Macintosh Classics: PopChar

The other day I was reading Longstanding Mac Apps by Shawn Blanc, and I remembered a great Mac utility that’s been around for a long time: PopChar.

PopChar was a very useful addition to my Macs and I used it regularly up to Mac OS 9.2.2. When running, it placed a little ‘P’ in the menubar (usually in the top left corner near the Apple logo, but you could customise the ‘hot spot’). Suppose you were writing a document and needed to insert a special character or a symbol and you didn’t remember the correct keyboard shortcut (or there wasn’t a direct keyboard shortcut to begin with). With PopChar installed, you clicked on the little ‘P’ and a pop-up character palette appeared. You could select the needed symbol and have it inserted right away. Fast, intuitive, and quickly out of the way.

PopChar UI

PopChar 2.7.1 in action


PopChar Control Panel

PopChar 2.7.1 Control Panel


I recalled I was using it under System 7 in the mid-1990s, but I didn’t know exactly when the very first version appeared. So I asked the developers over Twitter, and they replied:

The first version of PopChar was released in 1987. See … for a history of PopChar.

1987! Earlier than I remembered. This software has been around for 27 years. The PopChar History page does indeed save me a lot of work and you’ll find there all the details and screenshots illustrating how the software UI changed over the years. I’ll just quote here a few interesting bits:

  • PopChar has been running on all types of processors that have been used in Macs: starting with the first 68000 processors, up to the Motorola 68030, then various PowerPC models, and now Macs with multiple Intel processors in 64-bit technology.
  • Versions of PopChar have been running on all MacOS versions from System 4.2 to Mac OS X 10.8. [And of course 10.9 — evidently the page was last updated in 2012]
  • Four different development environments were involved: Turbo Pascal, Think Pascal, CodeWarrior and now Xcode.
  • Font technology has changed from simple bitmap fonts to TrueType and PostScript fonts and now OpenType.
  • To survive all these changes, PopChar has been redesigned and re-implemented from ground up again and again. These efforts were necessary to ensure steady evolution of PopChar and continuous support for our long-time customers.

Like many great applications, PopChar was born to address a specific need of the developer:

It all started back in 1987, when I tried to find a few special characters in the Symbol font. Apple’s Key Caps utility was not very helpful because I had to try all sorts of keyboard combinations to see which characters were available.

Being a software developer, I decided to write a simple utility that allowed me to select characters in a more convenient way. I wrote this utility in Turbo Pascal on a Mac Plus with 2.5 MB of memory.

It’s truly amazing to see how PopChar evolved over the years and how the developer adapted it so that it remained useful even when Mac OS started making similar features more accessible for the user.

In 2012, I decided to make PopChar even more versatile by adding features that allow designers to view and inspect fonts. New “Font Preview” and “Sample Text” views now show realistic text fragments formatted with a selected font. These new views give an impression of a font “in action”. Even more, these views can be printed to create beautiful font sheets.

I keep PopChar installed in all of my vintage Macs. It’s one of those little utilities you just can’t do without — especially if you’re discovering vintage Macs now. Once you install it, it feels like a part of the system. In all the years I’ve used it, I never encountered a single issue. It’s a well written piece of software. One last detail I want to share: it came with an elegant manual built in:

PopChar 271 manual

PopChar 2.7.1 inline documentation


If you have a modern Mac running the latest version of Mac OS X and you’re interested in this great little utility, you can read more detailed information at the PopChar X page on the developer’s site. The current version is available in English, German and French. Previous versions of PopChar X and PopChar Pro are available on the Downloads Archive page. By the way, if you’re a Windows user just passing by, know that PopChar is also available for Windows.

Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs (Part 3)

The launchers special

Here’s another brief addition to the list of useful apps that are still made available for PowerPC Macs by their developers. Since apparently application launchers are all the rage today, I thought it’d be nice to remind PowerPC users that they still have a few options out there.

  • Butler — From Butler’s website: Butler’s purpose is to ease all those routine tasks you do every day: controlling iTunes, opening programs and documents, switching users, searching for stuff on the web, and more. Butler can act as an application launcher, but can do a lot of other stuff. Among the many other tasks Butler can accomplish: open/move/copy files, access preference panes, manage bookmarks, enter text snippets, search the web, control iTunes, and so on. Make sure you check the extensive documentation provided on the website to learn how to make the most out of it. Here are the direct download links:

  • LaunchBar — LaunchBar is the oldest application of this kind, since it goes back all the way to NEXTSTEP and OPENSTEP. Check this page for a summary of the many features (bear in mind that some of them may be missing from older versions). LaunchBar is available for any Mac OS X version. Visit the Legacy download page and pick the right one for your Mac.

