Apple's System 7 gives Macs a boost

Computer file

May 20, 1991|By Lawrence J. Magid | Lawrence J. Magid,Los Angeles Times Syndicdate

Apple Computer's System 7, the long-awaited Macintosh operating system software introduced recently, makes the Mac more powerful and easier to use.

The new system software, along with Apple's newly adopted aggressive pricing strategy, will help polish Apple's long-standing reputation as an innovator. System 7 provides access to more memory, streamlines the way you run programs and makes it possible for future Macintosh programs to exchange data and programming tasks with little or no help from you. It also makes it easier to install and use fonts.

An operating system is the basic software that controls the overall operation of the computer. Apple's goal with System 7 was to provide additional functionality and ease of use without requiring users to re-learn how to use the machine. Experienced Mac users will notice that the machine continues to operate as it always has.

The Mac's file management system, called the Finder, has been improved. It's no longer necessary to search through on-screen folders to locate program icons. You can launch programs by selecting them from a menu or you can click on a copy of an icon, called an "alias," which can be located anywhere, including the main startup screen.

There is now a new help icon to the right of the menus. When help is activated, the Mac pops up a balloon (like the kind used for comic strip dialogue) that provides information about whatever icon, file or menu you have highlighted with the mouse. You can continue to work while the help balloon is displayed. This new help system is available when using the new Mac Finder and will be available with programs developed or modified specifically for System 7.

Apple has improved the way windows are displayed. Now you can "hide" a program's windows so that they no longer block the view of other windows. The program is still running, but the screen space is available for other software. That's critical when using a Mac (such as the SE or Classic) with a small screen. System 7 also makes it easier to find files by name, even if you don't know which folder they're in.

Another new feature, called "TrueType," improves the way fonts look on the screen and adds support for additional printers.

Some of System 7's features won't be evident until you begin using software that has been written or adopted to take advantage of the new operating system. Future software programs, for example, will be able to work more closely together to share data and tasks.

Mac users have always been able to copy text or graphics from one program to another, but a new feature, called "publish and subscribe," provides more sophisticated methods for data exchange. You can create a graph in your spreadsheet and "publish" it so that it becomes available to other programs or other users on a network. Then, while you're using your word processing program, you can "subscribe" to that graph so that it appears as an illustration in your document. If later you return to the spreadsheet to change the graph, you can publish a new "edition" that will automatically update the graph in the word processing document.

The Mac now has "inter-application communication," which allows programs to exchange messages with one another, too.

System 7 now comes with built-in file sharing so that any Mac connected to a networkcan access files on the other Macs.

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