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Mac OS 9

Volume Number: 15 (1999)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Systems

Mac OS 9

by Vicki Brown

Something Great Just Got Better

Looking Back

I worked for a little over a year in Apple's Copland Core OS team. At the time, I remember seeing demos from the Finder team; demos of the new Appearance Manager, the Keychain, the user logins... In short, I remember the cool stuff we were told to expect in the User Interface portion of Mac OS 8. (I was working in the Core OS group where we talked about memory management but there wasn't much to see).

Then the schedules and project plans changed. Many of us wondered what would happen to all the wonderful UI technology we'd been hearing about and catching glimpses of. Some of it hit the desktops in the "new" Mac OS 8.0. More of it came out in Mac OS 8.5. Now, there's Mac OS 9. It won't disappoint you, especially if you spend a lot of time on the Internet!

Looking Ahead

By Apple's count, there are over 4 million users of Mac OS 8.5 and 8.6; these have been widely adopted releases among previous Mac owners as well as new Mac owners. The high rate of adoption is also indicative of a significant base for developers. Developers should plan for users to have access to the features in Mac OS 8.5 and, now, Mac OS 9.

Many of those users who upgrade are recent purchasers who want to be sure to stay up to date. Others are power-users who want the most advanced features. 60% of these users share their computer with someone else; over half use more than one computer. In addition, Apple's survey indicates that 90% of users who upgrade are connected to the Internet and spend time on-line.

To meet the demands of these users, Apple has been introducing better Internet tools. Mac OS 8.5 introduced the industry's fastest network copy capability, as well as Sherlock, the latest word in Internet searching. In fact, 12% of those surveyed indicated that they updated to Mac OS 8.5 specifically for Sherlock! Mac OS 9 continues the trend, bringing new ease of use to working with the Internet.

Your Internet Co-pilot

Apple has termed Mac OS 9, "Your Internet Co-pilot". The release has (of course :-) nine key features, the Internet Power Tools. These are:

  • Sherlock 2
  • Multi-user environment with logins and per-user preferences
  • Voice Recognition Password
  • Encryption Technology built in
  • Keychain for password storage
  • Automatic Software updating
  • File Sharing over TCP/IP
  • AppleScript over TCP/IP
  • Network Browsing

Off-line Features Too

There's more, of course. Mac OS 9 comes complete with the latest helper apps, including QuickTime 4, Netscape Communicator 4.6, and StuffIt Expander 5.1.4 (an updated version of Outlook Express is expected to be available from Microsoft at about the same time as the release of Mac OS 9). There's a whole new set of "Ensemble Pictures" in the Appearance Desktop Pictures folder and just under a dozen new system sounds (if you loved Wild Eep or Quack, be sure to salvage them from your old System; they didn't make the cut). Unfortunately, there are no new Themes or Sound Sets for the Appearances (drat).

For reasons that escape me, Apple has once again separated the Monitors and Sound Control Panels (but then, I could never understand why these were merged in the first place). Other new Control Panels include Software Update, Keychain Access, and Multiple Users. Some, such as File Sharing, have new items, so be sure to check these out. The Mouse control panel has a snazzy new iMac[TM] look.

PostScript printers are now set up using the Desktop Printers Utility, found in the Apple Extras folder (non-PostScript printers are still set up using the Chooser). Printing is scriptable in Mac OS 9, so you can automate more of your workflow. You can even create desktop "printer" files that aren't associated with an actual printer, for example, a translator that converts documents to PostScript format, or a spool file that allows you to save documents to print later.

Games, Languages, Speech

Mac OS 9 provides great gaming capability, to match the resurgence in the Apple gaming community. Game sprockets are built in (and the number of shared library files has been reduced). OpenGL makes Mac gaming titles more "real", displaying accelerated 3-D graphics.

Language kits are now included, to allow full input, editing, and display of any language Apple supports. In Mac OS 8.5, users could install fonts for non-Roman languages, but Mac OS 9 goes one step further, adding input methods for editing.

Speakable items have been overhauled with an "ear" toward emphasis of Internet activity. In addition, more speakable items are context sensitive, listening for commands appropriate to the current application. This improves accuracy by reducing the database of "possible" words.

