Universally Challenged


Universal appsA little over a month ago I swapped-out my 15″ PowerBook for a white MacBook. (No, no discoloration yet, but it’s one hot mother…) I really can’t be happier with the machine. It’s fast, small, and does everything I need it to do – and generally a LOT faster than the former G4 that it replaced. But this isn’t another review of the MacBook.

Since my change to Apple’s Intel-powered hardware I’ve been getting used to the speed with which everything runs. Boot-up is seriously quick, apps pop open almost before I click on them, and things that typically took a heart beat to happen in the G4 world happen in the blink of an eye these days. Ahhhh, but what about Rosetta apps you say. Glad there’s a few people still thinking and not just drinking the Kool-aid.

It took me very little time at all to run the apps I use most for updates, making sure I had Universal versions of everything possible. Not because it was brutally slow, but because I knew it could be faster. I have a need…A need for, well, you know.

Desktop Manager is one of my favorite utilities, and my hands-down favorite as far as Virtual Desktop apps go. But development has been lacking on this program for over a year. It’s surely not Universal (and doesn’t appear that it will every be), and for me that has posed a problem. It’s since been replaced by Virtue, which (for me) has sat in a decent second place for some time now.

The field of software available on the Mac is extensive. It seems that every idea has been done by at least a couple of developers, offering choices in which app a user prefers. There’s a dozen RSS readers, Browsers, ftp apps, text editors, and on, and on. I believe that the real race is starting to be with who can get a Universal Binary out first. In most cases that’s been done, but there are still a few stragglers.

I wonder, as time moves forward, will those stragglers fall behind? Will ‘loyal’ users move-on and start getting comfortable with the competition which has already moved to a Universal Binary release? Obviously I’m speaking to the smaller developers and their applications. People will wait for the likes of Photoshop to go Universal and not think twice. But what about a piece of software that I used several times a day before I went to an Intel Mac? If it ran slow via Rosetta I could deal with it, but truth be told, it won’t even run on my MacBook. I’m told theres a compatible Rosetta build forthcoming, but I don’t know when that may be. So what am I to do in the meantime. There are some lesser competitor offerings out there, but nothing that’s a full and/or perfect replacement at this time.

So in this new, Universal age, will enterprising software developers spring up to fill the gaps left by the former heavy-weights? Will those former heavy-weights be able to battle back, or come out with Universal builds in time to remain on top? I think this situation offers the opportunity for some big changes in the software landscape on the Mac platform. As more and more among us upgrade and move to the Intel-based Apple hardware, the market for software that runs swiftly (natively) on it will only continue to grow.

So what are the thoughts from the crowd? What programs do you use that aren’t yet available as Universal builds? Have you since moved-on to more suitable replacements? Are you currently working on replacing a stagnant PowerPC-only application? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

Oh, and no, I won’t be saying which program I’m talking about. No need to kick them while they’re down, so to speak. Some of you may well guess it. Good for you.


James Cornell

Gizmo is a bit too unstable for my taste. Their service works fine but the 3rd party support for SIP is definitely lacking. In the performance department, it’s universal but much more bloated than sjphone. XMeeting is a good option that’s universal, with source available, I use it with ekiga.net’s free SIP service. Not unstable by any means, and it does video with support for the iSight.


I want a universal binary SIP client. There’s no VoIP app that interfaces with a SIP server (what my VoIP provider uses) that is a universal binary. There is SJPhone, which works under Rosetta, but sucks up a lot of RAM, especially since this app is open constantly for me to receive phone calls. Plus is has a sucky interface :(


“What annoys me…”

Just out of curiosity, what protools are you talking about? If you mean like Logic Pro or something then what’s 200$ after a few years when you paid like 1200$ originally? Am I missing something? Occaisonally you need to upgrade!

Tim C

If you miss desktop manager, you can always compile it yourself (it’s open source). I tried, but came up with many errors. I commented out the single use of a module (mach_inject, i believe it was) and removed the contents of that module. Compiles fine.

A couple of features are broken (name display and moving windows between desktops), but other than that it’s fine and I use it everyday, even after trying virtue.

Chris J

What annoys me is that a major app like protools took so long to go universal and when it did they only did it for versions 7 onwards and guess what…. to go from version 6.9 to 7 so I can go from 7 to 7.1 universal requires a $200 upgrade fee!
grumble….moan…grumble…damn software companys….
I wouldnt be bothered if 6.9 worked AT ALL under rosetta

Tom Negrino

I suspect that you’re talking about SnapzPro, from Ambrosia Software, which will have the staggered compatibility releases you mention. It’s silly to be coy about it; the Ambrosia folks are big boys and girls, and they are no doubt aware that they are falling behind. While Snapz is a great product, used heavily by professional writers, and one that I use all the time when writing books and magazine articles, Ambrosia is in danger of losing their preeminent spot in the market.

I could, for example, imagine that the people who make SnagIt, a terrific product for Windows, might be interested in porting their program for the Mac. SnagIt is arguably better than Snapz now, and were they to enter the Mac market, they could eat Ambrosia’s lunch.


Yes, you’re the only web-developer who finds Photoshop too expensive and difficult to use ;)

Seriously — Fireworks has some cute features, but its user interface is horrible. I think if it weren’t effectively free (bundled with Dreamweaver and Flash) hardly anyone would buy it.

Photoshop is the key, with InDesign, Illustrator (and maybe After Effects) coming in behind. The flagship 3D apps (Maya) too. Aside from that, everything that *needs* to run natively on Intel pretty much does.


Hehe, something nobody ever mentions: IPEVO Universal driver please. Still am very happy with my IPEVO Free-1 Skype Phone, but would really like it to work with a Universal driver, it slows down my boot time at the moment.

And: Fireworks(!); or am I the only web-developer, that finds Photoshop too expensive and too difficult to use to just produce png files for websites.


I honestly don’t have any apps that aren’t Universal besides the major ones (Office, CS2). Of course I never owned a PPC Mac so I never even had a chance to know the apps which now don’t work.

Eric, there is a Flip4Mac beta floating around. A final version should be coming any day now.

Mike Caputo

I’ve actually managed to find a universal Flip4Mac beta version that works flawlessly..

I’m also running the “forbidden” beta of skype that has video support!!

Yeah, i’m a bad ass! HAHA!


Flip4Mac! WMV files are a pain to deal with without it. I’ve heard rumors of a release in the near future, but it’s been promised since April.


You can determine if you’ll have the discoloration by simply feeling the macbook around the area it _would_ discolor and if it’s rough then it probably will discolor (manufacturing defect) otherwise it likely will not.

My fiance has a white macbook and the wrist-rest area is quite smooth and hasn’t discolored, apple has said that the ones that have the issue are rougher to the touch.

Hopefully that cools your fears a bit…

Also, you should give VirtueDesktops another try, I used to be a hater but recently I’ve been converted, it really is far more fully featured and 100% stable from my experience.

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