Review – Mac OS 8.5

Tim: So, Adam, now that Mac OS 8.5 has been released with much fanfare, do you think that the actual product has lived up to the hype?

Adam: Yes. CompUSA has been selling copies like wildfire, and people really seem to think Sherlock is useful. I mean, compared to our old Find File, anything’s better than that!

Tim: True, Sherlock is an amazing piece of software. To have the ability to search the Internet from your Finder is an incredible bonus!

Adam: Not to mention the fact that you can also search all your files by content, along with the usual Find File features all in one application. It’s Find times three!

Tim: I have found, very early on, that you really need to give Sherlock much more memory to really get it to perform well. Have you encountered that problem yet?

Adam: Yes, especially when you install extra plug-ins. I just hope that these plug-ins don’t become as numerous as extensions because if that happens, we’re gonna need a manager for them, too! Seriously, though, the ability to search sites such as our own right from the Mac OS Finder is a feature currently unavailable to Windows users, and is a powerful reason for new computer buyers to choose a Mac OS computer.

Tim: All true, and I like the idea that you can expand the program. Plug-ins are a huge benefit. If a website has a search engine, like ours does at My Mac, you can design a Sherlock Plug-in for Mac users to use. Great concept! Hey, maybe we should make a Sherlock plug-in.

Adam: It’s in the works as we speak, Tim.


Mac OS 8.5 Picture 1Themes

Tim: I do wish Apple had left in more Themes, though. Adam, you saw some very early builds of 8.5 when they had the other Themes, such as Gizmo and Hi-Tech. How buggy was 8.5 with those features?

Adam: The Themes didn’t sacrifice system stability as much as they made the look and feel of the Mac OS less appealing. They were also incomplete, and some features, like the Hi-Tech list view, looked downright ugly.

Tim: Downright ugly? I though Themes were suppose to make the whole look of the Mac OS better, like Kaleidoscope does?

Adam: They do, but the Appearance files themselves (Gizmo and Hi-Tech) were missing many of the standard Mac OS GUI (Graphical User Interface) features that are so evident in the Platinum theme. For example, the gizmo theme never really changed all aspects of the appearance, such as the Trash, or certain system icons. Again, they were incomplete, and would have made Apple look like it was delivering a sub-standard product.
Kaleidoscope does a good job of altering the look of the Mac OS, but is far too buggy for my liking. Apple’s built-in Appearance manager is much more complete, and will do a much better job once the Hi-Tech and Gizmo appearance files are completed.

Tim: I have to agree. As much as I like the concept of Kaleidoscope, I find it still crashes my Mac more often than not, even with the 2.1 update.

Adam: Yes. I installed Kaleidoscope (8.5 compatible) with Mac OS 8.5, and it does a bad job, even with the Platinum theme. It looked worse than System 7. My advice is to stick to Apple’s Platinum theme. System 8.6 is not that far away.


Mac OS 8.5 Picture 2Tim: Another much-hyped feature of 8.5 is the native AppleScript, and the ability to make Folder Actions with AppleScripts. This is neat, but is this really that big a deal for the average user? I don’t think so. Do you?

Adam: No. For the advanced power-user, the native AppleScript along with the Folder Action scripts is a wonderful feature that is sure to be utilized and embraced by many Mac users. But for the average end-user, the folder scripts are more intimidating and will probably not be used all that much. Perhaps AppleScript developers will embrace the technology more readily now that it is native, and develop even more Folder Action Scripts.

Tim: I don’t know. I can’t really see me using this feature very often, and I consider myself a power-user.

Adam: I was thinking about using it for backups, but it seems more practical to just drag the files to the Zip disk myself.

Tim: Yeah, why bother writing a script when you can simply drag and drop onto a Zip or Superdisk icon, and be done with it? Seems a little frivolous to me.

Adam: Yes, frivolous, but certainly groundwork that needed to be laid so developers can fully exploit the technology to their users’ needs. I look for many developers to start writing FAS’s (Folder Action Scripts) in the upcoming months.

Tim: Yup, there will be whole slew of new Shareware authors for AppleScripting, that’s for sure. Speaking of which, I have already seen some new websites popping up with people creating Sound Sets for 8.5. Some of these are really good!

A few examples are “Raul’s Dirt Cheap Software” at and The Original Final Fantasy Soundset at Both are very well done sound sets Mac users can download, and they make a nice change from Apple’s standard set. Of course, you can also create your own sound sets with Sound Set Constructor from Chris Gervais. If there is one thing we Mac users love, it’s more ways to customize our Macs!

Adam: The more, the merrier! The sound sets are another feature that came along with the Hi-Tech and Gizmo themes. Both had their respective sound sets, but both were incomplete.

Tim: Makes you wonder why Apple didn’t elect to provide more of them, say as a bonus on the installation CD.

Adam: Yes, that would have been quite nice. Hopefully Apple will release them on their website in similar fashion to the distribution of the Sherlock plug-ins.

Tim:: Is it just me, or does it seem that Apple has really started to embrace the concept of open-ended technologies in which they hope other parties will step in and fill the void? With Sherlock, you can add third party plug-ins. Same with Sound Sets. Is the same true with Theme Files? There’s a folder with only Apple Platinum in there now, and this makes me wonder if Apple realizes that a very healthy shareware market means a healthy Macintosh market.

