Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

Moving up to an iMac and Mac OS X

by Kevin W. Parker

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

No one can accuse me of being an early adopter. (Well, my wife does, but then she was still using a Mac Plus up until very recently.) I bought my first Macintosh in 1985 and replaced it with an already near-obsolete Power Mac 6100/60 in 1994, so it was high time (in my mind, at least) to upgrade for the third time, and the new iMacs seemed like the best bet. (The new iMacs—Apple refers to them as the G4 iMacs—are the “monitor-on-a-stick” style, not the older, fruit-colored “computer-packed-with-the-monitor” style.)

Some discussion with the salesman at MacUpgrades (in Bethesda, MD) led me to select the low-end iMac, since I wasn’t planning to create DVDs or even CDs (that’s the main variation among the three models.) I had them put an extra 512MB of memory in and also bought some assorted peripherals: printer, scanner, floppy disk drive, and Orange Micro SCSI-FireWire adapter. One of the main reasons to upgrade was that it’s just impossible to get new peripherals with the interfaces for my old computer. I’d wanted a scanner for some time but none of the ones on offer would hook to my computer. The whole package cost just over $2000.

Me and my iMac

My iMac in its native habitat (and my wife's usual view of me).

I bought the boxes home and moved the old Power Mac aside. Opening the iMac box revealed a quintessentially Apple-ish installation manual, with absolutely no text: just a couple disembodied hands demonstrating how to plug the various components in and hook up the power. It was like having a mime for a computer technician.

I picked up the computer by the arm, finding it surprisingly heavy for such a small package. The base is somewhat larger than half of a basketball, but not by a lot. All of the various sockets are at the back, clearly if nonverbally marked, with the power switch off to one side. Following the mime’s instructions, plugging in the power cable and hooking up the mouse and keyboard were no problem.

The first test: hooking to the Internet

My first criterion for ease-of-use was going to be how long it took me to hook to the Internet, and the iMac and the brains behind it passed with flying colors. Probably the longest and most difficult part of the sequence was threading the power cord down behind my desk and getting it plugged in, but that’s hardly Apple’s fault.

iMac in down position

iMac in up position

Despite cartoon depictions to the contrary, the iMac's adjustment range, though impressive, is not unlimited.

Booting the computer brought a new chime, shortly followed by some soothing “new age” music. A series of screens walked me through setting up a user account, and then hooking to the Internet through my Washington Apple Pi TCS Explorer account. I had previously noted down the relevant settings and entered them as instructed. Soon enough, I was on Apple’s predefined home page with Internet Explorer. I didn’t actually time it, but even with the groping and cursing under my desk, it had to be less than ten minutes. Certainly having the built-in 56k modem simplified the process significantly.

It took a few minutes more work to get my email program (Eudora Pro) working, but again not long at all. It also took me some time to figure out that the iMac had a menu item at the top to connect or disconnect from the Internet (and to indicate whether you are connected or disconnected). Initially, I was going through the (remarkably robust) built-in help capability whenever I wanted to connect.

The built-in help is impressive because it not only provides the ability to search for advice on numerous topics, but it also will even open whatever utility or system preference is needed if you tell it to. So I would search on “Internet connect,” click on “Establishing a network connection” when it came up in the search list, then click on “Open Internet Connect for me,” which was a link at the end of the explanation. So that was handy, if a bit cumbersome for what I was using it for.

Physically, meanwhile, the iMac is all that it’s advertised to be: the monitor screen has crystal-clear graphics and all but appears to float in space. It can be moved up or down and tilted forward or back to suit whatever ergonomic setup you want to have.

On the other hand, text does not look particularly good: the letters in most fonts are blurry and have inconsistent thicknesses, even after I installed the Mac OS 9.2 version of Adobe Type Manager. The display model at MacUpgrades exhibited the same problem (I made a point of checking), so it wasn’t just my machine. Searching the help found a suggestion to use the System Preferences to alter the size of the fonts that the system automatically smoothes, but even that didn’t help. After some searching I eventually found that an Apple-supplied font called Georgia provided a respectable display text. Still, considering that one of my main uses for the computer is writing, it was annoying that the display disappointed in what I considered a key area.

iMac blurry fonts

Not all of the blurriness and inconsistent thickness here is due to my trying to photograph the screen with my digital camera.

