Mac OS 7.5: Better than Tiger Will Ever Be

by Gregory Ng Mar 24, 2005

The upcoming release of Tiger, Apple’s latest iteration of OSX, does not excite me at all. Sure the added features, updated applications, and the promise of a more stable platform is enough to stimulate any Mac user. But I don’t think an update will truly give me goose bumps until Apple puts out OS XI. The advantages of Tiger over Panther are simply not enough to change the way I do work. In fact if I were to write down a list of all the unique features of OSX that have helped the efficiency of my workflow I would come to an enlightening conclusion: my Mac experience was better in 1997 than it is now. There I said it. Let me explain.  In 1997 I was a recent graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, ready to take the advertising world by storm. I was “Mac Proficient” or at least that’s what I put on my resume. I was an expert in the applications of my industry: Quark XPress, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Macromedia Director. I even knew enough to do minor troubleshootin—I zapped my PRAM, I rebuilt my desktop, etc. My first employer outfitted me with a 233mHz G3 tower and I was as good as my fresh-outta-college ego said I was. How was this possible? It was all due to an operating system we know as OS 7.5. Prior to unix-based OS, prior to aqua interfacing, and prior to HFS, we used 7.5. And I have never been more efficient.  This isn’t all Apple’s fault. The number one reason for such prolific efficiency was that Quark XPress was actually built for the OS. I would go as far to say Quark XPress 3.3 was and is the best version of Quark XPress ever put out. When you set type, you saw it typeset right in front of your eyes. When you zoomed in (Apple-Option-Click) and then quickly Fit Page in Window (Apple-0), you saw the redrawn screen in an instant. Quark 6 in OSX brings nothing but Spinning Beachballs of Death. Remember when the worst thing about Quark XPress was that you hit “Collect for Output” and it didn’t include fonts? Now try a program that sometimes fails to recognize file names in directories, is buggy with Photoshop EPS files, and presents you with multiple “Unknown Errors.” Those were the days huh?  OS 7.5 was better with font management. In 1997, I had my pick of 2 great font management tools: Symantec Suitcase and Adobe Type Manager. It became a matter of personal preference why I used ATM 2.5 religiously. Once you figured out the difference between TrueType and Postscript everything worked flawlessly. If you are a professional designer then you struggle with Suitcase for OSX just like I do. If you use FontBook then clearly graphic design is a hobby for you because you seriously cannot get anything done with that piece of junk. Even without third-party help, you knew you simply copied the font files into your Font folder and restarted the application. OSX brings a wide array of possibilities of where your precious fonts can live.  The user interface of OSX, in an attempt to declutter the desktop, has made managing multiple documents difficult. What about the basics of opening windows. When you want it open in OS 7.5, you opened it. When you wanted it closed you closed it. Now you double-click on an icon and it refreshes your already opened window. I also miss windowshade. When I wanted to collapse a window I could still see the title bar rather than see it disappear into a bottle. Although I was wowed with Exposďż˝ when I first saw it, in actuality I use it very seldomly. You might be different.  Finally the big difference between OS 7.5 and OSX is the ability to crash. Back in the day, my computer crashed, I lost everything I hadn’t saved and I restarted the computer. Boy that was nice. It was nice because I knew I would hear the chime, see the extensions flashing up on the bottom of the restart sequence, get the dialog box saying the computer did not get shut down properly, then my desktop would pop up and I could get my groove on again. Sure I crashed 5-10 times a day but at least i knew the timing of the restart process. Sometimes I do a Security Update on my machine and it takes 10 minutes to restart. I see the gray screen with the Apple logo. Then I see the blue screen with the Beachball. Then I get a user login screen, and then (after I have used the bathroom, got a drink, read the newspaper, and came back to the computer), my desktop pops up.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change my life now for what it was 8 years ago. I enjoy the internet, my Superdrive, and iTunes. Tiger will improve my home computing life for sure. As for my work life? No improvement. Only more headaches. In 1997 expectations of my work did not exceed the speed and compatibility of my machine and my operating system. And that, is something to miss.


