Apple OS X

Copyright 2002-04, 2008-10 by Ronald B. Standler

Table of Contents

Software for OS X
         Firewall & Anti-Virus Software
         Wordprocessor & Text Editor
         Disk Defragmentation/Optimization
DOS/Windows Compatibility


I have used Apple computers since May 1992, primarily for music composition and wordprocessing. Since May 2002, I have also used an Apple computer as my principal machine for e-mail and webbrowsing, as a way of obtaining additional protection from malicious computer programs (e.g., viruses and worms) that are prevalent for computers running some version of Microsoft Windows. The Windows monoculture makes users of Windows vulnerable to a wide variety of malicious programs.

The last version of the traditional (i.e., begun in 1984) Apple Macintosh operating system is version 9.2.2. My separate webpage on OS 9 mentions my favorite software for this traditional Macintosh environment and some hints on how to run this old software on a modern Apple computer. After Apple switched from the PowerPC microprocessor to Intel microprocessors, programs written for the old Macintosh operating systems (OS 9 and earlier) are difficult — but not impossible — to run on modern Apple computers with Intel microprocessors.

In the middle of year 2001, Apple began shipping its computers with a copy of OS X installed, in addition to either OS 9.1 or OS 9.2.

The X in the name of the new operating system is the Roman numeral for ten. More importantly, OS X is based on Unix from the University of California at Berkeley. The Unix foundation makes OS X very resistant to crashes. When an application crashes, it does not also crash OS X.

System X includes an optional UNIX command line interface, which is the first time since 1984 that an Apple operating system has contained a command line. I have programmed computers since 1968 and I prefer using a command line interface (e.g., like DOS), instead of a graphical user interface.

Apple refers to the various editions of operating system by names of big cats:
  1. Cheetah 10.0
  2. Puma 10.1
  3. Jaguar 10.2
  4. Panther 10.3
  5. Tiger 10.4
  6. Leopard 10.5
  7. Snow Leopard 10.6
  8. Lion 10.7
  9. Mountain Lion 10.8
  10. Mavericks 10.9


Since the mid-1990s, Apple computers have been shipped with minimal printed manuals. Users need to purchase a third-party book to fully understand how to use OS X.   I have found the following books helpful:
  1. David Pogue, Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, published by O'Reilly.

  2. Kevin M White, Mac OS X Support Essentials, Second Edition, published by Peachpit

Apple Computer maintains an extensive online collection of technical information on their software and hardware in their so-called Knowledge Base and support website

You may want to subscribe to a computer magazine that specializes in Apple computers and software, such as MacWorld, to learn about solutions for current problems and new software.


OS X contains maintenance scripts to run some housekeeping tasks Therefore, it is a good idea to leave the computer on continuously in the sleep (i.e., low-power) mode, except while away on vacation.


I refuse to use any Microsoft applications software on my Apple computer, because of (1) Microsoft's longstanding, evil, monopolistic practices and because (2) using Microsoft software exposes me to many tens of thousands of malicious computer programs written for Microsoft software.

For security reasons, I do not say which anti-virus software and which firewall software that I use. The following links to vendors of software are provided for the convenience of readers.

Firewall & Anti-Virus Software

My essay Examples of Malicious Computer Programs, at my professional website, explains why users need anti-virus software. Another essay at my professional website, Tips for Avoiding Computer Crime, explains why users need firewall software.

Apple OS 10.2 and later includes a simple firewall program that blocks some ports.

There are only a few anti-virus and firewall software programs available for the Apple operating system: Unfortunately, many of the products listed above are bloatware that requires at least 150 megabytes of hard disk space and long download times for updates.   Amongst the anti-virus programs, Intego seems to use the smallest amount of disk space.


Apple includes in OS X their Safari browser. There are other webbrowsers for the Macintosh OS X:
  1. Firefox, open-source browser.   Firefox uses Mozilla's Gecko engine.

  2. i-Cab browser from Alexander Clauss in Germany.

  3. Chrome browser from Google.

  4. Opera browser from a company in Norway.

  5. OmniWeb.

  6. Flock, intended for social networking websites (Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, etc.). Uses Mozilla's Gecko engine.

  7. DevonAgent.

  8. Camino   and   SeaMonkey, other open-source software that uses Mozilla's Gecko engine.

  9. Netscape Navigator, was the first commercial webbrowser (introduced in 1994). The final owner of Netscape, AOL, discontinued support and development of Netscape on 1 Feb 2008.   Netscape 5.0 became open-source in 1998, and is distributed by the Mozilla Foundation.
Microsoft released version 5.2.3 of Internet Explorer for Macintosh OS X in June 2003. This was the final version of Internet Explorer for the Macintosh and is no longer supported by Microsoft.