My next step was to perform triage on my old applications, to see what still worked and what didn’t. So I shut down the computer, used the adapter to hook my old hard drive to the new computer, and rebooted. Everything showed up, and I was pleased to find that all of my key applications still worked: ClarisWorks 4, WriteNow, Panorama, PageMaker, Graphic Converter, etc. I even went through my archive of games—some of which are positively ancient—and found that almost all of them still worked. (I was particularly entertained to bring up David Young’s classic Backgammon program, which was originally written in 1984 and last updated in 1987, and play a few rounds with it. This is a program so old that it displays only in black-and-white and takes up only that part of the screen that would equate with the size of an original Macintosh 9-inch monitor.) This looked to be an easier transition than moving to the Power Mac, when I had to say goodbye to a bunch of games I enjoyed playing.

Backgammon from 1984

Old and new: playing a primordial Macintosh game -- successfully -- on a 21st-century machine.

There were, of course, a few failures, and I wasn’t too surprised to find that terminal programs White Knight and Zterm couldn’t cope with the concept of an internal modem, wanting only to know whether it was hooked to the serial port or the printer port. (Upgrading Zterm was no problem, though I was sad to say goodbye to White Knight, which in its previous incarnation of Red Ryder was a pioneer program for online communication.) I was also frustrated not to have the use of QuicKeys and TypeIt4Me, each of which I’d tuned to a fare-thee-well over the years on my old system.

And so endeth iMac Day 1.

Day 2 - Disaster Strikes!

I began the second day by copying the entire contents of my old 4-gigabyte hard disk over to the iMac’s 40-gigabyte drive. Just about everything of importance was on my old external drive, ported over years ago when I found that there wasn’t enough room on the PowerMac’s internal drive to install Mac OS 8, let alone anything else on top of it. This turned out to be a big mistake, about which more shortly. However, at the time I was hugely impressed with the speed of the transfer, which I initially attributed to FireWire but was later informed was more likely due simply to having a faster computer.

The next step was to start installing the peripherals, which began with the Canon bubble-jet printer I’d bought. The driver installer seemed to hang in Mac OS X, so I switched over to boot in Mac OS 9.2 (which was what the installer ran in, anyway). It hung on bootup, so I did a force-shutdown (holding in the power button until the computer turned off), then powered it back on. Nothing happened. I stared at the computer in disbelief, amazed that a one-day-old (to me, anyway) computer would have such a problem.

Anyhow, after a couple of tries, I unhooked the computer and hied myself back to MacUpgrades. The technician took a quick look and verified that it would indeed not power on, then had to take off the bottom plate in order to press the reset button (convenient, huh!). After this, it would at least start to boot in Mac OS 9.2 but would get hung. This puzzled the technician until I mentioned to him that I had copied over my old hard drive that morning. He gave me a polite chewing-out over this. Evidently, Apple in its infinite wisdom designed the Finder so that if you copy an extension or control panel onto your startup disk, it assumes that you want it in the Extensions or Control Panel folder and will automatically move it there. So, having copied my old System Folder over, I now had a bunch of obsolete system utilities that my new iMac was futilely trying to run on startup.

So I took the computer home and, taking the technician’s advice, did a clean reinstall of Mac OS 9.2, which seemed to fix the problem.

Recovery and moving on

Hooking up the printer and scanner proved to be relatively straightforward after that. I finished that, scanned a photo and then printed it out, mostly just to prove that I could, and then returned to tailoring the system to my liking.

