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 Expos� 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.


  • Are you still using the G3 tower? wink My G4 boots up in a minute or so. I use auto-login so I don’t see the login screen. I don’t collapse windows, I hide whle applications. I use Expose so much, I’m still clicking the wheel on my home Windows system. And serious designers use InDesign, not Quark.

    Get yourself a dual G5 with a gigabyte of RAM and start enjoying life.

    Pies had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 3
  • Gregory, you don’t say “if I were to right down a list”, it’s “if I were to write down a list”

    That was a bad start.

    Then you go on to somehow put down OS X coz you believe the quality of apps (for your purpose) were better in OS 7.5 - i.e Quark 3 and Adobe ATM.

    Apple aren’t responsible for third party apps.

    And you’ve also written, “I don’t think an update will truly give me goose bumps until Apple puts out OS XI”.  Why? Will Quark finally get their act together then? Will Adobe release a new super duper ATM?

    Strip out the misleading tangents of third party software, and we’re left with:
    - Some minor interface functions were better in OS 7.5
    - Despite repeated crashes, you were more efficient - altho again, that efficiency seemed to be as much to do with the third party software as the OS.  And you preferred it despite the fact that you would lose some work - even if only a few minutes worth.

    I dunno what you are running on your Mac, but mine has crashed less than 5 times in the last 18 months, and hung probably that many times again.  So maybe once every two months I am forced to restart it for those reasons.

    Various apps do crash from time to time, but recovery is simply a matter of restarting them.

    I have no experience with Mac OS versions of the 90’s but the way you describe it, I can’t see how repeated daily rebooting and having to redo work since last save, is more efficient than the rare system reboot, and the occasional application crash.

    The concept of your article was good and deserves raising, but the delivery, IMO, failed.

    The reality is, your problem is not really with OS X.  Your problem is with the third party software developers.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • Yeah. Don’t gripe about Quark. It’s not the de facto standard anymore.

    I love InDesign just from using it for my high school’s yearbook.

    piecetogether had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 13
  • There is no question InDesign is making inroads with the design community but most professional printers will tell you, they would rather receive Quark files in production. In fact, one of my printers told me when they receive InDesign documents, they convert them to Quark XPress before the mechanical process. Quark XPress still provides superior control typographically and in its handling of color separation and trapping. Despite the headaches, I will continue to favor Quark as long as printers do.

    Gregory Ng had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 54
  • Gregory: I’m sorry, but what? What my printers get is a complete set of transparencies (if that’s the word, I mean the color-separated transparent prints) and they don’t have anything to do with color separation and trapping, much less with typography.

    As I understand the processes are different where you work, but still, I wouldn’t let any printer change my typography.

    I’ve seen some quite complicated documents printed from InDesign without problems. My personal record is a 32-page catalogue of musicians for hire, with thousand or so images and a lot of tables.

    Quark is entrenched in the design community, but so is Microsoft entrenched in personal computing, yet Apple is making it’s inroads there too.

    Pies had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 3
  • Quark? We gave up on Quark years ago. InDesign produces much better type and not having to deal with constant crashing in OS 7, 7.5, 8 and 9 makes working with OSX 10.3 + InDesign much more productive. With OS 7.5, it was hard to go a day without having to reboot at least once if not several times.

    With OSX I don’t think twice about having InDesign, PhotoShop, Mail, Safari and five or six other applications running at the same time. With OS 7.5, bringing an application to the front meant bringing all that application’s windows to the front. OSX’s method of just bringing the window you selected to the front while letting you see the other application’s windows is so much better. My suggestion is to dump Quark. That’s the source of your frustrations.

    Daniel V had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 1
  • “Quark XPress still provides superior control typographically and in its handling of color separation and trapping.”

    Just not true. I’ve been a freelance designer for twenty years, I worked prepress for the largest printing company in the world, and I am currently working with the largest centralized creative team in the States, and though it has it’s rough edges, InDesign is a stable, creative powerhouse with unmatched typographical, trapping, and color output control and it’s threatening the Quark regime. Take a breath. . .

    I’ve had my share of using Quark over the years. v3.32 still the most stable. v4.11 still the most widely used version, v5-crap, v6 & v6.5 need much, much work.

