OS9 Still Gets Stuff Done For Some



I wrote my last “OS9 – Blimey Some People Still Use It” article for Mac DevCenter back in 2004 (see OS9, Mine All Mine); it was fun to write and nostalgic too, but I didn’t imagine I’d be writing a similar piece four years later.

But – blimey – there are STILL some people out there using OS9 and very happy with it too, thank you very much.

One of them is Jerad Walters, who runs publishing house Centipede Press and does so using a mirror-door 1.2 GHz G4, 1.25 GB RAM and 1.7TB of hard disk space spread across four hard drives.

But why, Jerad, why?

“My books are built with InDesign 1.5 and Photoshop 6 running Suitcase 8. The G4 boots up in about 30 seconds and then I have a QuicKey sequence that loads all applications in largest-chunk–of-RAM-required order (Photoshop first, InDesign second, etc). It is all up and running in a couple minutes.

“The speed of the Finder is simply draw-dropping. However, the speed of the Finder is OS X is also pretty quick, but there is just a responsiveness in 9 that cannot be matched by X.

“Menu and window actions all take place so quickly. Plus it is easier to tell windows from background from menus. There is a clarity to the OS 9 display that is lacking in OS X.”

For email, he uses Claris Emailer. For word processing, TexEdit. He makes use of the DragAnyWindow control panel for easier window management, and of HoverBar, a precursor to the OS X Dock.

Jerad does use OS X occasionally – it has a drive all to itself – but when he’s using it he misses things only found in OS9.

“I miss the Put Away command, and the regular trash can more than anything. There’s one thing I wish OS 9 had: an option for a toolbar for Finder windows; that is a really nice feature of OS X.”

So, OS9 users, this is your comments thread. Tell us why we’re all wrong to be using this newfangled OS X stuff.

  • scott

    I don’t use 9 anymore but to be honest I miss some aspects of it and find some parts of OSX to be a pain. Overall I just found the window management better in 9.

  • dave

    The speed of the Finder in MacOS 9 puts OS X to shame. Folders open/close/scroll faster on a DP/533 with ATA driver running OS 9 than on a Core2Duo 1.5 Ghz with SATA drives.

    And I REALLY liked how OS 9 would remember the view settings and location of each folder. OS X will reset the settings every once in a while, and moving between nested folders (either going to child or parent folder) will use the same window instead of always using a new window like the preferences have been set to.

    Don’t get me wrong, OS X is by far a much better operating system. But for raw UI speed, OS 9 still kicks OS X’s ass. When you switch between the two, you can feel the lag between when you initiate an operation, and when it starts happening (and when it completes) that just isn’t there with OS 9.

  • Momar

    Hey – I still use OS 8 on my upgraded Color Classic for websurfing! I just like the feel of the old OS. But I do love OS X and I find it more robust and use a G5 and Macbook for multimedia and my main machines. I guess, why go on the upgrade treadmill for a business. If everything is working great and you have everything you need, leave things alone! Good job Jerad!


  • Christopher Crimson

    -They have NO internet !!!
    We may see a comment IF the word-to-mouth function (in a day or two).
    They have email, thanks to Outlook$…$Xpress
    OS 9.2 Classic users are not part of the Brotherhood….


  • Chas

    I know OS 9 users are a dying breed, but I still use it because of the consistency of the user-interface, and simplicity/ease of use. Despite all the efforts of Apple’s planned obsolescence, OS9 still gets the job done for me. And others too, apparently.

  • Dave

    I work for a screen printing and embroidery company that uses a first gen Mac Mini running Tiger (but all of the work done is in Classic mode) and a beige PowerMac G3 (which I wasn’t even aware of before I saw it–I thought the first PMG3s were the blue-and-white ones) running 9.1. The G3 was an upgrade from their previous workhorse: a Centris 610. I’ve tried to convince them that it’s time to enter the 21st century and upgrade to Intel Macs running Leopard, but they rely on ancient OS 9 versions of Freehand and Illustrator…