The new file structure in Mac OS X is daunting at first. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to put things, since there seemed to be at least two choices. At the top level of the startup disk, there were “Applications” and “Documents” folders, but there were also such in my “Users” folder, several layers down. (This is Mac OS X’s Unix roots showing, about which more later.) For now, at least, most of my applications are at the global level, while my files and data I keep in my user area. Some may be put out by feeling obliged to put particular files in particular locations, though I’m not particularly bothered. (On the other hand, I’m used to dealing with Unix.)

Finder window

A typical Finder window showing the toolbar and the new column view.

Speaking of applications, the iMac came with an extensive if not complete set already installed. Internet Explorer I’ve already mentioned, but other applications supplied included AppleWorks (which I am reluctantly migrating to from WriteNow since the latter is no longer supported), Quicken 2002 Deluxe, Preview (a basic image display program), BBEdit Lite 6.1, TextEdit, and a lot of little odds and ends.

Incidentally, TextEdit, despite the name, is not—by default, at least—a text editor. I attempted to write a short Unix script in it and had to turn to BBEdit to find that it actually saves files in Microsoft’s RTF format unless you specifically tell it to save the file as plain text. You have been warned!

Bending the computer to my will

The most controversial aspect of Mac OS X is probably the traditional Macintosh elements that it no longer has: no configurable Apple menu, no control strip, etc. What it does have is the Dock, a user-configurable array of icons that sits along the bottom or either side of the screen. Applications, folders, or documents may be added or removed from the Dock at will, and can be opened simply by clicking on the corresponding icon. The Dock may be set up to appear constantly at one edge of the screen (other than the top), or to appear when the mouse arrow is moved close to the appropriate edge and disappear otherwise. Its size can also be set, within limitations, and it can be configured to magnify what’s under the mouse arrow, again within limitations. The dock also shows the applications that are currently active and any windows that are open but minimized. In addition, the Trash now lives in the Dock, rather than enjoying a separate existence out on the Desktop.


The infamous Dock. Note that Fetch (a dog icon, somewhat blurry in the screen snap) is trying to get my attention by jumping up and down. This is typical of all the icons, not just the canine ones. The little triangles under an application indicated that it's loaded into memory. (Click on image for larger view.)

My wife finds particularly entertaining that icons in the dock jump up and down when the application is loading, or when it wants to get your attention. She says it seems that they’re going, “Oh, goody! He picked me!”

Anyhow, the Dock is a useful if fairly rudimentary capability. It’s fine for applications, which tend to have distinctive icons that are easy to pick out, even with the crowd that I have. However, folders and documents tend to look pretty much the same, and I have a lot of them.

I ended up trying out several utilities to try to help with this. I mentioned above about losing the use of QuicKeys with the upgrade. I downloaded a demonstration version but have found that I haven’t used it much at all. (The most sophisticated thing I used it for before was to open up Eudora and to check my email, all with one keystroke.)

Another utility I’m currently trying out is DockExtender, which allows you to create icon-based submenus that you can hook to the Dock. I’m finding this rather limiting as well: the icons DockExtender uses are configurable but aren’t differentiated from the applications, and the menu that comes up is just text, which jars with the graphics-based Dock.

On the other hand, early on I installed a third-party utility called MaxMenus, which has become so useful that I didn’t realize until researching this article that some of the capabilities I thought came with Mac OS X were in fact being supplied by MaxMenus. MaxMenus primary feature is that it provides up to four menus that can be brought up by clicking any of the corners of the screen (and more than that, if you’re willing to press shift, option, or another such key while clicking). All of these are fully configurable, but the defaults are useful in themselves.


My upper-left corner maxMenus menu, with frequently-accessed applications (especially utilities) and files that I don't have in the Dock. Note the function-key equivalents in some cases.

