On the Trail of Mac OS 8.5

See the sidebar
"Essential Troubleshooting Tips"

But if you poke around enough, you'll also find the fingerprints of Apple engineers on many subtler components of the new OS. Hidden beneath the surface, new shortcuts, tricks, and undocumented features make Mac OS 8.5 even faster and more convenient. Here, for your sleuthing pleasure, are a few clues to help you get the most from the new system. There was so much to say about Sherlock that we dedicated an article solely to it: see "Sherlock Power Searching," Secrets, elsewhere in this issue.

Kinsey Millhone and Hercule Poirot got reputations for being brilliant detectives?but then, they never had to help Mac novices over the phone. For example, asking a novice to identify the active program by analyzing the tiny Application-menu icon in the upper-right corner of the screen makes solving murders look like child's play.

Mac OS 8.5 goes a long way toward making the new Application menu easier to use, since it now identifies the active program by name. But there's more to this clever menu than that.

Name Games

You can customize the new Application menu to fit almost any whim. If you prefer the old, icon-only Application menu, click on the divider on your menu bar (between the clock and the name of the active program) to make the name disappear.

The Quick Switch

Don't want to use the mouse to switch active programs by choosing from the Application menu? Press command-tab to cycle alphabetically through all your open programs. If you press command-tab-shift, you'll cycle backward.

Palette Appeal

If you're switching among applications a lot, you may prefer to view all your open programs' icons at once, where they'll be available in a single click. In that case, click on the Application menu and drag it down to the desktop to turn it into a floating palette.

There's a lot you can do to make this palette yours. Press option and click on the zoom box in the palette's upper-right corner to make your palette show small icons. Want to orient the palette horizontally? Press option and shift, then click on the zoom box. Search the Mac OS Help file for the word Switcher to find clickable AppleScripts that customize the palette in more ways.

You can drag and drop icons from the Finder onto the Application palette to launch them, or option-click on a program tile to go to that program and hide the one you were just in.

A Menu with Many Faces

If the OS's built-in Application-menu-modification tricks don't do it for you, download PolyMorph Software's free control panel Prestissimo (available from http://www.macworld.com/more/ ). It lets you efficiently rearrange the Application palette's buttons, change the size and shape of the palette, and much more. (Allegro was Mac OS 8.5's code name?and in music, prestissimo is faster than allegro . Get it?)

What makes Mac OS 8.5 fast is that it's been tuned to really take advantage of the PowerPC chip. This means that you can use it only if you have a PowerPC Macintosh, but it also means that it feels much faster than Mac OS 8.1, especially when you're copying network. The intrepid Mac user does not have to stop there, however.

Stealthy Scrolling

Scroll bars may be the obvious way to get around a window or page, but they're not the only way: in any Finder window, simply press command and drag (inside the window) to slide your view up, down, or even diagonally.

Instant Open

Mac OS 8's spring-loaded folders open automatically when you drag an icon on top. You adjust the speed of this auto-opening with the Edit menu's Preferences command.

Unfortunately, if you set the auto-opening delay too short, your cursor is likely to open windows accidentally. Yet if you set the delay too long, the feature takes forever to kick in. The Mac OS 8.5 solution? Leave the Preferences setting at long. Then, when you drag onto a folder, press the spacebar. The folder will spring open instantly.

Secret Passage

Mac OS 8.5's new Open and Save dialog boxes have many advantages: they're movable and resizable; they offer Finder-style triangle buttons to help you navigate folders; and they show Disk, Recent, and Favorites pop-up menus. Here's the secret: you can drag a folder or disk icon directly from the desktop into an open dialog box. The directory changes instantly to show the contents of that folder or disk.

During OS 8.5's development, an exciting secret spread among the Internet's Apple watchers: press control and click on a text file in the Finder, so the rumor went, and there, in the contextual menu, you'll see a command called Summarize to Clipboard. Using this feature, you can reduce a wordy 15-page document to a couple of concise paragraphs (see the screen shot, "A Mac of Few Words").

Unfortunately, when you try this, you'll discover that the Summarize command is mysteriously missing, unless you've clicked on a plain text file (for example, one created in SimpleText). Elementary, my dear Watson: you need DataViz's MacLinkPlus translators.