  • Carlos Santos

    Nice old news, that’s funny, but I do use OS9 (9.2.2) on a old G4/450 with 800 something Ram and 2 internal HD (20 and 80) and 1 external FW 160.
    I do graphic design professionally, and he is right, the system is very responsive, I use a couple of oldies: Photoshop6, Illustrator9 and Freehand9, IE 501, and express for email, and it runs really nicelly (at least in the last 9 years), it doesn’t hung.
    I do music and video but on another system, a little more recent, mobile on a PB Titanium 867 or a Imac G5/1.8, both with OS10.4.11, the OS on both is quick, but it lacks the precision and stable notion of the OS9…
    It’s nice to see someone talk about something that works, not because it’s hype, or new, nostalgia… now I remember OS7 on my LC first generation… :-)

  • jsk


    Engineering software. Unless you’re only talking about architectural CAD and some minor, UNIX command line based computational fluid dynamics (NASA’s); your choice is simple: OS 9 or windows. Period. No mechanics, no CAM, no simulation, no verification.

    I’m using VirtualGibbs (a CAM software package) in “classic” as we speak. Yes, that does mean I’m stuck on a PowerPC Mac and Tiger. And, no, “sheepsaver” and it’s ilk don’t work.

  • bap

    I am a power user in both camps. I own several Intel macs and a number of dual boot Macs.

    I use OS9 for a few programs that I wrote and did not take the time to rewrite in C as they were in Pascal. The biggest issue involves my M$ VBA electronic records set up that i created over the years. I tried to port it to Office 2004 on an Intel mac but it was severely unstable. I also was not enthusiastic about running it under an emulator. As it is, I have 2 white iBooks, 2 titanium G4’s, 2 Quicksilver towers, and 3 half-volleyball imac’s that can run my software.
    I am hoping the the future return of VBA to Office will allow me to switch fully, or I may need to bite the bullet and switch to Filemaker
    I use the OS9’s for work and the Intels and Quicksilvers (dual) for fun and media). OS9 is still more true to Apple’s original philosophy, but OSX has been improving.

    By the way, the search function for file names works much better in OS9, but the content find is better in OSX.

    My media center is a maxxed out Mac Mini with 3 TB of external hard drive space on a 26″ LCD TV.

  • Simon

    I’m hoping that OS 10.6 will finally lift OS X to OS 9.2.2 performance levels. (at least from a Finder perspective)

  • Paco

    I own two Macs. The Mac-Mini (used daily) is running OS X, while my old G4 Tower (used every other week or so) is still running OS 9.1.1.

    Why? Because, like Jerad, the zines I publish are formatted in a much older version of Quark Xpress, with some additional layouts produced in Photoshop 6. I also have Illustrator 8 on the G4, which I seldom use. But if I ever need it, it’s there.

    I just mentioned to some buddies that even if I had the money to buy newer versions of my older progs, I don’t think that I would. They still do exactly what I need them to do.

    Also, having been a Mac user since 1985, I do like that the environment of OS 9 has something of the classic Mac vibe.

  • Dann

    I still Use OS 9 on my grape 333MHz iMac mainly for graphic design and photo editing. It runs Illustrator 9 and Photoshop 5.5 quite speedily.

  • garham

    I have one Mac running 9.2 as I have one piece of software that will only run on it. When I use the machine I think: I used this OS all the time! I can’t believe it, it seem so ugly. Yes UGLY, that’s the opposite of all things Apple.
    Then I recall all the freezes, and re-boots.
    I do image processing on files that require 8 GB RAM or more.
    Thank god for OS 10.5!

  • Victor Panlilio

    Our 8-year old son uses vintage Macs to play older games:
    Our 7-year old iBook G3/500 runs 9.2.2/10.3.9.
    Our 9-year old G4/400 Sawtooth runs 9.2.2/10.4.11.
    Our 10-year old iMac Rev B runs 8.6.
    Our 12-year old PowerMac 7600/120 runs 8.1.
    Our 14-year old PowerMac 7100/66av runs 8.5.


  • Deocliciano Okssipin Vieira

    OS9 is just prettier and FELLs better than OS X.!
    But I use it NOT.