The upper-right corner provides a menu with the currently active programs, mounted volumes, and what’s on the desktop. (Somehow on Mac OS X I find that I leave applications running rather than exiting out of them, and it’s useful to know what’s still active, though the dock also provides an indication of this.) The lower-right menu mirrors the current user’s “Favorites” folder. This folder is initially empty, but I’ve put in the aliases (yes, we still have aliases) of numerous folders that I access frequently, from games to writing to mirrors of the websites I maintain to my Eudora attachments folder. The lower-left menu mirrors the user’s Documents folder where, as I indicated above, I keep my documents. Lastly, the upper-left menu is left pretty much up to the user, but I’ve added the applications folders as well as a few documents that I access on a regular basis, like my journal, my electronic to-do list, and the family budget. In addition, MaxMenus allows you to define keystrokes to bring up particular files or applications. (I’ve mostly taken advantage of the function keys, since Macintosh applications tend not to make use of them.)

System Preferences

The new, improved System Preferences window (think Control Panels). Note organization and user-configurable toolbar at top.

That capability put paid to reusing QuicKeys so far as I was concerned, since that was the main functionality I used QuicKeys for. All in all, I’ve already found MaxMenus to be hugely useful.

Good things about Mac OS X

MaxMenus joins a collection of utilities that in Mac OS X are referred to as System Preferences. Old-fashioned Macintosh users will think of these as Control Panels, though the Mac OS X approach is a big improvement. Instead of just being a collection of items in a folder or off of the Apple menu, the System Preferences pane organizes the various items logically into groups: personal, hardware, Internet and network, and so on. More than that, the window has a bar across the top where you can put your most frequently used preferences. On the downside, System Preferences for some reason tend to take several seconds to come up, rather than popping up almost instantly.

The Finder has its plusses and minuses as well, though it’s mostly a plus. Unlike some people, I’m very comfortable with the new column view, a more sophisticated version of the old list view that shows multiple levels of folders at one time (each level in a separate column, hence the name) and makes it very easy to navigate around. All Finder windows also now have a toolbar across the top (not unlike the System Preferences), which can be stocked with icons to perform various actions or else represent locations on the system. The ones I have selected allow me to go back to previous folder selections, change the view, or go up to a higher level. In addition, I’ve got frequently visited or accessed locations in the toolbar: my home user area, my documents folder, my favorites folder, and the trash.

The main loss is that of spring-loaded folders (the ability to bring a file icon over a folder icon and have it open automatically, thus making it very easy to store a file several levels down with having to open a whole bunch of Finder windows that you then have to close again.) However, one can hope this will be added in a future release—I even found an online petition asking for this capability! [This was added as part of Mac OS X 10.2 – ed.]

Across the very top of any window in Mac OS X is the usual title bar, now with three small, colored transparent balls on the left, one red, one yellow, and one green. Bringing the mouse arrow in the vicinity of these balls will add an “x”, “-”, or “+”, respectively, to the balls. Clicking on the red ball closes the window, clicking on the yellow minimizes it (moves it to an icon on the right-hand side of the Dock), and clicking on the green maximizes it, features which should largely be familiar from previous Mac OS incarnations even if triggered differently. Option-clicking on the red ball also has the further capability of closing all of the windows for the accompanying application.

Double-clicking on the title bar no longer creates the “windowshade effect,” reducing the window to just the title bar, but minimizes the window just as clicking the yellow ball does. (Mac OS X optionally uses what is called the “genie effect” for this, as the windows swooshes and squishes down to the bottom of the screen, not unlike Barbara Eden and her “I Dream of Jeannie” bottle, only without the smoke.)

Option-clicking on the Desktop preserves the effect of hiding the application currently in the foreground and all of its windows, very handy if you want to get to the Desktop quickly. The easiest way to restore the application to visibility is to click its icon in the Dock.

There may or may not be a transparent white oval on the right-hand-side of the title bar. If so, clicking it has the effect of hiding the display information at the top of the window. For example, in Internet Explorer clicking this oval gets rid of the button, address, and favorites bars that are normally (for me, anyway) at the top of the window and allows the full window to be used to display a Web page.

One feature I particularly like—and one of the very few I wanted to see Apple borrow from Microsoft Windows—is the Finder-level cut-and-paste. Now, if you want to move or copy files from one location to another, you can select them, do a CMD-C (or X), go to the destination folder, and do a CMD-V, and there they’ll be.

