The Low End Mac Mailbag

18-bit Video Inadequate, Restoring AppleWorks Speed, Macintosh Display Info, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.04.09 - Tip Jar

18-Bit Screen Dithering

From Zack Smith in response to Millions vs. Thousands of Colors: What's the Difference?:

I enjoyed your article, but I need to point out that the "big issue" isn't so much that Apple is using 18-bit displays in their laptops (and for the record, all laptop displays are 18-bit), it's that Apple's dithering algorithm changed between the PowerBook and the MacBook Pro. I went from an 867 MHz PowerBook G4 to a 2.2 GHz MacBook Pro, and the palette in Photoshop has noticeable banding and clipping on the MacBook Pro's internal display and not on the PowerBook's display. The palette also appears as it should on an external display hooked up to either computer. I can live with this, but it could be unacceptable for professional photographers.

- Zack Smith


Thanks for sharing this. I don't have a 20" aluminum iMac and don't work with Photoshop Elements on the MacBook Pro my wife uses, so I hadn't seen the difference between my Power Mac G4 with an LCD and the MacBook Pro. As she's at work today, I just tested it: open Elements, create a blank image, and open the color picker. There's definitely more banding than on the Dell display connected to my G4.

It's a shame Apple downgraded from the algorithm that worked so well on PowerBooks, which had the same 18-bit display limitation.


16-Bit Video Not Good Enough

From Bill Rice:

Hi Dan,

Although I'm not decided on whether Apple's 18-bit color is indistinguishable from 24, I think you've been misleading in your quote from the Tidbits article. Fleishman's quote was preceded by, "Apple's rationale is two-fold....". The part you quoted was not his opinion, but his interpretation of Apples' actions in removing 24-bit video from newly introduced models.

He goes on to say, "I feel that you don't have to be an expert to appreciate 24-bit video. I have spent the last 20 months working mostly on systems with 24-bit video, and the distinction that I see between those systems and others running 16-bit video is substantial enough for anyone making a cursory comparison to notice. People doing serious illustration . . . must have 24-bit video. Although you may see smooth blends and crisp results on screen in 16-bit color, you will have no guarantee of the actual output colors or blends."

I think that is a more honest quote that gives the gist of the article. Considering that it was written 15 years ago, it would seem to be even more important today for Apple to be honest about the video capabilities of it's various models.



Thanks for writing.

Fleishmann doesn't state that he's quoting Apple, and 16-bit color is good enough for most video and multimedia work. It's not good enough for precise color work, but for things like adjusting brightness, contrast, and the like, it should be adequate. So as long as you're not adjusting the color, most users should find 15- to 18-bit color adequate - not perfect, but good enough for typical use.


Fixing Sluggish AppleWorks

From Zach Tuckwiller:

To speed AppleWorks back up, you have to clear out the Recent Items. I don't know why, but this fixes it. We discovered this where I work a few years ago, and it helps us immensely. In your home folder, go to the Documents/AppleWorks User Data/Starting Points/Recent Items, and empty this folder out. It's full of aliases to all of the files you've ever opened with AppleWorks on that computer.

In our work environment, after we empty this folder and then the trash, we usually Get Info on this folder and set the owner (and group if it's not already) to Read Only. That way, from here on out, AppleWorks can't put the shortcuts there and bog down the application. It takes away the ability to use the Recent Items part of Starting Points, but if you don't use that part anyway, then it won't matter. If you do, just clear out the folder periodically, and you should be good to go. Hope this helps! Take care, and have a good evening!



A million thanks. There were 984 files in that folder. Trashing them and then emptying the Trash has AppleWorks running as speedily as ever!


AppleWorks Clean Up

From Scott Cook:

Hey Dan,

I've read about your frustration with AppleWorks. It's still working very well for me. You probably already know this, but in your User folder, go into:

Documents/AppleWorks User Data/Starting Points/Recent Items/

and delete all those files, with AppleWorks shut down of course. You are likely to find hundreds of files in there if you've never cleaned it out before. These old files will slow AppleWorks to a crawl and can make it unstable. You can also delete the items in the:

Documents/AppleWorks User Data/AutoSave/

folder, after backing up your work and shutting down AppleWorks properly. Even if you already know this, there may be readers who don't know. AppleWorks is wonderful, and I'll use it as long as possible. AppleWorks uses 0% of my CPU while running with a blank word processing document open. Microsoft Office uses about 10% of my CPU while running with a blank word processing document open. What is the reason for that?

