Apple loud and proud about Mac OS 8

"Apple may have trouble down the line getting people to upgrade from this release," said one user running a pre-release version of Mac OS 8, Apple's latest operating system.

According to early adopters, the software may indeed live up to Apple's promise of the "most significant Macintosh operating system release since 1984." These testers consistently lauded the system's improved stability, speed and user interface.

Almost universally, users said Mac OS 8's stability marks a vast improvement over earlier releases. "The average user is going to have to work hard to cause a crash," said Will Parker, a senior Mac technical support engineer for Edmark Corp., an education software developer in Redmond, Wash. "Everything that we've thrown at it has run like a champ." Provided hardware requirements are met, Parker said he will recommend a "straight to 8" policy to his managers.

Parker and other testers reported incompatibilities between some third-party utilities and the pre-release software, and Apple said some tools will need to be updated.

Users welcomed Mac OS 8's improved networking capabilities, courtesy of Open Transport 1.2 and Open Transport/PPP 1.0.1. "With OT 1.2, Internet connection speeds are dramatically increased," said Andrew Holowka, MIS director at Membrane Separation System DuPont Air Liquide, a chemical equipment manufacturer in Newport, Del. "Everything is smoother and faster - and flows better."

While every administrator contacted for this article said they would eventually move their users to the new OS, some said the migration will be gradual.

"It may be quite a change for our users," said Mark Miller, a senior systems engineer at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., "so I want to make sure they know what they are getting." Miller said that before he upgrades his departments he will make sure his LAN administrators are familiar with the revision.

Scott Speckman, information services administrator for CarStar Automotive Inc., an auto-body repair franchise based in Overland, Kan., said that although he likes the new look, he found the new capabilities more significant. Specifically, he pointed to the new pop-up folders and a speedier, multithreaded Finder.

Other users echoed Speckman's impressions. "I swear by the new pop-up, spring-loaded and tabbed folders," said Chris Gervais, a Mac systems consultant in Brighton, Mass.

"The new interface makes work flow easier to manage, with simple things like sticky menus and new keyboard shortcuts," said Eric Zelman, a Mac consultant for Brown University in Providence, R.I.

"Once you've worked with [Mac OS 8], it is hard to go back," Speckman said.