Special Report – Mac OS 8.0 – Part 2

For more in-depth coverage of Mac OS 8.0, please be sure to read the preceding page.

Well, we have at least a year before Apple releases the Mac/NeXT OS to us, but we’ll get a much improved system this year. That system, which was once called Mac OS 7.7, is now called Mac OS 8.0. Is the full number version justified? The answer, I’m very pleased to say, is yes indeed!

Mac OS 8.0 is a full featured improvement on system 7.5. So much so, in fact, that I wonder why Apple even bothered to release system 7.6? For the money, to be sure, but what did we really get for our hard earned dollars with 7.6? A whole lot of nothing, I think. I consider 7.6 nothing but a bug fix update, with a few minor improvements here and there. Mac OS 8.0, however, is all that and much, much more!

My first thought upon using Mac OS 8.0 was “Hey, this is FAST!” Speed is one of the most lacking features in the current 7.x software. The main culprit, of course, is the Finder. Now that Apple has created a PowerPC-native Finder, many features are much faster. Launching applications, emptying the trash, and more. I love speed, and I love the next System due this summer for that reason. But that’s not the only reason!

I have always thought it silly that you have to double click an icon to open it. If you use the launcher, you know how much nicer it is to simply click something once, and be done with it. Now, with Mac OS 8.0, you can have any window, including the desktop, make an icon a button. This button, like in the launcher, only needs to be clicked once. So what, you may ask? Well, after only a few minutes of using this feature, you find yourself loving it. It may sound a little crazy, but it’s a real time saver. The only gripe I have with it is that you can’t move that button to where you want it. With a regular icon, you simply click and hold, drag it to where you want it, and let go. Not so with button icon. One click, and it launches.

Many of you are looking forward to the Appearance Manager. I know I am, though this is a very scaled down version than the one originally planned for Copland. Now, instead of “themes,” you can only change scroll bars colors. While I wish Apple would have released the original Appearance Manager, I’m happy with this version.

Another cool new way to customize you Mac’s look and feel is from the new Desktop Picture control panel. This, of course, replaces the current Desktop Patterns we now use. For those of you using After Dark, this won’t be any big deal, but for everyone else, you’re in for a treat. Let’s say you have a picture, and would like that to be on your desktop. No problem! This new control panel will do just that!

Sticky Menus are also new, though there have been shareware programs that have done this for many years. Now, when you click a menu, it will stay down until you select something. Sounds impressive to you? Perhaps not, but you’ll love it after only a short time. The Pop-Up folder is also very neat. When you choose this, your window becomes a tab at the bottom of your screen. One click will open that window up.

Something else I really like is when you drag an icon over a folder, that folder will open up. What’s the big deal with that, you ask? Say you have a Documents folder on your desktop, and you want to put a SimpleText document in it. Or rather, in another folder inside the Documents folder. Right now, you would have to open the Documents folder, and drag your SimpleText file to the folder you want it in. Now, when you drag it over the Documents folder icon, it will pop open, at which time you can put the file anywhere you wish. You can change the time it takes for this feature to kick in, as well. And after you’ve buried your file where you want it, all the open windows that sprang open, will close.

If you read Adam’s article on the page before, you know that the Finder is now multi-threaded. Of course, that means you can copy, empty the trash, have Photoshop applying a filter, and ready your e-mail, all at the same time. Very cool, indeed.

The biggest draw back? Memory. With Mac OS 8.0, I was using a whopping 10 MB for system software alone! I’m sorry, but that is WAY too much. Of course, that went down to only 7.5 MB when I turned on Virtual Memory.

Speaking of Virtual Memory, it works much better than ever before. So much better, in fact, that Mac OS 8.0 is designed to operate with it on. I ran all my applications both with VM on and off, and couldn’t tell the difference at all. This is bad news, and I think the death kneel, for RAM Doubler. If the built-in Virtual Memory works this good, why buy RAM Doubler? (Prediction: look for RAM Doubler and Speed Doubler to be combined into one program in the next year and a half for survival purposes!)

My final thoughts. While I had many problems with Mac OS 8.0 from a stability standpoint (which is expected, after all, from Alpha software) I found all the new features something to look forward to. As I said, I tested Mac OS 8.0 in its Alpha stage, which is always very buggy. But, to be honest, it wasn’t as buggy as you may think. In fact, it was much more stable than when System 7.5 first came out in beta! So by the time Mac OS 8.0 ships, I think it will most likely be rock-solid. I hope. Because I will be the first in line to buy it!

Yes, it is THAT good. Way to go Apple!

Tim Robertson (publisher@mymac.com)

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