  • When I worked at Chiat/Day we had a pejorative term for people like you: “user;” as in, “It’s not working correctly? Most likely it’s a user error.”

    dallas had this to say on Mar 26, 2005 Posts: 1
  • The 233MHz G3 came with Mac OS 8.1, not System 7.5 (Apple started calling it Mac OS as of 7.6) I used to have one. A client gave me his old one. The publishing industry including Quark Xpress or PageMaker for that matter, was seriously held back until Mac OS 9 allowed a far greater number of open files, something very common with font management and virtual RAM situations. I too wish for an OS X version of ATM Deluxe, as it seemed better than Suitcase. I use Windowshade X from Unsanity to bring back some OS 9 features. As for crashing and corrupting documents, fonts and directories, Mac OS 7.5 to 9.2.2 and Quark were famous for it. Quark’s instablility is the basis for my income. Mac OS 10.3 and Adobe InDesign are so stable, you could go month’s without a single problem. When OS X was introduced, I disliked it because it didn’t work the way we were used to for so many years. I bent to it’s way and to some extent, WindowShade X, FruitMenu and others helped me bend OS X to my way. You can get far more accomplished with a modern Mac and modern software. Back in 1997, I was in my sixth year of being a Mac consultant. I hope you get a modern Mac and get some production work done. By the way, your G3 is now worth less than $100. You’re overdue for a G5.

    BradMacPro had this to say on Mar 26, 2005 Posts: 4
  • Hi Gregory,

    just a few notes:

    - Forget Quark. They still behave like they have the whole DTP environment in their pocket. You have to admit: what’s the difference between Quark 3 and Quark 6? I used to work with it (for about 8 years), but when I heard Adobe was creating a similar app, I made the switch immediately . Why? Very simple: I don’t like companies who think they don’t need to listen to their customers just because they are a monopoly (that’s why I bought a Mac in the first place by the way). While Adobe tries to give us unique features, Quark only asks us for money for the latest build number of their app.

    - Your very long login time seems familiar to me. It is indeed a bug acknowledged by Apple and they will fix it in 10.3.9. If, however, you want to get rid of it right now, I suggest you should visit this site:

    - My dad shared the same vision as you do about the whole OS X-thing (he’s a desktop publisher). While Apple introduced Panther, he was still using OS 9, but Ever since I forced him to use Panther (by installing it and throwing away the OS 9 Folder wink) he never looked back. He likes the new Photoshop, he dislikes the new Quark (who doesn’t) and he’s now learning InDesign.

    - If there were one thing that was better on the old OS than it were the WYSIWYG font menus in most of the apps (Adobe already announed that they will return in CS2).

    TriangleJuice had this to say on Mar 27, 2005 Posts: 5
  • “InDesign is no more stable than Quark. For every person that says InDesign (or any Adobe CS products) is stable, there will be 10 others to say they are the worst.”

    Holy Toledo!  What a truly ignorant thing to say! What’s the address on that ivory tower of yours?

    I’ve been an independent computer consultant for 24 years (and two weeks) now, and I’ve worked on Macs for a large customer base (currently 250-300 active clients, 90% of whom are designers) since 1985.

    Here’s the news from MY planet:

    I’ve gotten more horrified, stress-filled and desperate support-calls concerning QuarkXpress 6.x since it came out than on EVERY OTHER TOPIC COMBINED. I’ve wasted hundreds of hours (no exaggeration here) that I will never get back, trying desperately to make Quark 6 dependable. 

    My business-model depends on my work being performed in a craftsmanlike way, so that I get lots of referrals. If I can’t do that, I get very anxious, because I’m committed to quality work.

    In reaction to the bucket o’ bolts that is Quark 6, I shove my wonderful clients toward InDesign, and give them a list of local printers who gladly support InDesign. From then on, I serenely expect typical, easily-fixed font issues as the ONLY complaints that I have ever, EVER received about InDesign. Every person who has switched to InDesign has sailed onward with happiness, and has thanked me after switching.