Adam: Indeed, this is a developing trend. That folder which you speak of houses other appearance files, and housed the Hi-tech and Gizmo appearances at one time. Then, they would show up under the “Appearance” tab of the Appearance Control Panel. And I have heard things about Apple releasing guidelines on how to produce Theme files. If developers will embrace these guidelines, we will finally have a stable solution to the customization of the Mac OS GUI that doesn’t involve installing third party extensions and control panels that cause conflicts with a majority of my indispensable applications.

Tim: Yeah, shareware bugs are a pain, such as those we were talking about with Kaleidoscope 2.1. But, really, I’m usually good to try just about anything once.

Seriously, unlike a PC, if worse came to worst (providing you have backups, which we all do, right?) it only takes a few hours to completely restore the Mac OS. In most cases, however, we Mac users need only hold down the Shift key to disable our extensions and Control Panels, then dump the bad software causing the crashes. Another restart, and we’re peachy-keen! Try that on a Windows machine!

Adam: The Mac OS does have unmatched troubleshooting superiority. It’s a feature that we Macintosh users come to take for granted.

Tim: Another major improvement in 8.5 is the speed of Network copying. While this does not affect me at all, I have found copying files to a Zip disk to be much speedier.

Adam: I agree. For me, copying speed overall has improved. I backup the 40MB website regularly, and my copy time is much improved, even when it is in the background and I’m performing other tasks!

Tim: The last .5 update, Mac OS 7.5, was a huge leap from 7.1. I don’t think 8.5 is all that far removed from 8.1, do you? I mean, besides Sherlock, Appearance, and AppleScript, do you think this is that big a deal?

Adam: Well, there are many features that have been added that are quite a big deal to me. I know “Smart Scrolling” is one of them. That, combined with the new Application Switcher and the many enhanced Control Panels, makes this a very big jump.

Tim: Think we will see an 8.5.1, or do you think we will be waiting for 8.6 (or perhaps 9.0).

Adam: I don’t believe we will see a third level number unless a bug appears that requires an immediate fix from Apple. I think we’ll be waiting for 8.6.

Tim: I don’t know about you, but I hate only having the scroll keys only at the bottom of the side windows. What a pain!

Adam: So do I! That’s why I love the developers that made scripts to customize this. Prestissimo, reviewed this month, is one of them. Personally, I prefer double arrows at each end. Actually, Apple had this feature in the Appearance Control Panel but it was “Steved” at the last minute.

Tim: Quite right. I like them at both ends, though that too takes some getting use to. I find myself accidentally often scrolling up when I meant to go down. But like all innovations it takes some time to get used to these things. In time, we will all wonder how we ever lived without them!

Adam: I was never one to jump on the DoubleScroll bandwagon mainly because it was a third-party extension. But now that it’s built into the OS, I think many more users will embrace it.

Tim: The Internet Control Panel. A great concept, but don’t you think they should have tied the “Remote Access” and “TCP-IP” Control Panels into one Internet Control Panel? I mean, simply make them a Tab selection like the rest of them?

Adam: Yes, I think that all those Control Panels, with the exception of Remote Access, should have been tied together. Many users can’t distinguish the difference between the AppleTalk and TCP/IP Control Panels. I know even I have problems sometimes because I forgot to select “Ethernet” in the AppleTalk Control Panel.

It would also be helpful if the Remote Access Control Panel included a modem “tab.” Mac OS 8.5 makes good use of these “tabs,” and I would like to see them further utilized by third-party developers and Apple alike.

Tim: I think Remote Access, TCP, and Internet should all be just one control panel, and perhaps throw the Modem Control Panel in there as well. That sure would make the setup for new users that much more user friendly. As for AppleTalk, FileSharing, and User and Groups, these should also be another single control panel. It sure make life much simpler.

Adam: Think, though. Dialup access and Ethernet/LAN access are two separate features that might confuse a novice user.

However, the integration of control panels has already begun with the new File Exchange Control Panel, which combines PC Exchange and Mac OS Easy Open. I hope Apple has more plans to integrate control panels in ways like we mentioned.

Tim: Bottom line: is this worth a hundred buck for most Mac users?

Adam: Mac OS 8.5 is well worth the $99. It’s quite an improvement over 8.1, and many users will appreciate its new features. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Tim: I have to agree. The Macintosh market is substantially healthier than it was just a year ago. With the iMac, good publicity from the once biased press, a strong advertising campaign, many more Mac retailers (Best Buy!), and a sense of direction, Apple is “IT” again. Mac OS 8.5 represents a huge technological leap for the Mac, and shows how far the Mac has really come in a relatively short time. Mac OS 8.1 to Mac OS 8.5 had more innovations and improvements than Windows 98 did over Windows 95, and that took three years! Mac OS 8.1 and 8.5 are what, six months apart?
Hey Adam, let’s do this again sometime! I really enjoyed it!

Adam: Yes! Let’s!

MacMice Rating: 4

Adam Karneboge

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