System 6

System 6

Infobox OS version
name = System Software 6
family = Mac OS

caption = System Software 6.0.8 workspace
developer = Apple Computer
source_model = Closed source
license = Proprietary
kernel_type = Monolithic
first_release_date = April, 1988
first_release_url =
release_version = 6.0.8
release_date = April, 1991
release_url =
support_status = Unsupported

System 6 (also referred to as System Software 6) is a graphical user interface-based operating system for Macintosh computers. It was released in 1988 by Apple Computer and was part of the Mac OS line of operating systems. System 6 was shipped with various Macintosh computers until it was succeeded by System 7 in 1991. The boxed version of System 6 cost US$49 when introduced.Citation
last = Paden
first = Jake
title = Now we are six (System Software 6.0 for the Macintosh)
newspaper = MacUser
pages = 184
date = November 1988
] System 6 is classed as a monolithic operating system. It featured an improved MultiFinder, which allowed for co-operative multitasking. The last version of System 6 was released in 1991.

Main features


A software program called MacroMaker, developed by Apple, was introduced with System 6.Citation
last = Forbes
first = Jim
title = Apple to enhance system software, desktop database.
newspaper = PC Week
pages = 11
date = April 12, 1988
] It allowed users to record a set of computer instructions, known as macros. The most unique part of MacroMaker was its user interface, which aimed to look and act like a tape recorder.Citation
last = Beaver
first = David
title = Some simpler solutions to making macros (MacroMaker and AutoMac III macro recorders for the Macintosh)
newspaper = MacWEEK
pages = 44
date = July 19, 1988
] MacroMaker was criticized for its lack of features when compared to Microsoft's AutoMac III, a similar product available at the time. Shortly after release of System 6, some users reported problems when using MacroMaker. MacroMaker was not compatible with System 7, which used AppleScript instead.

System 6 used a utility called Font/DA Mover for the management of fonts and Desk Accessories (DA). This utility was created because DAs were not installed as applications, but instead were integrated into the system software file, similar to drivers. This meant that DAs could not be managed using the Finder, System 6's file management program. Font/DA Mover was also used to install fonts onto System 6 for use in software such as MacWrite, Apple's word processing software. Font/DA Mover was first developed by Bert Sloane in 1985, and was shortly after included on Macintosh system software disks as standard. [Citation
title = New Font and Desk Accessory Mover
newspaper = Macworld
pages = 42
date = August 1985
] Several third party alternatives for font management were released, including Suitcase, Adobe Type Manager and Font-DA Juggler Plus. [Citation
last = Bobker
first = Steven
title = Packing 'em in (Suitcase font program review)
newspaper = MacUser
pages = 111
date = Nov 1987
] [Citation
last = Aker
first = Sharon Zardetto
title = DAs of our lives. (FONT-DA Juggler Plus) (Software Review)
newspaper = MacUser
pages = 203
date = May 1988


Cooperative multitasking made its Macintosh debut in March 1985 with a program called Switcher by Andy Hertzfeld, which allowed the user to launch multiple applications and switch between them. [cite book
last = Hertzfeld
first = Andy
title = Revolution in the Valley
publisher = O'Reilly
date = 2005
pages = 243-251
isbn = 0596007191
] Many programs and features did not function correctly with Switcher, and it was not built into the operating system. Instead, it was available from Apple for purchase separately. Both System 5 and System 6 had a feature called MultiFinder instead. [Citation
last = Wiggins
first = Robert R.
title = All systems go (System Tools 5.0 with MultiFinder)
newspaper = MacUser
pages = 126
date = March 1988
] Multitasking under System Software 6 was optional, startup could be set to Finder or MultiFinder. If MultiFinder was selected, the Finder and its functions continued to run when an application was launched. The MultiFinder environment allowed users to see past the windows of running applications to view Finder icons such as the Trash, or the windows of other applications running in the background. This was at the expense of more RAM, so it was not always possible to multitask if one of the applications required too large a portion of the available RAM.

Hardware support

System 6 included support for the Apple ImageWriter LQ and other PostScript laser printers. New software drivers allowed the ImageWriter LQ to be used on AppleTalk local area networks and supports use of tabloid, or B, size paper (11 inches by 17 inches). System 6 also included QuickerGraf, a piece of system software used to accelerate the drawing of color screen images on the Macintosh II. It was licensed to Apple and Radius Inc by its programmer, Andy Hertzfeld.

User interface

System 6 used the same black-and-white graphical user interface environment used in previous Macintosh operating systems. The Macintosh Finder in System 6 is built around several key concepts including the desktop metaphor, data as objects, mouse integration, and a shared user interface.Citation
last = Jennings
first = Mark S
title = Evaluating the Macintosh Finder
newspaper = Byte
pages = A94-A101
date = issue 12/1984
url =
] The combination of consistent menus, windows and icons were designed for ease of use. [Citation
last = Poole
first = Lon
title = A tour of the Mac desktop
newspaper = Macworld
pages = 16-27
date = 1984
url =
] The desktop metaphor allows the computer screen to be represented as a desktop. Items can be present on the screen, as if the user had a calendar, notepad and paper on an actual desk. Data can be represented as objects, and moved using the cursor, which is controlled by the mouse. The Finder assigns graphic symbols, known as icons, to these data objects. Like its predecessors, System 6 provides an editor in the control panel to change the desktop pattern, but does not allow images to be used.