    To avoid anxiety, I no longer support QuarkXpress (any version) at all. Life is too short for such aggravation. Look on Google and find thousands of pages detailing how nasty Quark 6 is, and you will find maybe 1% of such complaints about InDesign. Shame on you for justifying your own pigheadedness and unwillingness to grow. You’re hurting people here.

    Papa Tony had this to say on Mar 27, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Thanks for the comments. Apparently my memory is not as good as i thought it was. Yes, I did have a beige 233mhx G3 Tower but I was mistaken when I said I ran OS 7.5 on it. I in fact, ran 7.5 on my PowerMac 8500.

    The bottom line is I’m stuck with Quark partially because of my work situation and mostly because of the printers that I work with. I have InDesign on my personal machine and I am competent with it. But until I am forced to use it, I won’t.

    Thanks to Aeron SwayV. His comment communicated the very thing i set out to discuss, “As for the OS itself, yeah, there is something to miss about the sheer productivity, simplicity and speed I enjoyed using OS 7 thru 9.”

    Gregory Ng had this to say on Mar 27, 2005 Posts: 54
  • I though have found productivity a lot greater in Mac OS X.  I much less often see my system giving me Type 1, 10, 11 errors, freezes and spend a lot less time troubleshooting websites which won’t load properly.  Mac OS X is very stable.  Now Quark may make it seem not so, but that’s really Quark’s poor programming practices, not the fault of the operating system.  There is a good FAQ on fixing font issues within X here:[email protected]@.68908e3c

    which I’m sure if you follow, or post a request for help from Kurt, he’ll be able to help you.

    gopher had this to say on Mar 27, 2005 Posts: 9
  • Hi Gregory,
    Let me start by saying that I agree with you on Tiger. The feature list (barring Spotlight to an extent) does not excite at all. It might just as well be Mac OS 10.3.15 or something. Onward however, we cease to agree. 

    When I first started on Macs, it was almost the final days of Mac OS 9. I remember that “bombed” dialog that used to appear every few hours forcing a restart. I cant say I miss it ! I *never* have had Mac OS X crashing on me in the 4 odd years I have been working on it. I have heard of Kernel panics but never experienced it. The high availability of the OS means that we are much more productive and highly satisfied.

    I am also surprised about your take on the time to login because I think the time to login compares very well to OS 9. It was confessedly bad in 10.1 and even 10.2. But Panther boots up within 8 seconds or so (when I actually restart it that is)

    Its also my opinion that the iLife apps have been getting better with each release - iPhoto and iMovieHD in particular.

    I am more of a Java application developer on Mac OS X - just comparing between what Java was on Mac OS 9 and what its now OS X is enough to make me forget everything about Mac OS 9.

    I believe Mac OS X provides the best of many worlds and hence is a much more attractive OS to a much larger user community. I certainly would not have been inclined to buy a Mac if Apple had continued with Mac OS 9. Now, I have an iMac and a Powerbook with a dual G5 to boot.

    Sathya had this to say on Mar 28, 2005 Posts: 4
  • Quark, InDeisgn, ATM, Suitcase, and windowshading aside…

    Why would Apple call the next generation of their OS “XI?” The X is the X in UNIX. It’s not the version number. That’s why it’s Mac OS X 10.x.

    I like 7.5 too. But, hey, that was a long time ago - especially in the computer world.

    Actually, I do wish ATM still existed. I have no trouble setting up font sets in Fontbook, nor do I have trouble managing where to put my fonts in OS X. I find it quite easy… But all things fonts do seem a bit odd in OS X…

    Waa had this to say on Mar 28, 2005 Posts: 110
  • ATM being an Adobe product, I think you should take up the matter with Adobe.  They are the ones who licensed to Apple ATM for inclusion with Mac OS.  Much of Apple’s internal PDF support comes through an open source PDF standard in Mac OS X.  Now you can always get Adobe Acrobat Professional for Mac OS X, but if you want Adobe to continue creating ATM for Mac OS in Mac OS X, you need to demand that of Adobe.  Staying back in Mac OS 9 and earlier isn’t going to help increase that demand since you are one less user Adobe thinks it has to cater.

    gopher had this to say on Mar 28, 2005 Posts: 9
  • I’m pretty sure Adobe does not wish to produce ATM for OS X. Apparently, they feel Fontbook is good enough.