Scott Cook


Thanks for the tip. Another reader already suggested clearing out the Recent Items folder, and it made a world of difference.

I can't imagine why Word would use 10% of your CPU. On my dual 1 GHz G4 with no window open, it's reporting 2% of CPU cycles being used by Word, 23% by Safari (Yahoo Mail is open), and a big fat zero for AppleWorks. Something called TrueBlueEnvironement is using about 100% of CPU cycles (remember, this is a dual CPU Mac); I'm guessing that's part of Classic Mode, which was called the Blue Box when Rhapsody was being developed. (I just verified that by quitting Classic, and after restarting, it's using up a lot less resources. Interesting....)

Thanks again for the tips.


The tip comes from AppleWorks 6: The Missing Manual, which is an excellent resource. I actually read it from cover to cover and learned a lot. I still refer to it whenever I need to.

I'm using a 500 MHz G3 iBook at the moment, so 10% of my CPU is probably about the same as 2% of yours. I can't imagine why a blank word processing document would use any of the CPU. Thankfully AppleWorks doesn't. I leave AppleWorks running all the time, even when I'm not using it. I have to shut down all Microsoft Office applications when I'm not using them. I hardly ever use Office unless somebody sends me a document. I have iTunes playing an .mp3 CD most of the time. It uses 15% of my CPU. Safari and Mail are always running - and use less CPU than Word does. I only run Classic when I need to use an OS 9 application, usually Photoshop 5, which is wonderful on my little G3 iBook by the way. I think AppleWorks, Roxio Toast with Jam, and Adobe Photoshop are some of the best Mac applications I've ever purchased. I now have Final Cut Pro 3, which will run on my G3 iBook. This should prove interesting! (laugh)

Am I a low-end power user?

Scott Cook


Yeah, I'd consider you a low-end power user: You know how to get the most out of what you have.

Although I now use Photoshop Elements 3.0 for almost all of my image editing, I used Photoshop 5.5 for the longest time - and only upgraded to it from 4.0 so I could have editable text. There's a lot of value in good old software like AppleWorks, FileMaker Pro, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, not to mention great Classic apps like Claris Home Page and Claris Emailer.

If I didn't already know enough about AppleWorks to do everything I need, I'd seriously consider picking up the Missing Manual.


AppleWorks 6: The Missing Manual is $4.35 with shipping included on right now. It's probably a similar bargain on eBay. I bought it at full retail and found it to be one of the best resources I ever bought. I've been a heavy AppleWorks user for years. My other best resource is Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Panther Edition. I read it cover to cover and still use it as a reference whenever I need.

I'm very thankful Apple periodically obsoletes its technology, leaving me with tremendous software bargains! So far I got Microsoft Word 98 free, Office X full version for $13, Adobe Photoshop 5 full version for $7, Final Cut Pro 3 for $20, Digidesign ProTools Free as a free download, and a big stack of games and other stuff for a few dollars. This is some seriously nice software for practically nothing. All I need is my G3 iBook (also given to me free) to run it well. How many thousands of dollars would this software cost just a few years ago?

I can hardly wait until Apple dumps Intel so I can steal some more cool stuff! (laugh)

Scott Cook

AppleWorks Drawings

From Bob Forsberg following up on Disappointed with iWork:

Thanks Dan for your input. Yes, I've found Pages able to open AppleWorks WP when inside Pages (word processing) but not DR (drawing).

For my business documents I created DR templates enabling me greater freedom to move around created objects/text, than was available in WP. Unfortunately, DR documents don't open. They are grayed out in iWork 08's Pages. Pages opens WP not DR. I realize its the price we pay for using older software (AppleWorks 6.2.9) on newer hardware (Intel 2 GHz 24" iMac), but I expected Apple's replacement software, iWork to always support the most recent AppleWorks.

Experiencing problems with AppleWorks isn't something I've encountered, except AppleWorks sometimes quitting/failing to open when attempting to open an AppleWorks document by clicking on its icon. For me, it takes a total restart of the system to allow AppleWorks to again run correctly. I don't know if its something I do prior to opening an AppleWorks document that might hoard/freeze RAM or cache, but even quitting all other programs . . . after getting the alert message that AppleWorks quit . . . and again attempting to open the document without restarting, doesn't work. I've also tried force quit of the finder before a restart to no avail.