The default webbrowser used by OSX when a user clicks on a link (e.g., in e-mail or an Adobe PDF document) is specified in the Preferences for Safari, in the General tab.

All webbrowsers seem to have security flaws. Using an uncommon webbrowser may give you some protection from hackers who target vulnerabilities in webbrowsers with a large share of the market. I emphasize "may", because if the flaw is in a common component, such as Mozilla's Gecko engine, the flaw will affect all webbrowsers that use that component.

New versions of Apple's Safari webbrowser often requires the user to also install the latest version of the Apple operating system. Users who have an old Apple computer, or who like their old operating system, can not upgrade to the current version of Safari. In contrast, Firefox, iCab, and other third-party browsers will function with any Apple operating system released during approximately the last five years, so one can upgrade these browsers without upgrading the operating system.

E-Mail Programs/Telnet/FTP

Apple includes their own Mail program with OS X.   Other e-mail programs for OS X include: Apple has a handy sheet for information from your ISP to enter into the Mail program.

Apple OS X includes a Telnet/SSH program, called Terminal. Informative webpages about Terminal have been posted by
I use the Fetch file-transfer protocol (FTP) program to upload files from my computer to my websites.

Wordprocessor & Text Editor

WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS and WordPerfect 3.5 for the Macintosh OS9 do nearly everything that I need from a wordprocessor. For information on how to run these obsolete wordprocessors in Mac OS X, see my separate webpage.

Corel discontinued WordPerfect for the Macintosh on 29 Oct 1999, about two years before OS X appeared. If you want to see WordPerfect release in an OS X version, send an e-mail to Corel. It is not good for computer users when Microsoft Word is the only major wordprocessor for OS X. I am continuing to use the old, unsupported, but still excellent, WordPerfect 3.5 in Mac OS 9.

Wordprocessors for Apple OS X (other than Microsoft Word) include:

Text Editor

The widely acclaimed BBEdit text editor is available in OS X native form. I admire the slogan for this text editor: "It doesn't suck."

Apple includes its TextEdit program with OS X.


Instead of using a wordprocessor, one can use a version of the TEX typesetting program that includes mathematics typesetting features. Because this is open-source software, you get to assemble your own software. You will need at least:
(1) the TEX distribution software, (e.g., iTEXMac),
(2) a text editor (e.g., BBEdit), and
(3) a viewer.
Sometimes an editor and a viewer are combined in one application.

I have not yet personally tried TEX, but I have collected the following links to components at: Discussions, recommendations, and instructions:

disk defragmentation/optimization

Disk defragmentation refers to writing each file in one contiguous space on the hard drive, so the head does not need to jump around on the disk while reading the file. Disk optimization refers to writing frequently accessed files in one region of the disk, writing infrequently accessed files in another region, and putting all of the free space in one contiguous block. Since hard disk drives first appeared on personal computers in the early 1980s, users have needed to run a utility program to defragment and optimize the disk drive for fast performance and to restore a large block of free space on the hard drive.

Beginning with OS 10.3, Apple had included automatic defragmentation when opening files with sizes less than 20 megabytes. Apple no longer recommends use of defragmentation or optimization software.   My experience has been different: after only twenty months of using OS 10.5, there were almost 9000 fragments in 18 Gigabytes of files and directories on my hard disk. While I had 56 Gigabytes of free space on the hard disk, the largest block of contiguous free space was less than 1 Gigabyte. It took about two hours to optimize my hard disk with TechTool Pro.

If you want to use defragmentation/optimization software, the following are the leading utility programs:


One of the nicest things to do with a computer is to use an optical scanner to convert a printed page of text to a graphics file, then use optical character recognition software to convert the graphics file to a text file that can be used in wordprocessing software or uploaded to a website. This technology spares us from tediously retyping pages of old text.

If you have a scanner that was manufactured before the year 2001, there is a chance that the manufacturer of the scanner has no drivers to interface the old scanner to a computer running Apple OS X. You can either purchase a new scanner that has drivers for OS X or you can try programs from:
  1. Hamrick Software or
  2. LaserSoft Imaging.

Personally, I continue to use my old scanner and optical character recognition software in OS 9, which works well.

Apple Hardware

I hate the reliance of both the Windows and Macintosh operating systems on a mouse to point to commands. The mouse is just an invitation to repetitive motion injuries!   Of all of the pointing devices that I have tried, I prefer the Kensington "Expert Mouse" trackball. The ball has a diameter of 6 cm and can be rolled with the palm of one's hand, without putting additional stress on one's fingers.