    But, yes: Beg the company that makes a product to update/renew/recreate said product, not the maker(s) of the OS on which it runs.

    Waa had this to say on Mar 28, 2005 Posts: 110
  • As a musician, I remember when I was in your shoes.  When OS X came out, there was no audio software for it at all.  A few things trickled out, but for the most part there was nothing until around the release of 10.2.  Up until about 6 months ago, there were lots of holdouts, waiting for this app or that plugin to make it over the fence…  but you know what?  We’re all better off now. 

    I’ve had very little experience in design (I took a course on Quark 4.11, Photoshop 6, and Illustrator 8 in the OS 8.6 era,) but OS X 10.3 has literally revolutionized the way I use my computer.  It allowed us to jettison kludgy junk apps in favor of well designed integrated frameworks within OS X, (say goodbye to OMS, and hello to Core Audio!)  It has given us great versions of the apps we already loved, amazing new apps that rely on the UNIX core of OS X, and most importantly, killer productivity enhancers like Quicksilver and Exposé.  I miss Turbosynth and Studio Vision (the Classic OS apps I had to leave behind,) but you can have my G5, Logic 7 and Reason 3 when you pry them from my cold dead fingers. 

    I hope that 10.4 and Core Image does for designers what 10.2 and Core Audio did for me… and if not, I wonder if 10.5 will bring Core Type and other goodies to finally sooth your soul…

    doktor242 had this to say on Mar 29, 2005 Posts: 2
  • An interesting article Gregory.

    As a designer, I actually grow more depressed with each new release Mac OS X.  Apple, it seems, has become something of a split personality - with its hardware continuing to embrace the original company ‘minimalist/functional’ philosophy in ways which never fail to surprise and delight us, whilst its software (and I particularly mean its OS) has been seduced onto the long slippery road of adorning every inch of the screen with useless ‘corporate’ eye candy.

    As the direct result of this, my work flow has slowed down to the point where I now feel the machine wants to be the master of me - rather than the familiar OS 7,8,9 sense that I was very much master of my machine.  With OS X, I have to take the UI ‘prettiness’ into account on everything I do - it has become an obstacle.  Whereas Apple’s previous interfaces were built to serve one direct purpose - to be perceived as ‘invisible’, practical tools to facilitate the work of a user. 

    I think it would be a distraction to focus too closely on the merits of Quark versus InDesign here as they both - along with all other Applications - are stuck with using the Mac GUI elements Apple supplied them with.  The problem isn’t so much how well these Apps function in relation to each other - it’s how poorly they function measured against the world of OS 9.

    There has been a misunderstanding on this site (as there has in many other similar discussions) between the more ‘design’ orientated Mac users who have traditionally made up the platform’s solid core and the programming/systems/IT community. The techies seem to mis-read the designer’s call for a return to simple, clean and visually-neutral functionality as a demand that Apple remove from its new OS all the technological advances the company has made.  For the technical-minded - and, I would guess in most cases, the visually illiterate - developments in the number of ‘nice’ things an OS can actually do MUST go hand-in-hand with an ever-increasing quota of ‘nice’ visual representations to support this progress. It’s as if the benefits of OS X would (for them) be less meaningful without the reassuring crutch of additional and increasingly fantastical eye candy.