Adapting to Mac OS X

The software on the iMac has something of a split personality: new applications run under the Mac OS X applications environment (“Cocoa”), while older applications run under Mac OS 9.2 (“Classic). If you’ve booted up in Mac OS X, start up a “Classic” application and don’t have Mac OS 9.2 running yet, it will automatically be started up. This doesn’t take as long as it did on my old system (due mostly to the number of extensions I couldn’t bear to do without), but it does take a while. Even if 9.2 is running, it seems to take an inordinate amount of time to bring up a Classic application running under it. And once it is up, you’re back to the old-style Finder and Desktop, which look hopelessly old-fashioned, compared with the elegant “Aqua” interface.

So I was motivated to move to Mac OS X applications as much as possible.

Since AppleWorks was provided and already installed, I thought moving my financial and budget files (in ClarisWorks spreadsheets and databases) would be painless. Well, the file format is new, but the conversion is done automatically. I can live with that. What I couldn’t live with—or without, rather—was the macro I used to intelligently collect and copy budget information from the monthly transactions file (a database) to the monthly summary (a spreadsheet). Evidently this is a capability lost in the upgrade. Who ever heard of a software company taking features out of an upgrade? Oh, well, maybe it’s time to finally try out Quicken Deluxe, particularly since it’s pre-installed.

As far as Internet access went, a Mac OS X compatible version of Internet Explorer was supplied, and I had no trouble finding other browsers as well. In fact, I currently have five Mac OS X browsers installed, which must be some kind of record. (Mozilla, Netscape Navigator, OmniWeb, and Opera, in case you’re keeping score.) Upgrading my email program (Eudora Pro) to Mac OS X cost a nominal amount, though I also had the option of using the basic mail program provided.

For editing my Web pages in HTML, I’d been using an obscure program called World Wide Web Weaver. I tried BBEdit for a while but found its HTML feature set minimal. I’m trying out another program called WebDesign, and I’ve been happier with it so far.

For uploading pages, I upgraded to the Mac OS X version of Fetch, again for a nominal cost.

The marvelous shareware program GraphicConverter was my program of choice for dealing with pictures and images, and I ended up forking over the dough to upgrade that to Mac OS X, even though I later realized that my old license also covered the upgrade. No matter—it’s well worth the price.

Programs I’m stuck with (for now) on the Classic side include Panorama (my choice for serious database work) and PageMaker.

Utilities for which upgrades or alternatives were available included Norton Utilities(now part of Norton SystemWorks), Retrospect, and—thank goodness!—TypeIt4Me. If I’d been suffering withdrawal symptoms over any one program I missed, it was the latter, but fortunately I managed to track down an upgrade—eventually—and it even imported all of my old settings.

I can’t leave the subject of Mac OS X applications without at least mentioning the game that is supplied—in complete form—with the iMac. Otto Matic almost beggars description, but essentially you take the part of a robot that comes to Earth (and then various other planets once you make it past the first level) to save it from the aliens. Your mission is to save as many humans as possible while gathering enough fuel to launch your rocket again and coping with the various alien menaces along the way. Even on the farm you first visit, the menaces are delightfully bizarre, as the farm you land in contains killer corncobs that attack you by popping corn at you, pumpkins that try to smash your head, and giant onions that swat you with their stalks. And that’s only level one!

Dealing with fonts

I’m still trying to figure this topic out, so bear with me. I lost the use of ATM Deluxe with the upgrade and haven’t acquired a replacement. (ATM Deluxe provides significant font management capabilities, while the free ATM just provides font smoothing.) Currently, the list of fonts that shows up in my font menus is unnervingly long. (I get uncomfortable when it goes past the bottom of the screen, and I think the list is at least twice that.) On the good side, that means that Mac OS X comes with an impressive array of new fonts, which is nifty. On the other hand, all my fonts are just sort of lumped together right now.