The keyboard that comes with most computers, including Apple computers, is a cheap commodity keyboard.   I use a KeyTronic KB101+ keyboard from the year 1998, which has keys that actuate with 1 oz. force. This keyboard was designed for a PC running Microsoft Windows, and needs a PS2 to USB adapter to run on a modern Apple computer.   (Perversely, the command key on an Apple keyboard is next to the space bar, but on a PC keyboard the corresponding Windows key is between the control and alt keys. This different layout leads to errors by those of us who do a lot of copying or cut-and-paste of text.)   I previously used the Matias TactilePro for almost three years in OS 10.5, but its keys require too much force to actuate for my taste.

To transfer files between computers (i.e., SneakerNet <grin>) one can connect an external floppy disk drive to the USB port. I used a Teac floppy drive in Mac OS 10.5 without any problems. But in Mac OS 10.6, the computer will read a floppy disk that is formatted "Macintosh Standard", but will neither write nor delete files on the floppy. The solution is to format the floppy as "Mac OS Extended".   (Note that none of the USB floppy drives can read a 800 Kbyte floppy disk that was used by Apple computers up to the mid-1990s.)   A better way to transfer files between computers is to use a flash drive, but flash drives are not recognized by old computers that have no USB port.

A single USB port on a computer can support up to 127 devices. To connect more than one device to a port, one needs a hub, which commonly provides sockets for four to seven devices. I suggested purchasing a powered hub, which can supply DC power to operate floppy drives, modems, and other peripherals. Manufacturers of powered USB hubs include Port Authority and D-Link.

DOS/Windows Compatibility

It is necessary for the minority of people who use Apple computers to somehow be compatible with the majority of people who use some version of the Microsoft Windows operating system.

Apple OS X will recognize a CD-ROM or Zip disk that is formatted in DOS or Windows 98.

PowerPC microprocessor

For the traditional Apple computers that contained a PowerPC microprocessor (the successor to the Motorola 68000 series microprocessors used in the Apple Macintosh computers since 1984), one can run programs for DOS or Windows by using software to emulate an Intel microprocessor's commands on the Motorola microprocessor in the Apple computer.   The best-known PC emulator software is Virtual PC from Connectix, which was purchased by Microsoft in mid-2003.

Intel microprocessor

The new Apple computers use an Intel microprocessor, and one can install a Microsoft operating system (e.g., XP or Vista) on the hard disk drive, using one of the following: Note that Apple Boot Camp for Mac OS 10.5 officially supports only Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows Vista.   Some of the other vendors claim they also support DOS, WfW 3.11, and Windows 98.

All users of Windows should have current anti-virus software and firewall software installed on their computer, if they connect to the Internet from within Windows.

The section on running MS-DOS in VMware Fusion 2 that was formerly here has been moved to here.

Conversion Software

One can use software designed for the Macintosh plus a utility program to convert wordprocessing files for Windows, graphics files for Windows, and various formats of data files for Windows. The file conversion utility that I currently use on my Apple computer is MacLinkPlus, from DataViz.

Most wordprocessing and other programs have options to write files in different formats when using the SaveAs command from the File menu. Also, most wordprocessing programs have a limited set of file conversion programs included, which operate automatically when one tries to open a document file that was created in another wordprocessor.

While it is easy to use conversion utility programs like MacLinkPlus from DataViz (or its counterpart in the Microsoft Windows operating system: ConversionsPlus), often a better way is to use a platform-independent format, such as Adobe's portable document format (pdf):
  1. Software to read and print PDF files (i.e., Adobe Acrobat Reader) is a free download from Adobe.

  2. The Adobe software to create and edit PDF files (including converting a PostScript file to PDF), Adobe Acrobat.
Documents posted on the Internet in a fancier format than HTML are commonly in the PDF format.


If all you want to do with a computer is surf the Internet and send/receive e-mail, then OS X is a great improvement over OS 9. If you want to do other things with a computer, be sure and check to see if the applications software that you want to use is available for OS X, before you decide to switch to OS X.

While OS X is a definite improvement over OS 9, what really matters to most computer users is the availability of applications software. When Apple abandoned OS 9 in May 2002, I believe Apple shot itself in the foot, because there is less applications software available for OS X than for OS 9. One of the traditional problems with Apple computers is that they always had a much smaller share of the computer market than machines that ran some version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, which means that there always was less applications software for the Apple than for Windows. Now that Apple has converted to OS X, the scarcity of applications software is a bigger problem for users of Apple computers.

This document is at
created 11 June 2002, modified 19 Oct 2010, small update 23 June 2014

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