    The problem the designer (as designer) can see - and any user familiar with old and new environments might sense - is that a price has to be paid for each and every additional bit of on-screen prettiness added to OS X.  All the unnecessary, inappropriate, ephemeral, ‘gunk’ Apple heap on to its GUI, and by extension the Applications which must use it, requires extra visual processing from the user - who is required to mentally organise, make sense of, and interact with, each piece of information in front of him and how these (often in the case of OS X, unrepresentitive) elements relate to each other.  This, of course, is before he can even think about getting on with the very reason he is using the computer… to make sense of and organise his own work… or in other words… to be creative.

    It is without doubt that - with the GUI - Apple invented the wheel.  Perhaps it’s part of the evolutionary process that the company is now searching for new places to take this still-nascent technology.  Hopefully it wont be long before they realise that adding polished chrome hubcaps, inlaid white-walled trim, ‘go-faster’ stripes, 3D logos on everything etc etc, rather than improving performance, actually weighs down the tool to the point where all its kitsch becomes a serious obstacle.

    slopes had this to say on Mar 29, 2005 Posts: 17
  • You can simplify Mac OS X’s interface by sending the Dock to the right side of the screen and hiding it with command-option-D.  Hiding it by menu doesn’t let you keep it out of your way, but it will usually stay out of your way if you do so by keystroke and it is on that side of the screen.  Clicking on the jewel in the upper right hand corner of the Finder window brings back an interface without toolbar or sidebar.  If you don’t want to leave that window of Mac OS X, just make sure not to open new finder windows through Finder Preferences -> General, and just don’t close the Finder window.  Use Exposé to get windows out of the way when you need to.  For everything else you can give Apple feedback here:

    if you want to see improvements in the Finder’s interface.  Look at today. They talk about the operating system being too complicated too.

    gopher had this to say on Mar 29, 2005 Posts: 9
  • Slopes

    As a designer I’m sure you know that half the battle is looks.  From my programming days, I learned that users prefer an application that looks good over one that works good.

    Apple recognize this but fortunately also know the second rule. Simplicity is a winning style. Hey - they are the folks who have made grey look cool!

    I believe with OS X they put as much eye candy in as they could to catch people’s attention because now they seem to be trimming back on the eye candy.  Less 3D, Pinstripes being replaced by metal and now by simple gradients.

    The iPod, show Apple’s true design philosophy - and probably yours too. Beautiful, simple and functional.

    Steve’s first few years were about getting Apple noticed - eg iMac G3, iBook clamshell, OS X

    By the time the iPod came along, Apple was past the eye candy, “look at us” phase.

    OS X needed the eye candy to make Windows look bland, boring and out of date. (It worked - look at what MS did with XP!)

    Now we are seeing in the likes of Dashboard, Apple moving to cleaner, simpler GUI elements with less 3D.

    So I think OS X will catch up, it just had to catch some attention first.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 29, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • The only problem I have with the OS X GUI (and for the record, though I am not a designer, I do consider myself an artist with at least an eye for design) is the overhead. That’s coming from a tech perspective. All that glitz and glamor takes its toll on the overall processing system of your computer (CPU, GPU, etc).

    On the other hand, I prefer the changes made to the Finder - single window options (and you can command-double-click folders to open them in new windows) and the column view make things great. I am a bit… obsessive… with organizing data on my computer. Windows have to be in the same place all the time, documents have to go in specific locations, zillions of folders all with lengthy titles… In fact, the 255 character limit for file and folder names is one of my favorite minor details of OS X!

    Aqua, brushed metal, traffic light gems, toolbars and the dock aside, I really like the 128x128 icons OS X uses. Icons are important - they’re how you define an application without even launching it. Now that developers can give their apps really high-res icons that look good scaled to almost any size (down, not up) is a definite plus.

    It seems like Tiger will ever so slightly soften the “bling” of OS X. Title bars in windows, from what I’ve seen, look a little flatter. Less color and shape to process in your non-work space is always good.

    CoreType is a really cool idea. What exactly would it handle though? Font management, font sizing, style application. It seems like anything else (applying fonts to a bezier path, flipping them over, etc) would be the domain of something like CoreImage (maybe not right away, but down the line).

    Waa had this to say on Mar 29, 2005 Posts: 110
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