  • Quicksilver — Another application launcher with a long history, and one I’ve tried to master many times. From the Quicksilver About page:

    An introduction to Quicksilver’s abilities include:

    • Accessing applications, documents, contacts, music and much, much more.
    • Browsing your Mac’s filesystem elegantly using keywords and ‘fuzzy’ matching.
    • Managing content through drag and drop, or grabbing selected content directly.
    • Interacting with installed applications through plugins.
  • From Quicksilver’s Download page you can download all present and pasts version of the app, going as far back as Mac OS X 10.3 Panther.

These are the first apps of this type to come to mind. I’ve always used Mac OS X’s Spotlight, so I may have forgotten other important applications (by the way, there’s no PowerPC version of Alfred — I checked). Feel free to chime in and provide suggestions. Thanks!

A final related mention: NotLight

Suppose you don’t particularly like the approach of these application launchers / file finders, and at the same time you’re not satisfied by what Spotlight offers with regard to search. There’s a little program I still love and use on my iBook G3/466 SE Graphite — NotLight, written by the excellent Matt Neuburg:

[NotLight is] a simple Spotlight front-end substitute. [...] You can do any kind of Spotlight search; seven search keys are built in, and you can add more, and you can even view and edit a search as text if you like. You can use wildcards or not, specify word-based, case-insensitive, and diacritic-insensitive searches, and construct complex searches with AND, OR, and NOT. A Date Assistant translates dates into Spotlight’s query language for you. Results are a simple list of filename and paths. Download it here.

Here’s a review of NotLight by Dan Frakes on Macworld.



  • Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs — Part 1
  • Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs — Part 2

  • Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs (Part 2)

    My previous article, Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs, published at the end of last year, got a lot of attention. I’m always looking for older PPC versions of great Mac applications graciously made available by their developers, so I thought I’d post a quick follow-up to the aforementioned article.

    Here are a few more apps you can enjoy on your PowerPC Macs (running Mac OS X 10.4 and above):

    • Ulysses — Ulysses III is one of the best Mac applications for writers. If you own a PowerPC Mac, you can’t install the latest and greatest version, but The Soulmen have made available previous versions of the app on their site. Read carefully the descriptions near each package at the link provided. The only version that is completely unlocked and doesn’t require a licence is Ulysses 1.6, for Mac OS X 10.4 and above. I installed it on my 17-inch PowerBook G4 and works just fine.
    • CloudApp — CloudApp is a very nice app to quickly share screenshots and all kinds of files. It installs a menu extra in the menubar and then it’s just a matter of dragging and dropping. It’s now on version 2.0.2, but you still can download version 1.0.3 — the last to support PowerPC Macs — at the link provided. (Requires at least Mac OS X 10.5).
    • Transmit: The best FTP client for the Mac, period. You can download older versions of Transmit from Panic’s archives at this page. I think the last version supporting PowerPC Macs is 4.1.9 — I have it on my G4 PowerBooks running Mac OS X 10.5.8 and when I select Check for Updates from inside the app, Transmit says it’s “currently the newest version available.” Of course you’ll have to purchase a licence to use the app.
    • Other Panic apps — Panic has made available previous versions of all the apps they made over the years. Check out The Panic File Museum, where you can find other great apps like CandyBar, Stattoo and Unison.
    • NetNewsWire — One of the best RSS readers for the Mac. Now in version 4 Beta, you can still download version 3.2.15 — the last supporting PowerPC Macs running at least Mac OS X 10.5 — from the Version 3 page. It’s worth reminding that older versions of NetNewsWire now can only be used to check RSS feeds manually, as they don’t support RSS services like Feedly, FeedBin, etc., that came after Google discontinued their Reader service.

    Apple will end support for AIM iChat logins on older versions of Mac OS X

    The other day, this post by MacRumors caught my eye — Apple to End Support for AIM iChat Logins on Older Versions of OS X Starting June 30:

    Apple has announced in a recent support note (via ZDNet) that it will end AIM iChat login support for users running versions of OS X below 10.7.2 Lion on June 30, 2014.

    The change will affect those who use their and addresses as AIM IDs to log into iChat on older systems, as users running compatible versions of OS X Snow Leopard and OS X Lion can upgrade to OS X Mavericks for free.

