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Making the switch to Mac OS X

Jul 1, 2004 12:00 AM

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Apple's (Cupertino, CA) Macintosh OS X is a UNIX-based operating system. More specifically, it's based on NeXTStep, the operating system used by the NeXT computer that Steve Jobs developed after he left Apple in 1985. Apple acquired NeXT in 1997 and released NeXTStep as OS X.

The first version of OS X, 10.1, was introduced in 2000, followed by 10.2 (known as “Jaguar”) in 2002 and 10.3 (“Panther”) in 2003. Apple computers sold between 2000 and 2003 run either OS 9 or X, but those manufactured after 2003 do not support OS 9. Some new program releases, including Adobe Acrobat 6, the Adobe Creative Suite and QuarkXPress 6, also only run on OS X.

OS X supports multiple operators, multiple processors and more memory than OS 9. Faster G4 and G5 processors, with dual processors available on some models, and larger RAM capacity mean you can get jobs done faster. And since it's based on UNIX, OS X is a more stable operating system — you'll have fewer crashes. Applications that quit unexpectedly won't affect the whole system, as they did with OS 9.

Some features in OS X are different from OS 9, though. Here's what you need to know about navigating in OS X for print production.

Getting started with OS X

Logging in

The first variance of OS X that you'll notice is that you have to log in. Since the operating system is based on UNIX, and UNIX is a multi-user system, each OS X user must log in with a user name and password. (You can also set your computer to automatically log you in.)

Each individual has his or her own custom-configured desktop. While items in OS 9 could be locked, system items and those accessed by all users in OS X are protected and can't be deleted unless you log in as the “root” user. To do this, a user must first be enabled on your system through the NetInfoManager application (Applications > Utilities). See instructions at

The Dock

After logging in, you'll note that the Mac OS 9 application menu on the upper right of the screen has been replaced by the “Dock” (Fig. 1), a bar of application and window icons that can be positioned on the left, right or bottom. You can add applications to the Dock by dragging and dropping icons into it. Programs that are running will have a black triangle underneath. If you prefer a textual list of running applications, use Unsanity Software's (St. George, UT) FruitMenu product (Fig. 2).

The Apple Menu

In OS 9, this menu contains a customizeable list of control panels, extensions and other features that you placed into the “Apple Menu Items” folder. This has been replaced in OS X by an abbreviated, non-customizeable menu. If you want to customize the Apple Menu, use FruitMenu.

Startup items

In OS 9, you could set applications to start automatically by placing them in the System Folder > Startup Items folder. OS X can also start applications; identify which ones in System Preferences > Accounts > Startup Items (Fig. 3).

Classic mode

Applications that are not OS X-native can still run using the “Classic” mode, which is OS 9.2.2 operating within OS X. Generally, it's better to run programs native, as Classic requires extra time to start up and consumes additional memory. If you run an application that requires a copy-protection device, or “dongle,” the Classic dongle driver may conflict with the OS X-native driver. If they conflict, your application won't be able to see the dongle, and it won't run.

Navigating the system

Items that used to be in the system folder in OS 9 are, in OS X, found in a folder called “Library.” Since OS X is set up for multiple users, there are several library folders:

  • One at the root level of the disk (Library)
  • One in the system (OS X) folder (System > Library)
  • One in each user's folder (Users > User Name > Library).

When you log in, OS X launches system items in the root/Library, System/Library and your User Name/Library folders.


Fonts are located in the “Fonts” folder inside the Library folder. Like all system items, there are at least three Fonts folders, one in each of the libraries. Fonts can be moved in and out of the root/Library and User Name/Library folders, but the contents of the System/Library folder are protected. To move them, you'll need to log in as the root user. Be careful, though — if you remove any of the system fonts required by your Mac, you may find that your menu is blank!

Apple has introduced Font Book with OS X, a simple utility for installing, previewing and organizing fonts. Font Book can be used to create, edit and manage font collections.


