer brings the entire system to a screeching halt. Not to mention how effortless it is to switch between applications without background apps taking a performance hit.

    2.) Memory – No need to set preferred sizes or increase the memory application by application. I also do not have to worry about opening Photoshop first to prevent memory from getting fragmented.

    3.) Multihoming – This could easily be my favorite feature of Mac OS X. I can switch between Airport, Ethernet, and modem connections all at different locations without ever visiting the TCP/IP settings. It just all happens automatically. Effortless.

    4.) Classic – I have had zero problems using Photoshop, QuarkXPress and Dreamweaver in Classic. (Photoshop 7.0 runs native in X, and it’s great, BTW). In fact, those apps run faster in OS X’s classic environment than they did in Mac OS 9 itself.

    5.) Applications – I can launch several applications simultaneously and still have the system register every click of the mouse. Not to mention the great job developers have done with applications like Suitcase, Entourage, QuicKeys, and Transmit.

    6.) No Extensions, Period.

    7.) Crash Protection. – When’s the last time you restarted your computer(s)? I restarted my desktop G4 over 2 weeks ago, and my PowerBook about 5 days ago. What’s more, I never restart to prevent crashes or because the system is becoming unstable, but rather I am installing some sort of system update.
    Try doing that with OS 9, and having the system be stable enough to prove it. It might croak in the process of moving the mouse!

    8.) The new Finder. – The column view, customizable toolbar, and more make it so much more intuitive.

    9.) Live Dragging and scrolling.

    10.) The Chooser is dead, all hail, the Chooser is dead!

    Of course, there are many more reasons that I could name, but I don’t want to take too much of your time or clutter your inbox too much. Therefore, I will take you to my list of OS 9 benefits:

    1.) You can install Kaliedoscope and customize the look of your system by installing themes that make your computer look like OS X. Oh F*@!, my F****** computer just crashed. F*@!


    Mike Gorman adds:

    I switched to X a few months ago, and it’s the best.

    1) To agree with Adam, I have had absolutely NO problems running Quark, Photoshop, or DreamWeaver 4 in Classic, all the while running other apps in X.

    2) Unbelievable stability. I have found myself downloading an application off the web while messing w/ System preferences all the while having Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and others apps open in both Classic AND X, and I’ve seen no performance slips, and nothing is crashing!

    3) It’s gorgeous and easy to use. Much easier than earlier versions of Mac OS (I do admit I love right-click of Windows, and I use it all the time in X now)

    4) There is an amazing amount of apps built for X now. Just check out versiontracker.com and see for yourself! Also, since Apple gave away the developer tools, there are an unusual amount of people writing drivers and utilities for X now.

    5) Upgrades for the basics are CHEAP. I was able to upgrade StuffIt for $15, I bought Suitcase 10 for $70, and I got the Norton Utilities Suite (includes AntiVirus and a backup app) off of Otherworld computing for $15!

    6) NO MORE EXTENSIONS! YO-YO!

    7) TRUE plug-n-play Printing using my Epson 740i–all I did was plug it in and hit print. No chooser, no searching for drivers, and no configuring the printer at all.

    I am now 80% native, and will never go back! Long live X!


    Dawn Schultz has mix feelings:

    I thought I would add my two cents to this discussion. I have been back with Macs for about 3 or so years, and really didn’t think I was ready for X when it first came out. I upgraded in November of 2001 and it’s been an interesting road so far. I can’t really present too many arguments in favor of OS 9 anymore, but I can definitely provide some pros and cons of using OS X on a daily basis.

    PROS (in no particular order):

  • It’s downright pretty. I love the whole look and feel of it. When I go into Classic I’m reminded of how plain and boring Platinum actually is. It’s nice to work in an aesthetically pleasing desktop environment.
  • X makes much better use of my 312 MB of memory. The speed is absolutely great. I can’t live without it!
  • Fast wakeup from sleep.
  • Multiple users actually works, and works well. This way my mom, sister and I can all have separate working environments. And files don’t get misplaced!
  • Nifty new features in apps that companies have added… my favorite being in AOL Instant Messenger where I can chat but I can keep my away message up. What a luxury!
  • The Dock. It’s so nice to have all my apps visually ready to be started. An elegant, useful, and simple version of the clunky Launcher I put up with for too long.
  • Can’t be stated enough… way less crashing and freezing. I used to cold restart on a daily basis- I definitely don’t miss that!
  • One of my favorites- multitasking. Much has been said about this already but it is worth mentioning again.
  • Both my mom and sister adapted quite easily to the new OS. For that I am forever thankful!Cons:
  • Peripherals that still run in Classic, like my Canon scanner. This is a pain that I tolerate for right now until reliable drivers are released.
  • I’m looking for a digital camera and I am completely unsure of what will work with X. I find myself wondering that a lot.
  • If it was not for Photoshop, I would be Classic-free. Every time I want to scan a picture or do some major photo editing, I’m booting up Classic. And unless I win the lottery, this poor recent college grad will not be affording the upgrade any time soon.
  • Some of the best and most fun games are still in Classic but don’t work as well. One word- Snood.
  • This is something that bothers me the most. Perhaps there is an obvious fix that I’m missing, but why is there no sleep button on the login screen for multiple users? That is incredibly annoying to me.
  • A big problem- if something should ever go wrong while I’m working in X, I have absolutely no idea how to fix it. I was getting pretty good at solving my own problems in 9, a perk that I always boasted about to my Windows-using friends. Now I’m clueless again!
  • My only problem with system hangs is when I connect with my dialup modem. For some reason it will freeze every time I try to connect after I’ve logged in unless I open an app first. Again, I have no idea why this happens and no idea how to fix it.
  • Confusing file hierarchy. Another roadblock to my understanding the OS.
  • Upgrades are confusing and occasionally unstable. I have reservations about downloading the next upgrade “10.1.whatever # it is now” because the downloads are so long and large and I’m not guaranteed that they’ll actually install… or work!
  • Screen resolution. X looks a whole lot better in 1024 x 786 on my 15″ iMac’s monitor, but it’s too small for my mom and sister to use comfortably. Unfortunately resolutions can’t be specified to each individual user.Again, the cons are the minor inconveniences of a new OS. While they are minor, they aren’t things that I can live with forever, and I really hope Apple incorporates some of the missing features. But all in all I have had a pleasant experience with X. I think we really like each other, and work together quite well. ;-) I’m spoiled now- I could never go back to 9!

    Chris Seibold has a different view:

    I’ve got some reasons for sticking with 9, off hand I can think of a hundred and thirty of them (and they all have pictures of George Washington on them). It’s not really the cost of X as it is the cost of upgrading all my other programs. You’ve got the Microsoft Office kajillion dollar upgrade, the Norton upgrade, the Photoshop upgrade, the Illustrator upgrade. Plus I have all this junk hooked to my computer and that means massive driver downloads (scanner, printer, CD burner) which is no fun over a 56k connection.

    Also I would be concerned with just how quickly X will run on my computer (G4 400Mhz). Since most of my computer slowdown is due to the duh factor the “feeling” of speed is paramount since I don’t rely on on massive amounts of computations.


    John Nemerovski

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