    Guess what? I’m exactly among the users affected by such change. It is not a major inconvenience, but it’s an inconvenience nonetheless. My preferred setup for chatting is my 17-inch PowerBook G4 with an external iSight camera attached, and I typically use my address as AIM ID to chat. This change feels arbitrary and a ‘planned obsolescence’ kind of move on Apple’s part, and it does affect quite a number of people. (Note that, at the end of the article, it’s mentioned that the share of systems running older versions of OS X affected by this latest change is 19%, which is not exactly a small number.) When you open iChat on an older version of Mac OS X, you get this message:


    So you’re given some vague security concerns as an excuse (same goes for the linked Apple support note). I see it more as yet another move to get users to update to newer systems, and I’d like to point out that, while there are people who prefer older systems for the geekiest reasons, there are also people who still use high-end G4 and G5 Power Macs because they invested thousands of dollars (euros, pounds, etc.) on these machines — still very capable systems — and perhaps they simply can’t afford to upgrade just yet.

    Again, it’s not a huge inconvenience, but I think that when it comes to chatting, users should be left with the widest possible range of options. Anyway, bear in mind that you still can use iChat with other account types:


    After June 30, 2014, “MobileMe account” and “” account will no longer be viable options, but you’ll still be able to use regular AIM accounts, Jabber accounts and Google Talk accounts. I suppose that ‘security’ keeps being just fine with these accounts…

    eWorld again

    Apple eWorld

    Image from Vintage Computing & Gaming

    Last year on this day I forgot to update this blog with the traditional eWorld mention. eWorld was Apple’s ill-fated online service that debuted in June 1994 — almost 20 years ago — and was shut down on March 31, 1996. Every March 31, from 2010 on, I published an eWorld-related post with some interesting links and resources about eWorld. Here are a few more:

    Past eWorld entries here on System Folder:

    Hello, iPod

    Hello ipod

    To sweeten the vintage weekend, I just wanted to share a couple of iPod-related things. The first one is the video Apple made available on its site in October 2001 when the original iPod was introduced. I found it in one of my backups, possibly lying there for the past 13 years. It’s not hard to get hold of it if you look around on the Web (I’m sure YouTube is your friend), but I’d like to offer a direct link here for documentary reasons: iPod introduction video.

    I must say, of all the Apple videos featuring Jonathan Ive, this is the one where Ive looks the most excited and possibly smiles the most. You’ll also notice someone who later left Apple to work with Palm…

    As for the second thing, I thought I could assemble a useful table listing which iPod models can be managed by PowerPC Macs running Mac OS 9.x to Mac OS X 10.5.8 and which system software and iTunes version are required. I still don’t understand why more modern iPods — such as the 7th-gen. iPod nano or the 5th-gen. iPod touch and later — support Windows software as old as XP but require Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (and an Intel Mac, of course).

    In case you acquire an old iPod model, in this table you can easily see your Mac/PC’s minimum requirements to be able to manage it.

    System requirements (Mac OS, Windows, iTunes version) iPod models
    Mac OS 9.2 or later
    Mac OS X 10.1 or later

    iTunes 2.0 or later

    Original iPod (iPod with scroll wheel)
    Mac OS 9.2.2 / Mac OS X 10.1.4 or later (Mac OS X 10.2 or later recommended)
    Windows Me, 2000, XP (Home or Professional)

    iTunes 3.0 or later

    iPod with touch wheel (2nd-gen. iPod)
    Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later (Mac OS X 10.2 or later recommended)
    Windows Me, 2000, XP (Home or Professional)

    iTunes 4.0 or later

    iPod (Dock Connector) (3rd-gen. iPod)
    Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later (Mac OS X 10.3 or later recommended)
    Windows 2000 (SP 4), XP (Home or Professional)

    iTunes 4.2 or later

    iPod mini
    Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later (Mac OS X 10.3 or later recommended)
    USB 2.0 requires Mac OS X 10.3.4 or Windows 2000 (SP 4) or Windows XP Home or Professional

    iTunes 4.6 or later

    iPod (Click wheel) (4th-gen. iPod)
    iPod U2 Special Edition
    Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later (for FireWire)

