Getting the Mac OS X look with Mac OS 8.6

Yeah. As in 8.

After getting excited over all the hype and rumors and screenshots and reviews of Mac OS X, those of us with older Macintoshes found ourselves stuck outside looking in -- the hardware requirements for Mac OS X make it impractical to run it on, say, a 7300/180 with 64MB of RAM. And besides, we've got all sorts of "classic" applications, and don't want to have to go shelling out for a new version of all of them. And not everyone has the opportunity to take time to learn a new operating system.

But it's pretty.

So, I figure, I can have the best of both worlds: run Mac OS 8.6 with the eye candy of Mac OS X! You, too, can get the desktop that I've got above, on your old-world unsuitable-for-Mac-OS-X Macintosh, with a handful of free and shareware programs. Some of the links below link to software that is less than legitimate -- Apple would prefer no-one have the look of Mac OS X without buying Mac OS X -- so please don't go advertising this on your favorite rumor site.

(Click to enlarge)


Running Mac OS IIX

To get what you see above, you need the following software:

Kaleidoscope version 2.3.1 or newer

Kaleidoscope allows you to radically change the appearance of the Mac OS, with thousands of "themes" (like what some applications call "skins"). Shareware (nag window on startup), $20.

The AquaX III theme for Kaleidoscope

Apple doesn't want you to have this, so sources tend to come and go. If the link above fails, let me know and I'll try to track down another. Free.

Power Windows

This control panel by the author of Kaleidoscope provides fading finder windows, translucent or opaque window dragging, and translucent menus. Shareware (nag window on startup), $10.


Another control panel by the author of Kaleidoscope, this one produces font antialiasing like Mac OS X's type engine, which is subtly different from the one in the Appearance control panel of Mac OS 8.6. Shareware (nag window on startup), $10.

The Greg's Browser file manager

Another one from Greg of Kaleidoscope fame (see a pattern?), this file manager recalls the Workspace manager from Mac OS X. It's not exactly right -- Greg modeled this after NEXTSTEP's file manager, before Apple used NEXTSTEP's as the basis for the one in Mac OS X -- but it's awfully close.

Quicktime 5

It's QuickTime. It has those glasslike buttons. What more do you need to know?

The Lucida Sans font

Tell Kaleidoscope to use Lucida Sans 12 as the system font. If these three wordslook different from the rest of the text here, you probably already have Lucida Sans.

I'm not sure where I obtained Lucida Sans from. It may have been MS Office, so I'm not distributing it here; using an Apple look and feel in an Apple operating system is one thing, but out and out copying software is a little more than I'm trying to do here. If you know where to obtain a Lucida Sans style font for Mac OS, let me know and I'll add a link. (That's the font used in Apple's Mac OS X screenshots, and the one in the screenshot up above.)

A clean desktop

I find the Mac OS X look is made complete by going into the General Controls control panel and unchecking Show Desktop when in Background. Especially in combination with Greg's Browser, this makes folders and disks on your desktop disappear when the Finder isn't your current application.


A-Dock provides the dock -- it's got most of the features that OS X's dock does, including separate sections for docked apps, running apps, and trash, and it even has OS X-ish contextual menus. (Not pictured -- thanks to Ivar Waldemarson for pointing this out.)

Enjoy your eye candy!