  • HandyMac

    A Mac user (exclusively) since 1988, I now spend most of my time on a MacBook Pro 17″ CD 2.16GHz in the latest OS X, but occasionally return to OS 9 on my 500MHz G3 PowerBook, to do graphic work in PageMaker 5 (still my favorite DTP app, nothing like it now), and, yes, just for fun. It’s always a kind of sigh of relief to feel OS 9’s sportscar-like handling after wrestling with OS X’s ponderous semi-truck. I don’t know why after ten years Apple’s been unable to “lift OS X to OS 9.2.2 performance levels.” My present computer has more than ten times the CPU speed and 25 times the RAM of the Mac I had ten years ago (a PowerBook 3400), but for most everyday tasks the latter was significantly faster.

  • Snafu

    Classic Mac OS provided two really good things:
    -A really, really good “spatial” UI (OS X’ UI is too messy).
    -Freedom to organize yourself the way you want to. The only element to be careful about is the System Folder. Everywhere else, just do your thing.
    Lovable critter :)

  • David Marshall

    I rebuilt a Powerbook G3 — matching the one I sold years ago — as an OS 9 test environment. (Some of my web clients need Netscape 4 functionality) Getting it on wifi was tough, but the experiment worked. Answering the post directly: yes, my G3/OS 9 PowerBook is a viable work machine.

    Working applications include BBedit, Fetch, Quark XPress, Adobe (Photoshop + Illustrator + PageMaker), Macromedia FreeHand and Microsoft Office. This means I can post/edit/test web pages, build images, work on spreadsheets/presentations/word process, maintain calendars/contacts/events, browse the web, email and network.

    In other words, I can function like it’s 1999.

    PS: This is a repost of my reply to an similar-sounding OS 9 story (http://cultofmac.com/cult-of-o….

  • GrnChkn

    I use OS9 almost everyday on an iMac G3 600MHz right along with my MBP.

  • Robert Grimm

    I just did a fresh install of OS 9 a few weeks ago on my old iMac G3 400MHz. After shopping in the dollar software section of the local used computer store, I realized I needed an old machine for old games. Now, if I can just find my copy of Duke Nukem, I’ll be set.

    For anything other than games, I’ve never had a need for a classic OS. Before OS X, I bought one old machine just to learn OS 9 and to run AIM. I have a few older machines now, but I’ve never done anything serious with anything pre-OS X on my own machines. I used to use System 7 in high school to telnet into a Linux machine to use vi and gcc. That is the closest I’ve ever come to using a Mac for serious work before OS X.

  • rogue1357

    Class OS, Class Mac a Classic time… but its a shame Apple had to lie to us after all these years of working on a motorola based system… proclaiming its speed as being faster then any PC computer… funny how now, after all these years and switching to intel how Apples “New” computers are running 5, 6 – 10 times faster then the old motorola based systems… So Apple lied. Intel based system on PC were really faster in computing power… look at the gaming industry… in number crunching those 3D games… even optimized for Mac.. they would run slower. So much for the Classic Days and the power we never really had – until now, with intel machines. Apple lied!

  • Torley

    If it’s what works, use it. If you want change, adapt. Pretty cool to see this. I know some Mac diehards are still enthused about Opcode Studio Vision, one of the most popular music sequencers a decade ago before Gibson ruined it and ceased development — and it requires OS 9 (or emulating it).

    Going back to old OSes feels kinda like time travel!

  • Muito

    I don’t miss the Extensions conflicts.

  • John

    One thing that totally blows me away is how fast Word 5.1 launches on OS 9 on a Wallstreet G3 notebook. Compared to Word from Office 2008 on my Core Duo MacBook Pro, Word 5.1 launches almost instantly. Is this progress??!?

  • Neil Anderson

    A friend puts out a weekly commercial newspaper with OS 9 and QuarkXPress 3.

  • AttK

    Heck, I’ve still got a PM8100 running 7.5.5 that I use as a fail-safe for my main audio workstation. I also have a dual-boot G3 iMac running 10.4.11/9.22. I have to admit, I’m much less comfortable on those OS’s these days and much prefer my Mac Pro running 10.5.5. Everytime I get on the old machines, I quickly remember the quirks and work-arounds I have to do to compensate for their less-than-stellar behavior.