    USB 2.0 requires Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later or Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

    iTunes 4.7 or later

    iPod photo
    iPod colour display
    iPod U2 Special Edition (colour display)
    Mac OS X 10.2.8 or Mac OS X 10.3.4 and later (Mac OS X 10.3.6 or later recommended for use with low-power USB ports)
    Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later, or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

    iTunes 4.7.1 or later

    iPod shuffle (1st gen.)
    Mac OS X 10.2.8 or Mac OS X 10.3.4 and later (Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later recommended)
    USB 2.0 requires Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later or Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

    iTunes 4.7.1

    iPod mini (2nd gen.)
    Mac OS X 10.3.4 and later
    Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later, or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

    iTunes 5.0 or later

    iPod nano (1st gen.)
    Mac OS X 10.3.9 and later
    Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later, or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

    iTunes 6.0 or later

    5th-gen. iPod
    Mac OS X 10.3.9 and later
    Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later, or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

    iTunes 7.0 or later

    5th-gen. iPod (U2 Special Edition)
    5th-gen. iPod (late 2006)
    5th-gen. iPod (U2 Special Edition – late 2006)
    iPod nano (2nd gen.)
    Mac OS X 10.4.8 or later
    Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

    iTunes 7.0 or later (2006)
    iTunes 7.4 or later (2007/2008)

    iPod shuffle (2nd gen.)
    Mac OS X 10.4.8 or later
    Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

    iTunes 7.4 or later

    iPod nano (3rd gen.)
    iPod classic
    Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later
    Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

    iTunes 7.4 or later

    iPod touch (1st gen.)
    Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later
    Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

    iTunes 8.0 or later

    iPod touch (2nd gen.)
    Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later
    Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 3)

    iTunes 8.0 or later

    iPod nano (4th gen.)
    iPod classic (120 GB)
    iPod shuffle (3rd gen.)
    Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later
    Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 3) or later

    iTunes 9.0 or later

    iPod shuffle (3rd gen. late 2009)
    iPod nano (5th gen.)
    iPod classic (160 GB – late 2009)
    iPod touch (3rd gen.)
    Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later
    Windows 7, Vista, or XP Home or Professional (SP 3) or later

    iTunes 10 or later

    iPod nano (6th gen.)
    iPod touch (4th gen.)

    (Data collected using Mactracker.)

    The Apple Network Server resource


    From Wikipedia:

    The Apple Network Server (ANS) is a short-lived line of PowerPC-based server computers manufactured by Apple Computer from February 1996 to April 1997, when it was discontinued due to poor sales. It was codenamed “Shiner” and originally consisted of two models, the Network Server 500/132 (“Shiner LE”, i.e., “low-end”) and the Network Server 700/150 (“Shiner HE”, i.e., “high-end”), which got a companion model, the Network Server 700/200 (also “Shiner HE”) with a faster CPU in November 1996. They are not a part of the Apple Macintosh line of computers; they were designed to run IBM’s AIX operating system and their ROM specifically prevented booting Mac OS. This makes them the last non-Macintosh desktop computers made by Apple to date. The 500/132, 700/150, and 700/200 sold in the U.S. market for $11,000, $15,000 and $19,000, respectively.

    Apple Network Servers are not to be confused with the Apple Workgroup Servers and the Macintosh Servers, which were Macintosh workstations that shipped with server software and used Mac OS; the sole exception, the Workgroup Server 95—a Quadra 950 with an added SCSI controller that shipped with A/UX—was also capable of running Mac OS. Apple did not have comparable server hardware in their product lineup again until the introduction of the Xserve in 2002.

    Last month, my friend the excellent Cameron Kaiser has updated a section of his awesome website. The section is called Floodgap ANSwers: The Apple Network Server Resource and it’s dedicated to this very machine. In the introduction, Cameron writes:

    In 1998, I was a working stiff at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and the bookstore had an Apple Network Server 500/132 for their inventory system which the vendor wouldn’t support anymore. It was pristine and barely used, and sat in a corner. They asked me if I wanted it for anything, and I thought it would be fun to play with, so I wiped it and started its new long life. stockholm served as my do-everything server for 14 years until I finally decommissioned it in 2012 for an IBM POWER6, but it still works today and has a place of honour in my machine room. It was never flawless, but it was dependable and fascinating and a machine deserving of more than a footnote in Cupertino's corporate history. This site, therefore, is my weak attempt at a memorial to the best enterprise-class machine Apple ever disowned.

    Make sure to check out the various links Cameron provides on his page. I enjoyed the ANS FAQ and the AIX on ANS FAQ because, admittedly, I didn't know much about this particular line of Apple servers and the operating system they run. I hope you'll enjoy Cameron's resource as much as I did. And remember to add his main website to your bookmarks, too. The typical System Folder reader will find a lot of valuable information and projects there.


    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 44 other followers