    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. I once ran OS 9.2.1 under heavy production using about 10 apps concurrently (quark, indesign, flash, dreamweaver, strata pro, photoshop, illustrator, word, IE, Entourage, etc.) with no crashes in a two month period of time. No shutdowns, no restarts. That was beautiful. My OS X box at home has only panicked once in the last 2 years and that was hardware related. That’s beautiful, too. I love them both differently as I love apples and oranges differently.

    I wish for a return to simplicity where all the bells and whistles are options, not standards or necessity.

    Aeron SwayV had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 1
  • It appears to me something of your machine is not set up right to use Mac OS X.  First off, Mac OS X doesn’t crash unless you have really bad RAM, or bad preferences, or bad cache.  If you follow these tips to upgrade, you’ll be fine:

    As for Windowshade, you can get that for Mac OS X from

    There are also many other pre-Mac OS X nicetities still available for X through third parties listed on my FAQ below:

    7.5 was horribly unstable on my 7200.  Try to use OpenTransport 1.0.8, and you would get a Type 11 error every day.  It wasn’t until 7.6.1 that my internet had some semblance of stability that it also had with 7.0.1 on my LC with MacTCP.  So as for stability, your mileage may vary, but don’t criticize X’s stability without first knowing why something may cause it to get to be unstable. 

    gopher had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 9
  • You can have OS 7-8-9 - like windows by unchecking “open new windows in coumn view” under the Finder preferences. And select “always open folders in new window.”  Now open your hard drive icon and click on the list view icon. now if you want, remove the sidebar by dragging its divider to the left. Now click the lozenge-shaped button on the upper right of the window. Most or all double clicking on folders will now open them up in either list view or icon view, just as in OS 7 and 8 and 9.

    MJMJ had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Oh, and WindoshadeX is excellent.

    MJMJ had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Micheal, Daniel, Aeron: put personal anecdotes aside - Quark is still the industry standard. You must put aside your own opinions and experiences when you make a statement like yours.

    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.

    Feature for feature (mainly due to plugins) Quark on OS 9 is the defacto standard. End of arguement.

    Nathan had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 219
  • I think this article was decent but has a narrow context.  Using computers for a vertical market is vastly different depending on what market you choose. If you love Quark then you’re in Quark everyday and the OS means nothing really. Thus to the Quark user 7.5 vs OS X is nothing.  However if you’re a person that uses primarily productivity applications of a varied lot then the way your OS handles is paramount. 

    System 7.5 is that it is. An old OS that we all used at one time if you’ve been on Macs that long.  That was a different time to say the least. People didn’t capture video and audio like they do now. OS have evolved greatly and I couldn’t honestly say that any OS previous to the current one was better. 10.5 will be better than 10.4 and so on.

    I agree with the poster that said the problem is with the individual applications since that is the playground that you play in.

    hmurchison had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 145
  • Maybe I misunderstood something.

    How did you run system 7.5 on your Power Mac G3?  They required Mac OS 8 to even boot.

    I also don’t remember there ever being a G3/233 tower.

    This article doesn’t make any sense to me.

    Steve Salas had this to say on Mar 25, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I used to have two Mac G3s with OS9 that I used for various 3d work and cross-platform development in Director.  They were both such unstable pieces of crap that I haven’t owned my own Mac since (although I have used them frequently for work).  I was using them alongside Windows 98 and NT, which were remarkably stable at the time, especially in comparison to my Mac experience.

    I vowed to never use a Mac OS until the implemented protected memory and pre-emptive multi-tasking that I enjoyed in NT and 98.  OSX solved that problem, but there wasn’t really a “killer app” for me on the Mac until Final Cut Pro started making inroads.  Now I’m finally going to reintroduce a Mac into my work environment.  I’m actually glad to be starting where I am so that I’m not burdened with over-familiarity with an outdated OS.  It can be very difficult to transition from that.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 26, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • “[P]rior to HFS, we used 7.5.”

    HFS has been the Mac filesystem since 1985.

    Unless you meant HFS+, and the above was a typo.

    Bob had this to say on Mar 26, 2005 Posts: 1
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