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Is Snow Leopard Ready for Prime Time for InDesign Users?

The new version of Mac OS X called Snow Leopard (10.6) was released about two months ago?August 28. Lately, there has been some debate about whether it’s time to install it.

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

One of my favorite podcasts for graphic design news is Design Tools Weekly, hosted by Jay Nelson and Jeff Gamet of Design Tools Monthly. In two recent podcasts, Jay and Jeff have strongly recommended that graphic designers not upgrade to Snow Leopard. Their primary reason is that “Apple hasn’t fixed it’s crippling problem with PostScript fonts.”

Wait a second! What crippling problem? It seems that Apple changed the way it handles PostScript Type 1 fonts in Snow Leopard. The problem is that if you created a document in a version of OS X before Snow Leopard, when you open it in Mac OS X 10.6, it may reflow. The problem is widely reported in QuarkXPress 7 and 8, and in Apple applications like Pages, Keynote and Numbers. However, as far as we can determine, this not a problem in InDesign CS3 or CS4, or in any other Adobe Creative Suite 3 or 4 product. Adobe uses its own CoolType font engine for handling fonts, and InDesign uses its own proprietary text handling routines. Adobe products don’t depend on the operating system to handle text and font routines and so apparently are unaffected (at least I haven’t been able to find any reports of problems as of this date).

I’ve had Snow Leopard installed on two MacBook Pros since its release. There was been one update issued?10.6.1?to fix some bugs, and 10.6.2 is reported to be in development. But I had no problems at all. There is an issue with the Adobe PDF Printer which I reported earlier, but there are workarounds, and this doesn’t affect most people.

However, there may be other reasons not to upgrade. While InDesign CS3 and CS4 (as well as most other CS3 and CS4 applications) seem to run well in Snow Leopard, you’re more likely to have problems if you have old versions of software like InDesign CS2 or earlier. Apple did change the default gamma (screen brightness) to 2.2, now matching that of Windows, and this may cause problems for some people in color managed environments until color management software has caught up with the changes. Or, you might have an old device like a printer or scanner for which you have trouble finding a new device driver. And, of course, you have to have an Intel Mac to do the upgrade to Snow Leopard. But, in my opinion, most InDesign CS3 or CS4 users who are relatively up-to-date, can probably now upgrade if you wish.

What do my fellow colleagues say? James Fritz says:

I completely agree with your points Steve. I am also running Snow Leopard. Although I did a complete reformat. Whenever a new OS comes out I like to start completely clean and it also gives me a chance to get rid of any software that I downloaded and haven’t used in a long time.

Bob Levine says:

The only thing I will tell you is that I made mistake of buying into the Apple propaganda about just popping in the disk for an upgrade…BIG MISTAKE. Everything slowed to a crawl and forget about printing. A clean install fixed the mess which I should have just done in the firstplace. CS3 and CS4 seem to be running just fine. Now…back the peace of my Windows 7 machine. :)

But, not everyone needs to upgrade (or can upgrade). You could take Anne-Marie’s position:

I can tell you that when clients running Leopard ask me if I recommend they upgrade their department to Snow Leopard, I say “No”. … not as a warning, but more of a “why bother.” Mainly because I’m from the “if it ain’t broke” school.  I have not read about any significant advantages Snow Leopard has over regular Leopard.  CS4 is running fine on their Leopard machine.  There is nothing they want to use that requires Snow Leopard. So why bother?

What do you think? If you’re a Mac user, have you upgraded? Have you had any problems?

Steve Werner

Steve Werner

Steve Werner is a trainer, consultant, and co-author (with David Blatner and Christopher Smith) of InDesign for QuarkXPress Users and Moving to InDesign. He has worked in the graphic arts industry for more than 20 years and was the training manager for ten years at Rapid Lasergraphics. He has taught computer graphics classes since 1988.
Steve Werner

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33 Comments on “Is Snow Leopard Ready for Prime Time for InDesign Users?

  1. The computer guys at work installed Snow Leopard on our iMac at work. InDesign immediately started crashing pretty frequently, particularly when attempting to print or export anything. Firefox crashed pretty constantly too. So we nagged them until they came and put 10.5 back on, and everything’s been fine since then.

  2. It would be interesting to know if the “computer guys” did a clean install of 10.6. As Bob noted above, not doing a clean install can definitely cause problems. With a clean install, I’ve no such symptoms at all, in InDesign, in Firefox, or in any other programs?on two different MacBook Pros.

    But “your mileage may vary.”

  3. I did an upgrade install of Snow Leopard and have not had any speed problems or crashing. Adobe CS3 works fine as well.