The new system also wholeheartedly embraces the TrueType font format (not surprisingly since Apple developed it), while I, with my PostScript printer, had mostly PostScript fonts. It took some digging and rearranging to make sure that PageMaker still had access to the fonts I used in the newsletter I edit. This involved going down to the “type” and “creator” level and making sure that for every “LWFN” file (laserwriter font) had an accompanying “FFIL” (screen display font), not always easy when the names of the files themselves aren’t consistent enough to be able to match them with one another right away (that’s what ATM Deluxe is for!). Anyhow, I will probably break down and buy a Mac OS X-capable font management utility, but I haven’t done so yet.

Further problems

One of the “features” of Mac OS X (you’ll shortly see why I put that in quotes) is that it will automatically check for updates for you and let you know if any element of your system needs upgrading. Soon after buying the iMac I was informed that I could upgrade the operating system to 10.1.3 from the 10.1.2 it came with. So I downloaded the new version and proceeded to install it. (As usual, this was simply a matter of clicking some buttons and then going away for a while.)

I of course rebooted after this was done and was nonplussed to see a “question-mark Mac” icon at the center of the screen, indicating that the iMac could no longer find a disk to boot from. I sighed and, after some diddling around, ended up re-installing Mac OS X 10.1.2 from the supplied CDs. I ended up having to re-install Stuffit and my printer driver again as well, which was further annoyance, particularly since a couple of weeks later I had the same problem—and then all I had done was reboot. So I became rather chary of rebooting, at least until I had gotten the Mac OS X version of Norton Utilities (now Norton SystemWorks).

However, my most recent experience, upgrading to Mac OS X 10.1.5— again after being automatically informed of the upgrade—went painlessly, though I made sure I ran SystemWorks first. SystemWorks found an unnerving number of problems, actually, considering how little time I’d had the computer.

Under the hood

I don’t know where else to mention this, so I’ll just stick it in parenthetically, but beneath all the fancy graphics Mac OS X runs, as briefly mentioned above, on Unix, a seventies-era, text-based operating system. You can pop the hood, as it were, by bringing up a utility program called Terminal that provides the standard Unix command-line interface. I did this at one point in order to run the Mac OS X, text-based version of seti@home, a distributed processing program that analyzes chunks of radio-frequency data received from space, looking for signs of intelligent life. (It was in the process of trying to write a script to start up seti@home that I experienced the problem with TextEdit mentioned above.) As an experienced software developer who has used Unix extensively in the past, there’s both something kind of cool but also seriously Twilight Zone-ish in being able to run programs like vi (a very basic Unix text editor) on a Macintosh!

Terminal window

"Popping the hood" to reveal the Unix underneath. There is either something deeply right or deeply wrong about being able to do this on a Macintosh.

Cool stuff

The iMac is definitely geared for the connected, digital age, and I’ve only begun to plumb its capabilities in that area. It comes with an assortment of Apple custom applications and features designed for that purpose. iTunes manages mp3 music files on the computer and automatically interfaces to an iPod if and when one is attached. However, I’ve only used it so far to listen to music via the Internet (which based on a recent decision may be a vanishing opportunity.)

iMovie is a basic movie editing program, which I haven’t tried at all yet.

On the other hand, Image Capture and iPhoto are handy for dealing with digital images. Image Capture reads in images from a digital camera and is amazingly straightforward: all I do is to hook up my digital camera with a USB cable, power it on, and Image Capture comes up and asks me where I want to store the photos. I tell it, and it does the rest. iPhoto is an organizer, and I’ve only dabbled with it, though it looks interesting so far.

Image Capture

ImageCapture - This program and prompt comes up automatically when I plug my digital camera into a USB port and power it on. Note that it even recognizes which camera model I have.

