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Jan 98 MacTech Online

Volume Number: 14 (1998)
Issue Number: 1
Column Tag: MacTech Online

Jan 98 - MacTech Online

by Nicholas C. "nick.c" DeMello,

Rhapsody is a stable, modern, fully preempted and memory-protected multitasking environment with built-in capabilities for symmetric multiprocessing. It's better than sliced bread, kooler than James Dean, and hotter than an LA freeway in July. It's also not finished yet. On the other hand, Mac OS 8 was released in July of 1997, and over 1.2 million people bought a copy in the first two weeks it was on the market. Over 2 million copies were sold by week four, and that number is still growing. This month, we're going to take Mac OS 8 for a test drive.

Kicking the Tires

Apple shipped Mac OS 8 in the August '97 developer mailing, so odds are you have had some time to explore it. If you don't subscribe to the mailing, you may have ordered a copy from the Claris website or got an idea of the new interface features from one of the five online reviews of Mac OS 8 listed in the Yahoo index. In any case, you'll want to keep an eye out for updates and patches. Apple has established a Mac OS 8 website, with a page on late breaking news of any "unintended features" that may crop up.

Speed comparisons between Mac OS 8 and 7.6 are online at the MacSpeedZone. There are MacBench and Speedometer results, as well as real world tests including times for file copying and opening Photoshop files. File copying was enhanced by more than 300%, and 12 mb of data can be deleted in one tenth of the time under Mac OS 8. Enhanced performance and new features are nice, but the real test of a product is it's Easter eggs. The best Mac OS 8 egg involves the crayon color picker tool. Take a close look at the crayons, then set your clock ahead to the year 2001 (even Apple's Easter eggs have no fear of the year 2000). Pop open the color picker again, and you'll see that the crayons are worn down (from 3 years of use no doubt :-). For a list of other Easter eggs, installation tips, and links to Mac OS 8 specific shareware check out Duncan Crombie's Mac OS 8 Downloads and Tips page.

Order Mac OS 8 Online
Reviews of Mac OS 8 for the User
Late Breaking News about Mac OS 8
Speed Comparison, Mac OS 7.6 vs 8
Layne Karkruff's Desktop Consoles Collection
Mac OS 8 Downloads and Tips, by Duncan Crombie

Under the Hood

Apple's Technote 1102 is an essential read for programmers taking on the new OS. It presents a table of over 100 hyperlinks to detailed descriptions of Mac OS 8 changes. Valuable enhancements to existing technologies are documented, like the new drag flavors for the Drag Manager which allow you to limit a drag into the finder to only the trash, or control the name of text clippings being moved to the desktop. The technote also provides links to SDK's for powerful new technologies like contextual menus and the appearance manager.

Some effort will be involved in adapting your current product to Mac OS 8. With the new platinum look and the Appearance Manager, new issues of human interface design have surfaced. Additions and changes in the Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines have been compiled and posted to Apple's Inside Macintosh website. An unofficial list of applications that are having trouble with Mac OS 8 is posted at, scanning this list may give you ideas of where your own code will have trouble. To help you fix any problems, Apple has provided a web page of developer tools for Mac OS 8, including a link to the new MacsBug (only version 6.5.4 or greater operates correctly in Mac OS 8).

One of the more promising new technologies in 8 is contextual menus. Apple's Advanced Technologies Group has used this technology to create Apple Data Detectors. The Internet Address detectors allow you to select text in any document and activate contextual menus (control-click). Detectors parse the text data and identifies any eMail addresses, FTP, HTTP, or newsgroup descriptions, then a contextual pop-up menu allows you to launch the appropriate client tool. Check out the data detectors and the ATG website, to get ideas for your own use of the contextual menus technology.

Technote 1102 on Mac OS 8
Mac OS 8 Modified Human Interface Guidelines
Mac OS 8 Incompatibility List
Developer Page for Mac OS 8
Apple Data Detectors

Down the Road

The next incremental update of the Mac OS will be version 8.1, expected between December 1997 and January 1998. Rumors are already circulating, and the latest gossip has been collected at the MacOS Rumors website. However, if you're the one guy out there disappointed in Mac OS 8, there is at least one other option. Yves Lempereur has updated his TRS-80 emulator for Mac OS 8. Space Invaders anyone?

Mac OS 8.1 "Bride of Buster" Rumors
Yves Lemprereur's TRS-80 Emulator for Mac OS 8

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