  4. I did a clean install and have NOT had problems. It’s been working great for me. I haven’t tried an upgrade install so I can’t comment about that. I normally do a clean install to take the opportunity to do a bit of spring cleaning on my computer, only install apps I am still using, etc.

  5. I upgraded to Snow Leopard (not a fresh install) after about 2 weeks of release. The printing subsystem is completely different, so I did have to re-add all the printers. Some of the drivers were a bit funky, and I did have to manually edit permissions from the command line to get our Canon color copier running. Our Epson large format was set up as an Appleshare printer, which Snow Leopard doesn’t support at all. So I had to adjust the the print server and now connect to it (actually, the RIP) using IPP.

    That said, Indesign CS4 is now rock solid and fast for me in Snow Leopard. I don’t regret upgrading. Everyone is going to have to upgrade at some point. There will always be issues when upgrading. You might as well figure out what needs to happen to get up and running the latest and greatest on your own schedule, rather than waiting until your customers require it.

  6. I have been running Snow Leopard on my work laptop and personal laptop since August 28th and have had no problems.

    I agree there are reasons not to upgrade at this point, for example, I don’t use QuarkXPress at home or work, so I have not experienced the font problems mentioned.

  7. I would recommend that people Do NOT upgrade to Snow Leopard. I have an mid-2008 iMac, with 500GB drive 4GB memory et. and after what I thought was a minor upgrade to Snow Leopard I had so many issues I have finally come to the conclusion that Snow Leopard will NOT run properly on my iMac.

    -I had to pay to upgrade several software packages incl. Parallels.
    Wreaked total havoc on my system and still not right:
    -Mouse and Windows jumped around.
    Windows and Finder kept crashing and suddenly disappearing and then sometimes re-appear later.
    -iWork and iLife APPS wouldn’t run! Apple’s own software crashed immediately upon trying to start or hung for while then crashed.
    -Could not access Tools in Photoshop except those in the top layer (the tools showing) no matter what method I tried.
    -Then I kept getting program errors then it happened to my other CS# programs and none of the CS3 program would work! “Licensing for this product has stopped working – REinstall or contact Adobe support” I reinstalled it from disk again, updated etc., etc, and still SAME problems.
    -Time Machine would no longer work it became “read only.”
    -HP Printer and scanner no longer worked!
    -It killed my DVD Drive – kept rejecting disks and killing copy ruining many DVDS and still does (that I was trying to back up some of my stuff). I have been on the phone with Apple and Apple Repair has been out twice and system still has not recovered. DVD drive has been replaced twice. The replacement got “laser calibration errors’ and 2nd replacement one gets errors on EVERY SINGLE disk Copy….

    Well, you get the idea…. NEVER AGAIN. I shut off ALL automatic upgrades and am now AGAINST upgrades !!

    Just a warning — DON’T DO IT on an iMac — Snow Leopard has SERIOUS issues on the iMac.

    Apple suggested I reinstall Snow Leopard and all my apps and that didn’t work. After MANY re-installs of OS and Apps, I ended up Totally re-formatting my hard drive, the longer version with all “Zeros” and it has been a huge time-consuming and slow painful process of reinstalling all my software from disks (incl CS3, iWork, iLife, LightRm, Parallels, Firefox, Plugins, etc., etc., booting each one doing some takss to ensure it worked, and then going to each software site and updating each and every one. It has been a month and It has been a nightmare.

    I ended up having to finally revert back to previous version operating system starting from scratch again to reinstall MAC OSX 10.5 then updating to 10.8.

    If it doesn’t work Apple should give my money back for the upgrade!

  8. I had an iMac on 10.4 and a PowerBook on 10.5, so in upgrading (the week Snow Leopard was released), I got them both on the same system. Sure, there were a few hiccups and crashes until the first couple of updates to SL came out, but now everything is working smoothly — and quickly.

    One problem I had in SL was with PowerPoint files not opening, but I found a solution on the Apple forum. Here’s what they said:

    I removed the file:
    PowerPoint 11 Type Library
    from folder:
    /Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Office/Type Libraries

    I started Powerpoint 2004, an error message about some fonts appeared (fonts I do not need).
    I checked the box (means: do not remind me again)

    Since then Powerpoint 2004 works fine.

    I didn’t get the font error message, but once I removed the PPT 11 Type Library file, PPT worked, the file opened, I could change the title, save it, and life was good.

    The only program I had that flat-out wouldn’t work in SL was an ancient solitaire game.

