Mac Lab Report

Lost Classic Mac OS Features Revived for OS X

- 2005.03.10

With regard to my recent ramble, Four Classic Mac OS Features Still Missing in OS X, about various OS 9 functions missing from OS X: Boy, I got a lot of mail on this one. The messages came fast and furious. They fell basically into three camps:

  1. You can already do that.
  2. You just need a piece of shareware.
  3. Here's something you left out.
  4. OS X is better, so I don't miss anything.

So here's a summary. As usual for me, I'll use your stuff and give you credit, but I'll leave out your email to reduce unintentional spam.

Let me just say it is a privilege to write for an audience that takes the time to write back with so many helpful suggestions, all very politely written and appreciative - not a bit of flame bait in the batch.

It's a good day here at Low End Mac when we see the spirit of Mac users helping each other still exists.

1. You Can Already Do That

Joseph Wardell notes that my lament for tabbed folders is premature, because if you move the Dock to the left or right margin and drag a Finder window to the bottom, it will act pretty much exactly like the old tabbed folder. The zoom button opens and closes the drawer (so does clicking the title bar).

This is true, but if you switch resolutions a lot (like I do), going from a lower resolution to a higher one leaves you with all your tabbed drawers open. On the other hand, you can overlap the folder headers if necessary.

It's too bad you can't color them. John Bryan agrees and says color coding would help - folders placed in the dock are indistinguishable unless you mouse over them.

Mark Hessburg went so far as to make an animated movie of how to make tabbed folders in OS X. If he gives me permission, I'll post a link to his movie here.

Michael Cohen says you can already boot with extensions disabled using Safe Mode (which I have indeed used once myself, just hold down the Shift key during startup). I don't think there's an equivalent function to the on-the-fly extensions manager option you got in OS 9, though.

2. You Just Need a Piece of Shareware

Burner Dragon says that you can add system-style sounds with utilities called APE and Xounds from Unsanity. I haven't tried them yet.

Z. D. Smith recommends a piece of software called Sticky Windows that makes tab folder behavior occur on the left, right, and bottom of the screen. Ben Galanti mentions that one plus Xounds. Like me, Ben hasn't tried these things yet. I got similar recommendations from Welles Goodrich and Os Maile.

George Krueger recommends Xounds as well and says DragThing may work for the popup folder functionality. Even though it's not precisely the same, he says, you can "get it to work pretty much the same." Mackie from Macintalk Magazine says to try it for the sound functionality, too.

3. Here's Something You Left Out

James Hammett says about booting in Safe Mode: "If you hold down shift when you log in (I seem to remember), it will not launch your startup/log in items."

Peter Paul Sint writes:

If one uses Finder > View as Icons > Small Icons > Label Position Right (this way you can see the largest number of items in a folder simultaneously. I use also list or column views but this is the view to sort items in a way conforming to my own logic.)

Clean Up or Clean Up Selection work often (most of the time) in an unpredictable way (with or without Snap to Grid).

In OS 9, everything went to the nearest position. An algorithm determined the optimal repositioning for every item before moving anything. Only occasionally items were moved far away.

In Mac OS X, it seems, items not in place are fitted sequentially to free places on the screen - or even outside the screen. Even very small displacements lead to an essential reshuffling.

Grid places/positions are changed in the process (even if everything was already on a grid).

If one sorts by Name, Date, Kind - my display/arrangement logic is destroyed,

I waited for every new incarnation of OS X to improve on that. In vain.

It seems everybody has given up to use this view.

I am not sure if this happens also in large icons view.

Bret Sher misses the ability to drag copy a startup disk to make a bootable backup; being able to "open an item deep within a folder hierarchy using 'a click and a half' to begin drill-down," windows with draggable borders, not having a Dock pop up when you don't want it to (you can't turn if off), and the dialogs that don't have more explanation than choices (as in Windows.)

Steven Hunter misses the Control Strip and has users (not himself) who miss - wait for it, wait for it - the Chooser. Everyone hated the Chooser, it seems to me. I remember way back in the day, I didn't understand it either, but I eventually got it.

John O. misses Windowshade and says he knows there's a third party replacement [Windowshade X] somewhere.

Brian Silverman misses cleaning up a folder's contents by option-clicking on the triangle. I just got used to doing that in OS 9 when OS X came along....

Jessi Hance misses Shutdown Items, the old window widgets, and Kaleidoscope.

Tim Priest and others mentioned one I'd noted before and forgot to write about: "Put Away." In OS 9 you can drag a file out of a folder, use it, then use the Put Away command to re-file it back in the original folder. That was handy if you got the hang of using it consistently. Tim says we will be gaining this and other functions due to upgrades coming with Tiger, so hang in there.

Russell Sussan says he misses the customizable OS 9 menu. He thinks the menus are more responsive than items placed in the Dock.

Phillip Erschler says that he misses the ability to print Finder windows. I used to do that all the time as a test print when setting up printers. You can still print a file directory list, but you have to use the Terminal and do it via Unix-style commands. Not convenient.

Burner Dragon says he misses being able to double click on a System 7 sound file and have it would play immediately in the OS. He says you can't do that in OS X without a 3rd party app.

David Watson says he misses being able to double-click a font suitcase and instantly see an example of a font displayed. Now you have to launch an app to do the same thing.

4. OS X Is Better, So I Don't Miss Anything

John Davis says he liked the system sounds but doesn't consider it worth the performance hit to put them back in; otherwise, leave well enough alone.

Finally, MR explains his annoyances with OS X in general. He wrote an extensive article, which he attached, and I would suggest he might try to get published with Dan here at LEM or elsewhere. It isn't aimless anti-Mac rambling - it systematically lists interface issues he has with OS X's designer's decisions.

If you do that, I hope you like getting mail. What you'd get would make what I got pale by comparison.

Thanks everyone!

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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