System 6 had several significant limitations, which were remedied in its successor, System 7. Unlike later Macintosh operating systems, System 6's Apple menu was not customizable, and there was no application switcher menu in the upper right-hand corner of the menu bar. [Citation
last = LeVitus
first = Bob
title = System 7.0: 10 reasons why you'll love it
newspaper = Computer Shopper
pages = 202
date = (July 1991
] System 6 supported 24 bits of addressable random access memory (RAM), which allowed a maximum of 8 megabytes of RAM.Citation
title = Settling down with System 7 (Apple Macintosh operating system's compatibility with network operating systems and upgrading benefits)
newspaper = The Local Area Network Magazine
pages = 18
date = August 1991
] This limitation was removed in System 7, and virtual memory was introduced. System 6 also had a hard drive capacity limit; it supports up to 2 gigabytes and 65,536 files on a drive. [cite web
title = Macintosh: File System Specifications and Terms
publisher = Apple Inc
date = January 17, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2008-04-22

Management of files in System 6 was considerably different than both System 7 and later Macintosh operating systems. The absence of a Desktop folder on System 6 meant that files and folders could not be stored on the Desktop; instead, only references to files and folders could be kept. [Citation
last = LeVitus
first = Bob
title = Top ten secrets of System 7 (Beating the System)
newspaper = MacUser
pages = 213
date = March 1992
] Open dialogs and Save As dialogs were primitive, mostly unchanged since 1984. A maximum of fifteen Desk Accessories could be installed at one time, including the Chooser, Scrapbook, and Control Panel. System 6 used a single desk accessory for access to various control panels, instead of the Macintosh Finder. [cite book
title = Inside Macintosh: More Macintosh Toolbox (Apple Technical Library)
publisher = Addison-Wesley
date = October 1992
pages = 779
url =
isbn = 0201632438
] The Trash (or "Wastebasket" in the British version) was programmed to empty when the Finder terminated. If MultiFinder was not running, this would occur whenever an application was launched. The lack of aliases, shortcuts to files, was another limitation of file management on System 6. [Citation
last = Michel
first = Steve
title = Aliasing: a file by any other name. (making duplicate files with minimal disk space) (System 7.0 Survival Guide)
newspaper = MacWEEK
pages = S13
date = May 14, 1991
] Custom file and folder icons were not supported until System 7.

As with previous system software versions, the user interface is largely unable to be modified or customized. This was later changed in System 7, which allowed the user to change the color and various other aspects of the user interface. In addition, System 6 did not allow users to change the font sizes or styles for user interface elements such as menus and window titlebars.Citation
last = Crabb
first = Don
title = The Mac Interface: Showing Its Age
newspaper = Byte
pages = 235-237
date = issue 6/1989
] By 1989, the System 6 user interface was in need of a change. In comparison to the NeXTSTEP operating system of the time, System 6 did not make use of sound, and its user interface presented several limitations in terms of file management and the way windows were displayed. System 6 did not include tear-off menus, or resizable menus as NeXTSTEP did.


The initial releases of System 6 were unstable; many third party software developers did not receive copies before its release, resulting in widespread compatibility problems. At first, many common software programs such as Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Works and 4th Dimension were not fully compatible with System 6. There were also software bugs in the Color Manager, Script Manager, and Sound Manager extension files. Apple announced that 66 bugs were fixed when the 6.0.1 update was released in September 1988. [Citation
title = System 6.0.1 set for distribution
newspaper = MacWEEK
date = September 13, 1988
] Citation
last = Perrow
first = Jonathan
title = System 6.0 saga not over yet
newspaper = MacWEEK
pages = 2
date = September 20, 1988
] However, a major bug involving text spacing of screen fonts was found in 6.0.1 after distribution began. This led to the quick release of 6.0.2, which solved this problem. Some customers waited longer until moving to System 6 because of the poor reputation already gained. [Citation
title = Managers go slow with System 6.0.2
newspaper = MacWEEK
pages = 2
date = October 25, 1988


System 6 was officially supported by Apple for many different machines, some of which were shipped with System 6. It may be that some Apple computers for which System 6 was not officially supported may nevertheless be able to run it, perhaps with limitations.cite web
title = PowerBook & Macintosh Classic II: No Support for System 6
publisher = Apple Inc
date = November 30, 1994
url =
accessdate = 2008-05-03

Version history


External links

* [ Macintosh: System Software Version History] at
* [ Download System_6.0.x Software Updates] at

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