  • Scott

    I really like OS-9 and would use it a lot more if it didn’t crash constantly… (sigh)… OS-X has it all over OS-9 for stability. OS-9 really is a lot faster though. The coolest part about OS-9 has to be all the expensive software you can get for next to nothing. Some of those same software titles in OS-X versions would cost a thousand dollars today! I can hardly wait until the PowerPC Macs are obsolete so I can buy expensive PowerPC OS-X software for practically nothing. Thank you so much Apple. I love it when you make all your products obsolete so I can afford cool software!… (satisfied smile)

  • matthew

    OS 9 was phased out just when the newer machines were making it sing. I have an old Sawtooth someone gave me that I put Tiger and OS 9 on and the difference is pretty much night and day. a G4 with 400Mhz and a gig of RAM in OS 9 is like having a supercomputer. It’s crazy fast. I can’t even imagine what it must be like with the last G4’s that could run it natively. I installed an old copy of Photoshop 5 on it and it kicked my G5’s butt for speed. even just opening a handful of jpgs- OS X has that smooth and steady sequence of opens but OS 9 on a nice machine is just POW, have some jpgs.

    I still prefer OS X for the features and stability (my old beige G3’s were so crashy in 9, but fine in X) but on the right machine doing very specific tasks OS 9 is pretty freakin’ sweet.

  • macprohawaii

    I occasionally run Mac OS9 on a dedicated 5GB partition on its own hard drive in my Power Mac G4 733 Quicksilver. Usually use it in native mode for photo scanning (my old scanner is too nice to just replace because it doesn’t work with OSX) and some desktop publishing taks on Pagemaker 6.5.

    The same machine has another drive that boots into Mac OSX for 98% of the time I use it.

    I have an old Powerbook 3400 that boots into Mac OS 8.6. Use it to run Word 5.1, WriteNow 4.2 and old games… plus SSH Telnet, Telefinder (yes there is still one telefinder server out there, headgap.com) and Eudora 5.1 something.

  • Gabriel


    Not familiar with our CPU history, I see – you clearly missed the part where Intel’s issues allowed AMD to leapfrog Intel. PowerPC chips were faster than either company’s offerings at the time.

    Intel then tried to push Itanium on everyone, but the world shrugged and followed AMD’s 64-bit CPU instruction set instead. PowerPC were still faster, but ran very hot and weren’t very power efficient.

    Intel’s performance lead, combined with much better power efficiency, finally came back around not too long after Apple made the switch. Apple clearly knew what Intel had on tap when they moved away from PowerPC.

    I’m probably oversimplifying things, and getting some things mixed up, but regardless, the real story is far more complex and interesting than your simplistic “Apple lied” scenario.

  • CK Sandberg

    I still have a G4 running OS9 for 2 reasons:

    1 – it controls a large format flat-bed scanner for which the driver has never been (and won’t be) updated for OSX, and

    2 – I have a textbook that I started writing 20 years ago in Word Perfect that I just haven’t gotten around to moving to a new base, so I update that each semester in WP 3.5.

    Otherwise, all my photography work has moved (happily!) to OSX.

  • BAK

    I publish a newsletter using a lovely and talented PowerMac G3 with a 400mz chip and OS9.1. I started it in 1996 using Adobe Pagemaker (6.0). I have Photoshop, Illustrator, all the Adobe products, plus the old IE Explorer 5.1.

    I’ve had software issues and bugs but luckily, a long time ago, I subscribed to MacAddict and each month it shipped a CD full of OS9 Apps and Utilities. For some reason, I saved each and every one of them. I have my own OS9 library, which is fortunate, because I could not find some software on the web anymore.

    I use my new Mac OSX to surf the web because Microsoft stopped updating IE and it simply cannot handle new video/graphic heavy pages.

    And for iTunes and my iPod.

    I love my old OS9.1 and if/when my Blue and White G3 grinds to its final resting place, I’m gonna replace it with another one. It’s streamlined, fast, fun and I know how to fix it when I have troubles. OSX is still a mystery to me when it comes to deep issues.

    I don’t have the crashes others complain about with OS9. I’ve found that Microsoft Word and Adobe Pagemaker don’t like each other to be open at the same time. The only other time I crash is when a web page won’t load on IE. Otherwise, it’s a solid, stable system and I can leave it up for days without an issue.

  • Jon

    I’ve been a Mac user since 1993, and haven’t had a PC at home since 2001, so I used virtually every Mac OS iteration from 7 to 10.5.

