OSX Panther – What’s New for Prepress with Apple’s 10.3 version of OS X

By Ron Ellis


Last month Apple Computer released Panther, version 10.3 of the OS X operating system. Apple OS X versions have been frequent the past few years, and Apple does not price them as upgrades — each ‘upgrade’ requires the purchase of a whole new version. Also new versions are typically viewed as dangerous by IT staff until they have been out for a while and the bugs have been worked out. That being said, any new Apple computer you purchase will include Panther.

For prepress professionals, the question is what does this upgrade offer, and what’s new for prepress operators in Panther. There is a lot that is new. There are more than 150 new features in Panther. In this article we will focus 10 top new features that are of value to prepress professionals.

While OS X integration has been slow to pick up, in most plants I go to there is at least one Macintosh in the shop running OS X. Sometimes it’s a new Mac, or sometimes an older Mac running OS X to deal with files from OS X-only applications such as Quark 6. The biggest issues with OS X are compatibility issues with OS 9 applications running in Classic mode. This has not been improved in Panther, so these problems will still be with us. The next series of issues are connectivity issues (connecting via networks) and printing issues. These have been improved markedly in Panther. Below are the ten most relevant OS X Panther issues.


Font Management

In earlier versions of OS X, font management went from bad to worse. Most operators using Jaguar (10.2) are using Suitcase or FontReserve. In Panther, Apple finally provides their own font management utility, called Font Book. Font Book allows many of the features users utilize in Suitcase. This includes the activation and deactivation of fonts, as well as a simple font install function (no more worrying about where to put them). Potentially this means an end to buying copies of Suitcase for every Mac in the shop, although utilities such as Suitcase may still prove helpful for issues with damaged or conflicting fonts.


SMB Printing

Earlier versions of OS X can connect to Windows computers easily using SMB services, but they could not print directly to Windows printers. In Panther, OS X clients can print to SMB printers. It means you no longer need a 2000 server to hang a printer off and share it so that Macintosh clients can use it. It may sound minor, but it is another major step in compatibility.


Preview Application

The Preview application in Panther has been beefed up. It can open and view many file formats, but PDF rendering performance has been accelerated in the Panther version. This means that the Preview application can quickly move around and navigate PDF files. The feature showed to be quite snappy in test performed randomly. In addition, it will allow you to copy vector and bitmap objects from the PDF into other applications and will maintain those objects. Like the Acrobat Reader, Preview also allows you to view the PDF’s document information. Also, this version of Preview includes a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) proofing option so that you can apply profiles and soft-proof files on your screen.


PDF 1.4/Quartz

Quartz is the native PDF file format used by OS X to render graphics such as displays. Unknown to most users, underneath the operating system a version of the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) has been licensed by Apple. CUPS can convert documents into PDF files using it’s own Postscript interpreter based on Ghostscript. Panther can convert any Postscript file into a PDF with a double click (Double clicking on a postscript or eps file automatically converts it into a PDF file and opens it in Preview). Panther now supports PDF version 1.4, which allows for transparency and other features. Panther can also perform colorspace conversions on the document when converting it to a PDF file, such as RGB to CMYK transforms. The PDF is created in a format that Apple calls a ‘Digital Master’ format, meaning no images are down-sampled or changed, so it can be a rather large PDF. Color conversions can be applied in this process via the new ColorSync filters features. This offers a potentially powerful way to catch those RGB images on the way to the printer. It isn’t a replacement for Distiller, but it offers some intriguing possibilities.

One interesting aspect of OS X is that even if printing to a bitmap or inkjet printer, OS X makes a PDF first and then prints the PDF to the inkjet. Apple claims that this will allow inkjet users to see the same metrics and placement as postscript printer users.


File Vault

Panther contains a new feature called File Vault, which uses 128 bit encryption to secure the contents of your home directory. It includes a user and master password feature, so that you don’t have to worry about being the only one to lose the password. In its marketing materials Apple estimates that it would take that machine approximately 149 trillion years to crack a 128-bit AES key. In any case, for those requiring security, either from other staff, or from kids deleting important documents, or laptop users, File Vault offers security.



Fax docs and other communications can be set up to automatically print, email or fax upon receipt. Simple, but it could be helpful in a number of production situations.



Colorsync now contains a utility that allows you to display the gamut of profiles so that you can quickly see how various profiles perform. Long available as third party utility features, it is now built into Panther. The utility contains a way to apply filters and other processes to files, applications, and printers.



Now that you can actually run multiple applications without crashing, users have more and more windows and processes open. Expose is a windowing system that allows users to manage all the open windows. Using command keys and an intuitive method of moving, closing, and organizing screens, Panther helps users navigate and control the system that now lets them have unthinkable numbers of applications and windows open without crashing. Another simple improvement — somewhat like Windows OS features — but it helps.


Finder Views and Admin Authentication

The Finder has been improved as well, and now offers a Windows Explorer-like view that makes navigating masses of folders and files easier. In addition Panther also includes a feature that will allow you to access any file with Admin Authentication. It offers the promise of no more logging out and coming back in – or typing Unix commands to perform simple file maintenance tasks.


Virtual PostScript Printer Sharing

In Jaguar, users could share bitmap printers such as inkjets but could not share Postscript printers unless the server version had been purchased. In Panther, users can share locally connected Postscript printers as well. In addition drag and drop printing to desktop printer aliases is not supported. You can drag any document to a printer and it will print it to that printer. (Of course we know in our industry it will never be as simple as clicking print!)



Like any new operating system, Panther needs time. There are new bugs, and new problems to be worked out. However some of the new features are welcome, such as the addition of font management tools, better finder views and navigation tools, and better printing and PDF capabilities. Most printers and prepress professionals are approaching OS X with caution — and with good reason. It requires a forced change to the way we do our work. This upgrade however continues to improve the feature set of OS X and makes it easier to integrate.


About the author: Ron Ellis is a prepress consultant specializing in workflow training and integration. He worked in the commercial printing industry for 18 years and brings a strong background to all aspects of prepress. He has consulted on numerous CTP installations and he provides color management, integration, training, workflow development, and troubleshooting solutions to the graphic arts community. He can be contacted at 603-498-4553 or through his web site at www.ronellisconsulting.com.