Alas, MacLinkPlus no longer comes with the Mac OS. (Apple decided that the DataViz licensing fees were an unnecessary expense.) Still, you can install MacLinkPlus from a previous version of the Mac OS, get it bundled with some Mac OS 8.5 reference books, or buy DataViz's (203/268-0030, http://www.dataviz.com ) $100 MacLinkPlus 10.0. You'll be able to summarize only the types of files your version of MacLinkPlus supports. This means you'll need a newer version for files made in Microsoft Word 98, for instance.

Once you're up and running, you can control-click on the Clipboard window repeatedly to boil down summaries to a single sentence. That undocumented trick could come in handy when you're on the receiving end of documents written by, say, long-winded relatives, members of Congress, or lawyers.

The Mac has always been an international player?but never so much as in Mac OS 8.5. For the first time, you can view Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, and Indian Web pages in their non-Roman alphabets without having to buy any language kits.

To make this possible, the new OS comes with a multimegabyte package of special fonts, but they're not part of the standard installation. To get these, run the Mac OS 8.5 installer, click on Add/Remove, and install Multilingual Internet Access. When it's over, you'll be able to view those foreign-language Web pages.

Another hidden international touch: the new euro currency symbol (

) has been added to built-in fonts, such as Charcoal. Press option-shift-2 to produce it in your documents. Remember, however, that other people won't see your euro symbols on their computers unless they, too, have Mac OS 8.5.

Following the tracks of OS 8.5's makers can lead into some dark and narrow software corridors. Here, for the bold and the bored, are features even the programmers' bosses probably don't know about.

Memory Lapse

Ever notice that the more memory a Mac has, the longer it takes to start up? The reason is that the Mac tests all its memory each time you turn it on. One undocumented Mac OS 8.5 feature, however, lets you bypass these tests altogether.

While pressing command-option, open the Memory control panel. You'll see a secret panel bearing an On/Off switch for Startup Memory Tests. In theory, turning off these diagnostic tests makes your Mac start up faster. However, do so at your own risk?some Mac-clone owners have reported crashes.

Printer Inspector

Before printing that 150-page QuarkXPress document, use the File menu's Get Info command (command-I) on a laser printer's desktop icon to see whether the printer is busy, how it's configured, and which fonts it has. Also, you can now drop PICT and PostScript files directly onto the printer desktop icon to print them?without opening a separate application.

Help Tactics

The new Mac OS Help mechanism is actually a mini-Web browser that reads HTML help files. That means you can't print anything from the help text?unless you get sneaky.

Launch your favorite Web browser, choose Open from the File menu, and open the Help folder (in your System Folder). Inside the Mac OS Help folder is an index file called Mac OS Help. From here you can access all the help files with your browser and print the text just as you would any Web page.

A Hidden Message

As with any truly interesting software, Mac OS 8.5 even contains a clandestine credits display. Press control-option-command. The first command in your Apple menu will change to say "About the Mac OS 8.5 Team." Choose it and you'll be treated to a lengthy display of credits and floating icons from this OS's creators.

Holmes and Watson would never have guessed that even software could harbor such secrets, surprises, and strange sights. Mac OS 8.5 has it all. This operating system's hidden talents can make your Mac show off, do more, and hurry up. It's all there?if you know whereto look.

http://www.davidpogue.comMacworld Mac Secrets

March 1999 page: 82

by Ted Landau

The thought of upgrading to Mac OS 8.5 probably fills you with excitement and trepidation. You may be eager to try out 8.5's touted new features, but odds are that you've also heard about the OS's reported problems&#150f;om applications that won't launch to system crashes at start-up.

Although Mac OS 8.5 certainly has had its share of trouble, the good news is that most of its problems are easily fixed. How? The best remedy is to update your software (see the table, "Get Up-to-Date"). This should eradicate more than 90 percent of the bugs and conflicts. The following advice should smooth most of the remaining potholes on the road to Mac OS 8.5 success.