    I enjoyed OS 9 a lot and I still have a Powerbook G4 Ti that can dual-boot OS 9 and Leopard. But honestly, the only things I miss about OS 9 now besides its responsiveness, are the old games that won’t run either in Classic or in Sheepshaver.

    But still, on the rare occasions I need to write a MS Word document, I fire Word 98 up. It’s fast and works like a charm.

  • Phil

    I like to play around with digital design and drawing. I found I can get a 9×12 adb wacom tablet, and imate adapter, and a Lombard g3 that runs 9.1 for under $100. A pretty amazing drawing system for that price. 9×12 wacoms by themselves cost $200+ that are functional with modern systems. The only problem is finding photoshop 7, or another great graphics program that will work, that will equal modern windows apps like sai and cs4.
    Essentially when it comes right down to it there’s not a whole lot of difference for drawing/design between photoshop 7 and cs3, all the basics are still there. Anyway, anyone have an suggestions for a great os9 drawing app let me know. Maybe like a painter version or something? Then comes the struggle of finding somewhere that has it of course.

  • Robert

    I have OSX on my PowerBook to manage the printer and AirPort Express network, pluse one or two other things. Otherwise I do most of my work logged in to a public access Unix system via NiftyTelnet SSH while running OS9 on my PowerBook G3 FireWire. ^..^~

  • robbie

    “conservative dreams”:
    alexander clauss’s taxi (classic ver., sure!) is still movin’.
    after the xsidebar “trick”, other steps have been done to use in the “old” mozilla the seamonkey (and more…perhaps) extensions.
    just two conditions to mantain mild the climate around os9…at least from a browsing-point-of-view.

  • Ace Deuce

    I used and enjoyed the pre-OSX systems for many years and they always did what I needed. Now I use Tiger on my G5 tower for almost everything and I love it as well.

    However, a few Classic apps have kept me from upgrading to Leopard and/or Intel hardware. These will probably never be brought to OS X and so far I have found no equivalents. They are:

    FractaSketch – an interactive vector-based linear fractal generation program
    Tess – an interactive vector-based pattern generation program that includes all symmetry groups (in many ways superior to the SymmetryWorks plug-in for Adobe Illustrator)
    Marathon with Pfhorge and Anvil – I love building levels for Marathon with these tools
    PrintChef – Utterly cool print driver/utility that can do nearly anything at print time

    If anyone knows of any software that can substitute for these on OS X or via Parallels/VMWare, please let me know: ace@infuzo.com

  • paulp

    The frozen sperm look of OSX has always disgusted me, and it’s much slower than OS9 too. Not very good selling points as far as i’m concerned. Plus, i’ve got just about every application ever created for OS9, and some won’t run under OSX (or at best, they run glacially in classic mode). Many apps peaked years ago and have since become bloated white elephants. Photoshop, for example, which peaked at version 5.5 or 6 and MS Word which peaked at Word 98. Have you tried running Word 2007? It’s a hideous mess. There’s no reason to keep revising a mature program. Yet, these companies have to keep coming out with new versions or hundreds of people will lose their jobs. It’s an industry, but i’m sticking with PS 5.5 which works great.

    Meanwhile, i can capture DV video and export TV- or HD-quality work with Final Cut Pro 2 on my good ol’ Mac G4. Why change? Just so i can have a screen that looks like frozen sperm..?

    Paul P.

    p.s. you website seems to work really well in Mozilla 1.3.1 (the best OS9 browser). Perhaps that’s deliberate since this is an OS9-oriented site..?

  • Daren Halfpenny

    I’m still using 9.2 on a daily basis. I’ve got four Macs on my desk that I use of a daily basis. My new *main* machine is a 2.8GHz Aluminium iMac running Leopard. My MacMini, which I mainly use for surfing and emailing, runs Tiger. My G4 Tower is a 1.25GHz MD running 9.2 and my 400MHz Powerbook runs 9.1.

    In the main now, I’m using InDesign on the iMac, but until this machine was purchased 6 months ago, I’ve been using (still am!) Quark 4.1, Illustrator 9 and Photoshop 5.5. Quark on the G4 screams! It’s lightly packaged, isn’t bloated at all and works efficiently and quickly. Quark 7 on the iMac is yawn-inducingly slow in comparison; its PDF workflow is rubbish too compared to 4.1s ability to integrate with Distiller 5 which also in comparison is blisteringly quick.