The Ultimate OS for Publishing

Mac OS 9 provides several new features for the desktop publishing market. ColorSync 3.0 has been completely re-architected around the typical publishing workflow, allowing users to trust the color throughout the publishing process from start to finish.

FontSync does for type what ColorSync does for color. Users can move predictably through each phase in the process of document creation, knowing that the fonts they use will match at every stage. For each font, FontSync creates a profile based on name, type, kerning tables, glyph metrics. As developers adopt this technology, they can ensure that documents will truly be identical. What You See is really What You Get.

FontSync is also completely scriptable. Apple has included a few sample scripts, including one that will create profiles of all system fonts, so that customers can begin sharing font profiles now for comparison.

Sherlock 2 - The Sequel

And you thought Sherlock was powerful!

Figure 1.Sherlock 2.

If you've used QuickTime 4, you've had a taste of Sherlock 2. The edges are smooth and molded, with an overall 3-D effect. Like QuickTime 4, Sherlock 2 comes with pre-defined "channels" for different types of browsing. Eight channels are defined by default and cannot be deleted: Files, Internet, Shopping, News, Apple, Reference, and My Channel.

Files merges the "Find File" and "Find by Content" capabilities of the original Sherlock. A new Custom popup provides a few "frequently chosen" specifications, as well as access to a dialog with all the search options you could possibly require. You can reach this customizing dialog either by explicitly selecting Custom... from the popup, or by clicking "Edit...". If you've already made a few choices, these will be reflected in the next dialog.

Figure 2More Search Options.

Once you've created a customized set of search criteria, you can save it for reuse. Your new search settings will be added to the Custom... menu until you choose to delete them.

New Channels

The remaining seven channels separate Sherlock's "Search Internet" function into specialty areas. A large number and variety of sites (plug-ins) are provided, and you can add your own as desired.

If "My Channel" doesn't provide enough room for creative customizing, you can create additional channels using the New Channel menu item. New channels can be one of four types: Searching, People, Shopping, or News. The channel type affects the way search results will be presented.

You can customize new channels with any of the two dozen icons provided, or add your own look by dragging a picture (or any Finder item with a custom icon!) to the icon box. To add a new search site, drag its Sherlock plug-in to the Search Sites list (or the channel's well) in the main Sherlock window.

Once you've created your own channels, you can edit them, add new sites, delete sites (by dragging to the trash) or delete the entire channel. You can download more plug-ins from sites you visit, or from special plug-in sites such as Apple's Sherlock Plug-Ins site, or Apple-Donuts. What are you waiting for?

Figure 3Customizing Channels.

More than Simple Relevance

Sherlock ranked results by relevance. If your channel type is "searching", Sherlock 2 will do the same. However, the new channel types, People, Shopping, and News, present their results in ways more appropriate to the type of search.

For example, results of a News search are ranked not only by relevance but also by date. People searches return name and email address. Results of a Shopping search are presented by price and availability.

Figure 4Results of a Shopping search.

Multi-User Logins

Well over half of the Mac OS users Apple surveyed share their computer. In addition, most of them are on-line. In today's internetworked world, that means these users are sharing more than their desktop pattern, Label colors, and Control Panels. They're also, potentially, sharing bookmarks, homepages, email addresses, chat room settings...

Apple's Multiple Users feature was created to give each user a more personal experience. The hardware may be shared, but the look and feel need not be. Nearly everything that personalizes a Macintosh - Appearance, Control Panels, system settings, application preferences, desktop files, icons, Internet settings - can now be personalized on a per-user basis.

The ability of Mac OS 9 to provide this feature so seamlessly is a direct result of the investment both Apple and most developers have been making since the release of System 7. System 7 allowed Macintosh developers to work with abstractions, such as the "System Folder", or the "Preferences" folder without the need to know the path to that folder or its actual name. Today, adoption of these abstract services is extremely high. Although a small number of applications are still not compatible, that number is decreasing rapidly.

User Administration

Users are administered through the Multiple Users control panel. This control panel allows authorized users to add, delete, or modify user accounts, as well as turn on the Multiple Users capability (off by default).

Figure 5Multiple Users Control Panel.

Figure 6Edit User.

Four kinds of user accounts are available. The owner has access to the complete system environment. Only the owner can install new applications, set up printers, access all applications or documents on the disk, or turn the Multiple Users capability on or off. The owner creates other accounts in one of three kinds: Normal, Limited, or Panels. User accounts have names and, usually, passwords. There can also be a Guest account.