Printer description files, which provide the information needed for your “Application Page Setup” and “Print” dialog boxes, are located in the “Printer” folders in one of the Library folders. PPDs for many commonly used printers are built in to OS X “Panther” and are automatically accessed when you set up the printer. You can still use PPDs from OS 9, however. These are in the System (Classic) Folder > Extensions > PPDs, as they were before.

ColorSync profiles

As with other system items, ColorSync (ICC) profiles, which describe the color of printers, monitors, scanners, digital cameras and standard working spaces, are located in the ColorSync > Profiles > Color folder in one of the three Library folders (Fig. 4). If you use Photoshop or any of Adobe's applications, a fourth Color folder is located in Library > Application Support > Adobe.

New in OS X 10.3 are color filters in the ColorSync utility. The utility can be used to create actions that you apply to files upon output by selecting the actions in the ColorSync pop-up of the Print window. With the Color-Sync utility, you can create a filter for printing customer-supplied PDFs, in which separate rendering intents were applied to text, vector graphic illustrations and bitmapped images (Fig. 5).

Control Panels

The “Control Panels” folder, which let you make settings to the computer, has been replaced by the “System Preferences” window, accessible from the Apple Menu (Fig. 6).


The OS 9 “Extensions” folder, which contains accessory programs that run in the background, has an OS X folder by the same name. Extensions in OS X could be in any of the Library folders. Generally, extension installation in OS X is more automated and extension conflicts aren't as predominant as in OS 9. Therefore you probably won't need to go looking for extensions to turn them off or check their version.

If you want to get information about a specific extension, you may have to contact the software or hardware vendor to find out where it's located and if there are any conflicts on record. In Mac OS X, it's still possible to start the computer without extensions by holding down the Shift key during startup.

Chooser (printers)

As all veteran Mac users know, OS 9's “Chooser” was where you selected the printer you wanted to use and network servers or other computers to which you wanted to connect. In OS X, the Chooser for printers has been replaced by the “Printer Setup” utility in the Apple Menu. The utility shows a list of printers installed and what each printer is doing. You can open the printer to get a status window showing a list of jobs and the status of each one.

Chooser (network)

The Chooser for network servers has been replaced by a “Network” icon in the “Finder” window. Clicking that icon will give you a list of available servers.

How do I…?

Access my favorite OS 9 features?

Functions that were dropped from the OS X interface include the Application menu, the configurable Apple Menu, collapsing title bars, the ability to color-code folders and the “Public” folder. Unsanity Software publishes several utilities for Mac OS 9 users who want to keep these features in OS X. To make windows, collapse to the title bar, then use Windowshade X. To get a configurable Apple Menu, use FruitMenu. To color-code folders, use Labels X. If you want to put a public folder on your desktop to which other users can log on and drop or copy files, use Hornware's (San Francisco) SharePoints.

Open a printer?

To add a new printer, open the Printer Setup utility and click the “Add Printer” icon at the top of the window. OS X can connect to printers using AppleTalk, TCP/IP, USB and Rendezvous, a new technology that enables automatic printer setup. After selecting the printer, choose the printer model or browse to the PPD that describes the printer's capabilities and features.

Manage fonts?

The first font-management utility for OS X was DiamondSoft's Font Reserve. Extensis (Portland, OR), publisher of Suitcase, subsequently bought Font Reserve. Suitcase X1 (V11) has also been updated to work with OS X. Both programs simplify font management on OS X. New features include auto-activation of fonts required by documents and the ability to override system fonts — a blessing to graphic-arts users who want to use PostScript Type 1 fonts and may be faced with a confusing array of same-named fonts, including TrueType, Multiple-Master TrueType, OS X dfonts and Open Type fonts.

Get dongles to work?

If you use high-end software RIPs, color-management software or any program requiring a copy-protection dongle, you may need to update your dongle to get it to work in OS X. Many Mac-serial dongles can still be used with newer USB-only Macs by connecting them through a Griffin iMate USB-to-ADB adapter. Dongles generally require a driver extension from the manufacturer. The dongle driver for an OS X-native application may conflict with the Classic driver for the same dongle. Therefore, when using a dongle-protected Classic application, you may need to identify and disable the OS X driver and enable the Classic extension.