I own iWork '08, will continue using AppleWorks and hope an iWork DR module that opens almost 2 decades of my AppleWorks DR documents will be added.

Bob Forsberg


It's a shame that Apple hasn't turned iWork into a real replacement for AppleWorks. I've become quite proficient at creating a chart in a spreadsheet, copying it to a drawing, changing colors and line weights, and then pasting that into Photoshop Elements to create graphics for Low End Mac and I doubt we'll ever see anything like AppleWorks again, which is a shame, as it also included paint and presentation modules. Until iWork gains a draw program, you're probably going to have to stick with AppleWorks.

I haven't experienced the problem you mention, but I'll post it to the mailbag in hopes someone will have some guidance.


Damaged Address Book in Outlook Express 5

From Peter de Waal:


Greetings from New Zealand. A friend of mine does community development work and has for years used Outlook Express 5 on OS 9.2.2 on a G4.

He now wants to upgrade to OS X and Apple Mail but is having trouble upgrading because his OE5 Address Book became corrupted, as his volume of mail at one point last year was 2.5 Gigabytes!

Apparently Outlook Express 5 has a file limit of 1.99 gigabytes according to Wikipedia.

On inspecting the Outlook Express 5 "Database" containing the address book with Microsoft Excel, I found fragments of emails scattered about with addresses, other information, and the code that Microsoft write their applications in. So it seems like a classic case of "Address Book Corruption" caused by having too many emails stored, as Wikipedia describes.

There are numerous software tools for Windows users to unscramble this problem, but nothing available for Mac users.

Do you know of any utilities that can repair this damage?



I found a bit about OE5 for Mac on the Internet. Outlook Express 5.0 for Mac: Maintenance looks like a very helpful resource. They recommend using version 5.02 or later, stating, "A complex rebuild can create troubles with your address book in versions prior to 5.02." They also explain how to rebuild a damaged database and compact an overgrown one. I hope that's enough to help.


Hi Dan,

Thank you very much for getting back to me. My friend is already running Outlook Express 5.0.6. I tried the "Complex Rebuild of Database" option - it runs to the end and then dies, giving an error message saying it has had an "Error of Type 2."

I tried copying Outlook Express 5.0.6 and the "Documents" folder to a 249 MB RAM Disk (as I have 1024 MB of RAM in my G3 B/W), deleting the originals with the same result.

There doesn't seem to be any way of printing the contact lists off in OE5, so it looks like it will have to be a manual copy from one machine to another of 2400 contacts...

Such is life.

Thanks very much for your help.

Peter de Waal


Sorry to hear it. I remember running into the same problem with Quark XPress well over a decade ago - you could create, work on, and save files that were too large for XPress to ever open again. Very frustrating - no program should save a file bigger than it can open without a warning message.


Information on Apple Displays

From James Haudenshield:

Hi Dan,

As always, LEM continues to provide great content, despite the annoying keyword popup links. Your site has really grown nicely over the past 8 years that I've been surfing to it.

Now that the color depth of Mac monitors has come to the foreground of the Mac community, I began investigating the low-end "Apple Studio Display" 16" CRT that I'm using with my low-end Sawtooth G4 PowerMac. And I noticed that LEM doesn't really have a section for monitors/displays. There are sections for video cards.

So my idea is that LEM could have a section on "Monitor/Display Profiles" just as it has for "Mac Profiles", and the specs for all these displays (including the flat panel of PowerBooks, iBooks, and MBAs) could be shown. It would include, of course, the true number of bits per pixel, but also the connection type, true viewable area, etc. To populate this new area of LEM with data, you could initially set it up as a "Web 2.0" style forum, where users can add information themselves, as replies to a blog, one topic per monitor. Then, after enough info is accumulated, you can simply compile the data into a pretty website, and add the advertising links to various display resellers. :)

- Jim


Thanks for writing. There are some areas we didn't cover that we now wish we had. We're slowly adding profiles for PCI and AGP video cards, LaserWriter printers, and Mac software. I'll get started on a section for displays as well, although it won't include the displays built into notebooks. (We can include that on the pages for those 'Books.)

We also ought to add sections for PCI-X and PCIe video cards. I'll post this in the mailbag in hopes of finding a few readers who would like to help with this project. Thanks for the suggestion.


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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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