Normal users have normal access to the computer, accessing the Finder and all applications on the startup disk. Limited users have access only to some parts of the Finder. In addition, these users may have limited access to applications.

The Panels interface is designed to be very simple. Panels users have limited access to the disk and applications and no access to the Finder. Instead, approved items appear in one large, brightly colored panel and the user's documents appear in another. The Panels interface features one-click buttons and allows for a small amount of customization.

Global options for multiple users include login settings such as voice verification of password, a global welcome message, access to CD/DVD-ROM, and whether users must type their names or may choose from a (less secure) list. The global options also determine whether a Guest user account is present.

Users Folders

Once Multiple Users has been turned on and a user (not the owner) has logged in, a User folder will be created on the startup disk. As the new user works, changing the desktop, setting Preferences, personalizing the environment, various new folders and files will be created in a folder with that user's name. Although this folder isn't called the System Folder, it bears a strong resemblance to the System Folder. The difference is, this folder represents a single user's preferences and settings.

Figure 7User Folders.

Voiceprint Login

One of the global options for Multiple Users is the ability to allow alternate passwords, specifically by voice verification. Verification is done by biometric voiceprint authentication. This is a true voiceprint, not simple word recognition.

When creating a voiceprint, you will need to record yourself speaking your pass phrase four times. Each time, you'll get feedback, for example, if the recording was too loud. You should see mostly green in the sound trace with little or no red.

Figure 8My voice is my password.


Back in the pre-Copland days, the Keychain was one of the features I was waiting for! Now it's here.

Figure 9Create Keychain.

The purpose of the keychain is to store multiple IDs and passwords in one convenient location. Accessible by a single password for the keychain itself, the keychain will securely protect all of your internet, file server, and similar passwords in one "lockable" location. Simply type (or speak) your password to log in to Mac OS 9 and that could be the last password you need to remember for the rest of the day!

The encryption algorithm is a 128-bit key based on proprietary Apple-developed technology. Because the keychain only stores discreet (small) amounts of data, this encryption technology has not been subject to import/export restrictions. (Recent decisions by the US Government may reduce these restrictions much further).

Apple's hope is that developers will adopt this technology for password encryption. Early adoption among third-party developers is promising. For example, both Fetch and Anarchie (FTP applications) were early keychain compliant applications.

Encryption Built In

In Mac OS 9, encryption is only a mouse-click away. In sync with the keychain, Mac OS 9 also supports private information by allowing users to encrypt any file on their disk. Simply select the file, then either select Encrypt from the File menu or choose Encrypt from the file's contextual menu. Alternatively, you can run the new Apple File Security application, choosing a file to encrypt.

Once a file has been chosen, you simply choose a decryption password and decide whether to add that password to the keychain. Then click Encrypt to encrypt the file.

Figure 10Encrypting a file.

Software Updates

Have you ever wished that your computer could stay in sync with the latest system software and application versions without requiring you to keep checking in to find out what's new or changed? Now it can. Simply set the Software Update control panel to check automatically for new and updated versions of your software. If you prefer to be in control, check the box to "Ask me before downloading".

Figure 11Software Update Control Panel.

You can specify a schedule (one choice of time, any or all days of the week) or simply use the Update Now button to check for updates at your convenience. If your computer is not connected to the Internet at a scheduled time, Software Update will perform its check the next time you connect.

File Sharing Over TCP/IP

Have you ever wished you could access a Macintosh over the Internet? Without the need to install an FTP server? For example, suppose you have a Mac at home that you would like to use to exchange files with a Mac at work (presuming, of course, that you don't have a firewall in the way). With Mac OS 9, you can exchange files via personal file sharing over the Internet via TCP/IP, as easily as you now exchange files over a local AppleTalk network.

This capability is not turned on by default, so you will have to enable it when you enable File Sharing.

Figure 12File Sharing Control Panel.

While you have the File Sharing control panel open, you'll notice something else that's new. Your IP address (if you have one assigned) is now shown in the Network Identity pane.

AppleScript over TCP/IP

In Mac OS 9, not only can you open files and folders over the network, you can control a remote computer from across the Internet using AppleScript over TCP/IP. You can now manage a remote computer as easily as if it were across the room, having it perform tasks for you and automating your workflow, all across the Internet. Consider the implications for laboratories and classrooms, un-manned kiosks, and other remote systems.