Applications and new tools

Adobe Acrobat 6 and Adobe's Creative Suite (Photoshop CS, Illustrator CS and InDesign CS) run on Mac OS X only. Acrobat 6 introduced a new PDF V1.5 and some new editing tools, including the ability to edit photos in Photoshop and to do text touch up. Enfocus' (San Mateo, CA) PitStop Professional 6.1 plug-in works with Acrobat 6 and OS X. PageMaker 7 still runs in Classic mode; however, Adobe has announced InDesign CS PageMaker Edition, an InDesign version with PageMaker tools designed to help PageMaker users transition to InDesign.

QuarkXPress 6 runs on Mac OS X only. In February, Quark released V6.1 to correct a number of bugs in the application. QuarkXPress 5 is OS 9-native and runs on OS X in Classic mode. V5 files can be saved from QuarkXPress 6 to be opened in QuarkXPress 5.

Creo's (Billerica, MA) PDF plug-ins have been updated to work with OS X, along with its Ever-Smart and iQSmart scanning applications.

According to Dennis Ryan, Heidelberg's (Kennesaw, GA) product manager of prepress software, Printready Cockpit, Supertrap, Supercolor, Signastation and NewColor are all OS X-native.

Computer maintenance

Veteran Mac and PC users used to compare notes on how many times a day their computer crashed. Thoughtful users realized that running a disk diagnostic utility and performing certain maintenance functions reduces the frequency of crashes. OS X users generally talk about how many times per month their computer crashes. It's still a good idea, however, to do periodic maintenance.

Disk diagnosis and repair

While it's no longer necessary in OS X to rebuild the desktop, the key disk diagnostic programs, including Norton Utilities for Macintosh and MicroMat TechTool, have been updated for OS X. Apple's Disk Utility can also be used to verify disks. Once a month or so, depending upon use, it may be a good idea to run a diagnostic on your hard disk to find and correct directory and file problems that could cause crashes or improper operation.

To do this, insert the software CD into your CD drive and restart your Mac with the “C” (for CD) key held down. You can also insert the CD and identify it as the startup volume in the System Preferences > Startup Disk panel, then restart. Or, insert the CD and start the computer with the Option key held down, which allows you to choose the startup disk. After starting from the CD, you can diagnose and defragment your hard drive.

Repairing disk permissions

Due to OS X's security features, it's sometimes necessary to perform a maintenance operation known as repairing disk permissions. Symptoms of faulty disk permissions include the inability to access necessary software or extensions. To repair permissions, start from the Apple System CD that came with your computer, launch the Apple Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities) and check “Verify Disk Permissions.”

Zapping the PRAM

Parameter RAM (PRAM) is a battery-powered chip that holds settings information on your Mac. If peripherals don't operate properly, it may help to reset the PRAM by restarting the computer with the Command + Shift + P + R keys held down.

Richard M. Adams II is a color specialist at the Graphic Intelligence Agency. Contact him at or visit

5 ways to prepare for OS X

Here are some steps you can take to get ready for production in OS X:

  1. Use a computer that can boot in OS 9 or OS X, then you can switch back and forth. (Restarting can be slow and may become a barrier to your migration.) Better yet, dedicate a second computer to OS X. Use it to do the same tasks that you perform on your OS 9 computer.
  2. Check with all your peripherals vendors about drivers for OS X. Try plugging peripherals into the OS X computer and make sure they operate as expected.
  3. Check with the printer manufacturer about whether they have an OS X driver. Some older printers may not be supported. Try running the same jobs from your OS 9 and your OS X computer and make sure they come out the same (color, position, resolution).
  4. Check with the manufacturer about OS X drivers and compatibility issues. Run parallel output and check for compatibility.
  5. Check with software publishers about upgrades for OS X. Review documentation and check magazine reviews to become familiar with new features. Try opening and printing jobs from the OS X computer; check for problems with fonts, graphics, color profiles and other parameters.