Likewise, iTools—not an application but a set of related online features that Mac owners can register for—provides some additional Internet capabilities, including, sending electronic greeting cards, hosting a Web page on an Apple-sponsored site, and storing data (Web page or otherwise) on Apple’s servers. The associated iDisk is used for this purpose, and, when connected (there’s a Finder menu item specifically for it), looks like just another disk or partition on your computer. And, in addition to being able to move stuff onto the iDisk, it also provides an easy way to download a host of Mac OS X software, since it’s sitting out there (in some sort of virtual fashion) on your iDisk.

Final thoughts

Overall the iMac and the accompanying Mac OS X are definitely a curate’s egg: “Parts of it are excellent.” The hardware is little short of stunning. (When the guy who installed my cable modem found that the base of the monitor was in fact the entire computer, his succinct response was “Damn!”) The display is gorgeous, except for the previously mentioned problem with getting clear fonts. But I’m reasonably comfortable with the Georgia font I’m using for most of my casual writing, and Palatino works well, too.

The Mac OS X interface is gorgeous, also, and makes the Mac OS 9.2 menus and windows look tatty in comparison.

On the other hand, getting Mac OS X to be as easy to use as possible requires some third-party utilities. As indicated above, I highly recommend MaxMenus. But I must also admit that I’ve only had the computer for about a month, so I figure I will continue to work out easier way to do things as I go along. (It took me two days to realize that there was an easier way to get onto the Internet than going through Help!)

Also, as indicated by my experiences, Mac OS X isn’t nearly as robust as Apple makes out. For a while I was ready to risk a lightning strike rather than shut the computer down when a storm came through and wonder if I was going to have to reinstall the OS and the drivers yet again. At one point I had a problem with being unable to put anything in the main Applications folder, and even running Apple’s utility which was supposed to fix this problem didn’t help. (The only solution I found at the time was to pop the hood and turn myself into a Unix superuser long enough to copy the new application I want to add into the folder. However, upgrading to Mac OS X 10.1.5 seems to have fixed the problem.)

It would seem appropriate to make recommendations at this point, to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Based on my one-month experience, I’d give a somewhat guarded thumbs-up. But, regardless of my recommendation, if you want a new, reasonably-priced Macintosh, you’re obliged to get an iMac with Mac OS X. It’s the future of Macintosh, and one can only hope that Apple continues to address its problems and limitations, which it clearly has been doing.

Information on third-party products recommended in this article (and not supplied with the iMac), most downloadable via the Internet:

Adobe Type Manager (ATM) Light is a font smoothing utility useful for Classic applications and for printing. My evaluation: must-have (why not—it’s free!) Price: free. Web page: http://www.adobe.com/products/atmlight/main.html

DockExtender adds menus to the dock. My evaluation: take it or leave it. Price $10. Web page: http://www.codetek.com/php/dockext.php

MaxMenus is a Finder extender. My evaluation: must-have. Price $29.95. Web page: http://www.proteron.com/maxmenus/

Eudora Pro is Qualcomm’s email program. My evaluation: it’s what I’ve used for years, but I’m sure there are good alternatives. Price $39.95 (or an ad-laden version for free). Web page: http://www.eudora.com/ (The iMac also comes with a built-in email program.)

GraphicConverter is an image conversion and manipulation program. My evaluation: must-have. Price $30. Web page: http://lemkesoft.com/us_index.html (The Preview program supplied with the iMac has a few of these capabilities.)

WebDesign is an HTML page editor. My evaluation: some limitations, but I prefer it to BBEdit, and it’s cheaper. Price $29.95. Web page: http://www.ragesw.com/webdesign.php

TypeIt4Me automatically converts user-defined abbreviations to full text strings as you type: a great timesaver, ensures consistency, reduces typos. My evaluation: must-have. Price $27. Web page: http://members.aol.com/rettore/TypeIt4MeIndex.html

Norton SystemWorks is a package of disk maintenance, repair, and rescue utilities. My evaluation: these capabilities are a must-have, but there are alternatives that I haven’t examined. Price $69.95 (but check for discounts, rebates, and upgrade pricing). Web page: http://www.symantec.com/sabu/sysworks/basic/