Network Browsing

Last but certainly not the least of the Internet Power Tools is the new Network Browser. The Browser, installed in the Applications folder, lets you browse any Internet domain, provided that domain advertises its available services.

The Browser looks for servers that use the Service Location Protocol (SLP) to advertise their services. To take full advantage of the Network Browser, make sure that you have an appropriate LDAP server specified in the Hosts setting on the Advanced tab of the Internet control panel.

Because the Browser uses LDAP, Systems Administrators and Information Services departments can determine how users see resources for various servers. See Apple's Network Services Location Manager Network Administrator's Guide (available from <>) for more information on how applications discover network services and how you (or your network administrator) can make a particular service appear in your Network Browser services list.

AppleTalk Services

In addition to the new "network neighborhoods" which list servers that advertise their services via SLP and LDAP, the Network Browser acts as an interface into your local AppleTalk network. Double-click on AppleTalk (or click the triangle) to disclose the zone list or list of available servers. Choose a server and you'll see the familiar connection dialog. Log in, and the volume will appear in the Browser window.

Figure 13AppleTalk via the Network Browser.

File Transfer with a Finder interface

But wait, there's more... The Network Browser is also an FTP client. To access any FTP site, simply, click on the Shortcuts button in the Browser window and select Connect to Server.

Figure 14Connect to Server.

Enter the FTP server's address (IP number or URL) in the dialog box, then enter your ID and password (which can be added to your Keychain) or select Anonymous login and there you are.

Figure 15Connect to FTP Server.

Your Internet Co-pilot

Apple says there are over 50 new features in Mac OS 9, most of them making up the 9 Internet Power tools. The remainder are designed to provide Mac OS 9 with increased support for gaming, languages, and, especially, desktop publishing.

Other features include support for files up to one terabyte in size, improved support for multi-processors, and Velocity Engine support built in (so you're prepared when you get your new G4!).

For developers, CarbonLib is built in. Application developers can create one version of an application and know it will run equally well on both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X.

Palm OS users will be pleased to learn that Mac OS 9 is Palm-ready; the Palm desktop software can be installed along with Mac OS 9. If you don't have a Palm yet, try the Palm desktop on its own. It's a handy little organizer.

All in all, Mac OS 9 is deserving of the single digit release number. If you are among the 90% of Macintosh users who spend a lot of time on-line, especially if you are among the 60% who share your computer, you'll want to upgrade. If for nothing else, the new Sherlock channels are probably worth the price.

For the Acronymically Challenged:

  • FTP - File Transfer Protocol
  • CD - Compact Disc
  • DVD - Digital Video Disc or Digital Versatile Disc (essentially a bigger, faster CD which can hold video as well as audio and computer data)
  • GUI - Graphical User Interface
  • LDAP - Lightweight Directory Access Protocol
  • ROM - Read-only Memory
  • SDK - Software Development Kit
  • SLP - Service Location Protocol
  • TCP/IP - Transfer Control Protocol / Internet Protocol
  • WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get (usually :-)

Bibliography and References

  • The Anarchie File Transfer program is Shareware from Peter Lewis, Stairways Software. Information and download at <>.
  • The Fetch File Transfer programs shareware from Dartmouth University. Information and download at <>.
  • Microsoft Outlook Express 4.5 is available for download from <>
  • Netscape Communicator is trademarked by Netscape, Inc., <>.
  • Sherlock Plug-Ins are available from Apple's Sherlock Plug-Ins Web Site <>, from Apple-Donuts <> and from many other locations on the world wide web.
  • StuffIt Expander and Aladdin DropStuff are trademarked by Aladdin Systems, Inc., at <>.

Vicki Brown has been programming computers since 1977. She discovered UNIX in 1983 and the Macintosh in 1986. UNIX is her favorite OS, but the Mac OS is her favorite user interface; she changed her desktop machine to a Macintosh over five years ago. Vicki can often be found doing technical writing or programming in Perl; she is the co-author of MacPerl: Power and Ease. When she's not programming or writing, Vicki enjoys relaxing with her spouse and their two Maine Coon cats. In her "day job", Vicki is is employed by (but does not speak for) Apple Computer, Inc.


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