OS X in the real world

In recent issue of “InRegister,” our e-mail newsletter, we asked readers to tell us about their OS X experiences. Many echoed Michael McKee's response: “Three issues were hardest to overcome: Fonts and then fonts and finally fonts!” wrote McKee, prepress manager at James Printing Co. (North Kansas City, MO).

Several readers reported that it took a little while to get comfortable navigating in OS X. “Everything looks different,” says Susan Alexander of Pronto Printing (Universal City, TX). “I struggled at first with placing and finding things.” But after reading “Mac OS X: The Missing Manual,” it's been smooth sailing. “Now, I absolutely love OS X,” wrote Alexander. “There's no turning back!”

“Multitasking is far superior to OS 9,” related Bruce Steiner, Courier Printing Corp. (Grabill, IN). “Networking with Windows is much improved — a critical consideration for many print shops, since programs and files now work nearly identically in OS X and Windows XP. Also, Open Type fonts are completely crossplatform — no special utilities are required.”

Other comments included:

  • “With OS X, you can write to PDF without having to use an Adobe product. Pretty nifty!” — Linda, graphic designer

  • “The features and benefits of OS X far outweigh the concerns and problems [associated with earlier versions]. It is extremely stable. Once you've moved to OS X, you'll wonder why you waited so long. You'll also develop a ‘love, but mostly hate’ relationship with OS 9. At least we did. The learning curve is manageable, but the longer you wait, the steeper that curve may become.” — Cyn Branson, Practicon Inc.

  • “Get the biggest and fastest computer that you can. Don't crap out on buying RAM — it will save you headaches. Upgrade your applications as soon as you can, you will not want to stay in Classic. I'm happy I made the change. OS X's major advantage is total rock-solid stability.” — George Denzinger, Spectrum Graphics

  • “There's no going back — I've gotten used to an almost crash-free operating system. With the Panther edition, I can easily communicate and share files with our PCs. Programs such as InDesign, Photoshop and Quark run and print faster to our platesetter.” — Robert VanderLeest, Franklin Press

  • “OS X is a stunning achievement, particularly its network capabilities.” — Paul Hendee, self-described “dedicated Mac guy”

Look for more OS X reader feedback next month. To subscribe to “InRegister,” see

OS X webinar series

IPA's (Edina, MN) two-part Mac OS X webinar series, presented by computer programmer Chuck Weger, is currently available on CD. Session one, “Mac OS X Workflow Automation,” describes improvements made to AppleScript in OS X, provides a comprehensive introduction to automation and explains how it can save you time. The second session, “Panting for Panther,” reviews the modifications made to V10.3, specifically focusing on fonts, PDF and PostScript. CDs are $145 each for non-members ($95 each for IPA members). To order, call IPA at (800) 255-8141 or visit

Drumming up support for OS X

By Phil Hood

OS X is one of the best things Apple's ever done. We found the transition to be smooth, particularly after OS X 10.3 became available. In our small office, there are a dozen Macs, plus Windows and Linux servers.

For anyone doing it, all of the standard advice applies:

  • Newer is better

    You need to go to Quark 6 and upgrade font management programs such as Extensis. In OS X 10.2 or lower, System 9 apps can be run by logging out and restarting in Classic Mode. In System 10.3 (even better), System 9 is invoked in a separate window when you go to open a System 9 app.

  • Don't run System 9 apps

    It's best to upgrade everything. You'll like the experience better.

  • You can never have too much RAM

    Try at least 1GB of RAM for good results.

  • You can never have a processor that's too fast

    All G4s seem to run OS X adequately. The G5s are great. The G3s are unacceptable for heavy-duty graphics work.

  • Spend a day training people

    It only takes a little time to get used to OS X. But it has an underlying UNIX file system, which changes the way you work. Make sure people know how to manage their documents and folders. Also, they need to know how user log-in and permissions work.

I would not stay with System 9 under any circumstances. Neither should you!

Reader Phil Hood is the publisher of DRUM! (San Jose, CA),