We may as well start where your fears probably do: reports that Mac OS 8.5 can cause a hard drive to fail. Perhaps you've heard the horror stories&#150a;blinking question mark that appears at start-up and that there's no getting past. Often the only way to bring a Mac with this affliction back to life is to reformat the hard disk.

At press time, Apple reported that the primary cause of this rare problem is probably a defect in previous versions of Drive Setup (included with the Mac OS). Therefore, make sure to get Mac OS 8.5.1 from the Apple Web site ( http://til.info.apple.com/swupdates.nsf/search ) before you upgrade. It comes with a new version of Drive Setup?.6.2. For maximum safety, back up your data (see " Be Safe, Not Sorry," February 1999) and reformat your hard disk before updating the OS by following these steps. Even if you're unwilling to reformat your hard disk, these steps alone should help keep you out of trouble.

1. Before you install OS 8.5.1, launch the latest version of Drive Setup (1.6.2 at press time) and select Update Driver from Drive Setup's Functions menu. Quit Drive Setup.

2. Launch the Mac OS 8.5 installer. When you get to the Install Software window, click on the Options button. Uncheck Update Apple Hard Disk Drivers. (This is very important.)

3. Proceed with installing Mac OS 8.5.1.

If you're using another formatting utility, such as FWB's $130 Hard Disk ToolKit (612/253-8300, http://www.fwb.com ), make sure to get the latest version of the driver prior to installing Mac OS 8.5.1. Then follow steps 2 and 3.


Overall, Mac OS 8.5 is speedier than its predecessors, but sometimes it can bog down. For example, your Mac may slow to a snail's pace when you select any menu after switching from one open application to another.

The slowdown is caused by a bug in the OS that relates to the Apple Menu Options control panel. You will encounter it only if you've enabled Apple Menu Options and have an alias to a large folder or volume in your Apple menu (either at the root level or in the System Folder's Favorites folder).

To solve the problem, delete the alias or?if that doesn't do the trick&#150d;sable the Apple Menu Options control panel. If you decide to abandon the Apple Menu Options but don't want to give up those features, try a shareware alternative, such as Fabien Octave's $10 BeHierarchic or Kerry Clendinning's $15 MenuChoice. You can find both of them at http://www.macworld.com/more/.


When you try to open Mac OS 8.5's new Internet or File Exchange control panels, you may be greeted with a message that says: "To use the Internet control panel, you must first install Internet Config Extension version 2.0 or later." Mac OS 8.5 places the correct version of the extension in your System Folder, so why is the message claiming that it's gone?

The reason is that when you install Web browsers&#150a;d many other Internet programs?they often overwrite the version you need with an older version. If this happens, you'll get the error message. The solution? Launch the Mac OS 8.5 installer, and choose to custom-install the Internet control panel. In the process, you'll reinstall the 2.0.2 version of Internet Config Extension.


One widely used program that has not been updated to work with Mac OS 8.5 (as of this writing) is Adobe Type Manager (ATM). As a result, the program can cause a variety of troublesome symptoms?including system crashes and Type 23 errors?that wouldn't necessarily lead you to suspect ATM as the cause. While you're waiting for the bug-fix update, Adobe recommends the following kludge (which fixes most of the reported problems):

1. Change ATM's Preserve: Character Shapes to Preserve: Line Spacing.

2. Turn on ATM's Smooth Font Edges on Screen option, but do not check the Disable Smoothing at Screen Font Point Sizes check box.

Many users have also found that unchecking the Translate Documents Automatically option in Mac OS 8.5's File Exchange control panel eliminated Type 23 errors associated with ATM.


QuarkXPress users will suffer some oddities when they upgrade to Mac OS 8.5?including display problems such as check boxes missing from dialog boxes. There's an unconventional but effective solution to this problem: install Greg Landweber and Arlo Rose's $25 shareware program Kaleidoscope 2.1. We're not sure why it works, but it does.

Having Kaleidoscope installed also serves as a workaround to a problem Palm PDA users have experienced, namely Pilot Desktop application crashes. At press time, 3Com ( http://www.3com.com ) released a beta version of MacPac 2.0, which should fix this bug.

1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2
Shop Tech Products at Amazon