    In terms of the OS experience, it amazes me that in Leopard you can’t print the contents of windows directly from the Finder like you can in 9. Networking is 9 is easy – the chooser just works – except for when trying to connect to a Leopard machine. My 9s and see the Tiger, which in turn can see the 9s – neither see the iMac and using the ‘afp://’ command doesn’t work as it should – it’s too complicated for what should be a simple procedure. I could go on, but I’m starting to waffle…

  • Jim Long

    I have been lamenting the loss of a relational database C.A.T. since I “upgraded” to the version of OSX that killed OS9. I am a relational database “junkie” and have looked high and low for a program to help me stay organized, design sales letter templates, etc. and have never found anything that was as elegant (fewest key strokes) and fast as C.A.T.
    I went on Craigslist last week and found someone selling Imacs for $36. I finally had my “new” old machine to re-install C.A.T and begin to be as productive as I used to be. I had my pick of about 20 imacs, and I spotted a Graphite. 400 MHz, 40 gig HD, 128 mg of memory. I found a guy selling Airport adapters (I had an original Airport card lying around) for $10, and 256 mb of RAM for $25. The thing FLIES I love it. Internet browsing is a PAIN, I downloaded iCab, and MS Explorer sucks, and trying to get it on a network with my OSX powerbook is not happening yet, but Letters, followups, labels, quotes, etc are GREAT! C.A.T was written so tightly into the Mac OS that nothing can compare to the speed, it is like running an extension of the OS.

  • Tomas Karlsson

    I lost my OS 9 systemdisc to my 1.25 mirrordoor.
    I have too find one who have a copy of the OS 9 that com along with the MD 1.25 single MAC. Because thats the onley one gonna work whitout problem on my mac.
    The applestore tell me that they dont suport older apples so i have to find one who can sell me a copy of it.

  • S Robinson

    I use OS 9.2 on my E MAC due to the fact the sign program I use for my business only runs in this version, unless I upgrade this to a newer version, which does not work as well and costs about £1800 to buy and keep the much loved old version or £300 to send back this copy and be with the new version, guess what staying with OS 9.2. Do have a G4 power book running OS 10.4.11 which runs the printing machine, love both but OS 9.2 seems easier to get around

  • Z Shipps

    I use 9.2.2 on a G4 AGP (digital audio) with a 1.7g sonnet processor upgrade. I grudgingly accept that OS X is a superior system, but when I return to OS 9 after a spell, it feels like I’m home. Things makes sense. The interface is zippy and buoyant. And it does everything I need… which is mostly ProTools, but I sometimes do design on there and find that Photoshop 6 works faster and better in 9 than CS in 10.5.6 on my 2.4g Intel Core Duo Black Macbook!! wtf????? anyway I keep it watered and fed and happy, and it keeps humming along…. ten years and counting. Long Live OS 9………………………..

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  • John Wright

    I have two macs on my desk. A G-4 with two 22″ monitors running OS 9.2.2 and an iMac with a beautiful 27″ screen running system 10.5.8. I find that I spend most of my time using the G-4 because it is much faster at doing the things I need to do.

    A lot of my time is spent on engineering design using an ancient version of Deneba Canvas 3.5 which only runs under OS 9 on PowerPC or 68k hardware. I have AutoCAD 2011 on the new mac but it takes me at least twice as long to do a drawing using this than it does using a twenty year old version of Canvas. Sometimes newer is not better – just slower & more bloated!

    I use MacWrite Pro for word processing & Excel 98 for spreadsheet type work, both on the old Mac. I have Pages & MS Office on the iMac but rarely use either of them.

    Newer Mac OS’s are useless to me since they no longer support Appletalk rendering all my expensive large format color laser printers useless & preventing networking to the older macs in our office.

    Such is progress!

  • Ray Sepulveda

    I recently found an old box I had full of OS9 software and games I had from late 90s until around 2002. Some of the stuff in there never made it to OS X. I’m thinking about rigging up an old G4 this weekend just to play around with OS9. After all these years I must confess I do miss the simplicity and quick responsiveness to the way OS9 handled things.