  9. I have the advantage of not being dependent of my computer for my income (extended sabbatical I call it?), so I upgraded the second it was possible.
    Went with hardly a hitch, apart from the printing. But that?s no news ? Apple has let that aspect of the OS seriously slide. Just a reminder for the younger folks here: this was the forte of Apple in the olden days. The machines you connected worked without a lot of hassle. And look at what the situation is nowadays: if the machine is older that a newly hatched chicken chances that there is no driver for it are immense. You have to delve into the more obscure reaches of the www to find a GIMP-ish solution.
    I wish Apple Inc. would mind the history of their survival: the faith of the graphic pro?s? And get some of the better programmers to work on this ? a better printing experience.

  10. I’ve had no problems whatsoever. Not a hiccup.

    Donna said: ”Well, you get the idea?. NEVER AGAIN. I shut off ALL automatic upgrades and am now AGAINST upgrades !!”

    Snow Leopard wasn’t an automatic upgrade, so I’m confused about that.

    Did you run permissions before and after installing Snow Leopard from the DVD?

  11. @Donna

    If you do decide to turn of your automatic updates, make sure you never connected it to the internet. If you thought your problems were bad from a botched upgrade, wait until your computer gets taken over by criminals.

    Your issues, while I don’t doubt are real, are certainly atypical. We’ve now upgraded 5 of 8 of our Macs to Snow Leopard, and the details I’ve listed in my first post were the only ones We’ve encountered.

  12. I have Snow Leopard and CS4 on my iMac. So far i didn’t notice any problem at all. Everyithing works just fine.

  13. Snow Leo came with my new MacMini. Suddenly I notice that there is no AppleShare anymore at all. So therefore no connection to my museum of old classic macs still working well and running sys7.5-9. Shame. Shame.
    Any workaround?

  14. “Or, you might have an old device like a printer or scanner for which you have trouble finding a new device driver.”

    The Epson 2200 is really not that *old*, but they are still not coming up with a device driver for it.

    You really have to check before you leap into this OS upgrade.

    Or complain to Epson…

  15. I have a 2008 8 Core Mac Pro with 8GB RAM running CS3 and upgraded to 10.6 as soon as I could! I just ran the upgrade without a clean install!

    I’ve always been in two minds about the clean install approach, I’ll only clean install if the upgrade has issues, which (luckily for me I guess!) has never been required. Perhaps it comes down to how well you ‘caretake’ your system.

    It runs flawlessly, I even got back about 20-25 gbs of HD Space on both my Tower and 20″ iMac (first of the Intel Series iMac’s)


  16. I upgraded my MacBook Pro the day it was released here in the UK and have had no problems whatsoever. CS3 and CS4 run flawlessly and very quickly. I think Nik has hit the nail on the head when he says that it depends how well you caretake your system generally. Sure – there will be a few issues such as the printing, but when people suffer catastrophic failures across the board it implies to me that other pre-existing issues are coming into the mix. For example, if you’re someone that likes to run a lot of third-party gadgets your going to hit problems.

  17. Glad to hear that Snow Leopard is working for most.

    Has anyone experienced any issues with Helvetica Neue? I saw on Apple Discussions that some were experiencing problems because it’s now TTF instead of dFont like it was in Leopard.

  18. I did an upgrade install.

    Snow Leopard has been causing me grief with my Adobe apps. Exporting or doing a Save As causes them to crash.

    I also had a couple font issues, that have since been resolved.

    I also lost a couple helper apps that are Java based, because they simply won’t open any more. That’s more so something the developers need to fix so their apps will work with the version of Java that SL runs.

    I don’t usually upgrade to a .0, but I was sold on SL. Plus it felt more like it was a 10.5.11, then 10.6. Lesson learned. Hopefully 10.6.2 will bring about some more fixes.

  19. Whoops, I upgraded to SL and haven’t had a problem. ID CS4 is running fine.

    All I did beforehand was to clone the HD to an external, then did the SL upgrade.

    It’s been a few weeks and so far everything’s fine.

  20. I purchased a new machine with SL preinstalled. The only issues I’ve found are:
    The bug with Save As going to a default location in Column view.
    All of my CS4 apps crash upon quitting. Not a big deal, as I was quitting the app, but strange nonetheless.
    Also, Apple has again reworked the way they handle Unix persmissions, so I’ve had lots of problems with saving file and creating directories on network volumes. It also doesn’t recognize old permission sets, so if I try to determine who worked on a file, the creator is “Everyone” which ain’t too helpful.

    @Bob: I have a home machine to upgrade. Did you do an Archive & Install, or a Clean Install? Have you heard of the same issues with an Archive & Install. The thought of reinstalling my whole machine makes me shudder.

  21. @ Dwayne, I did not run permissions before and after — How does one run permissions? Apple doesn’t mention it in the Install Instructions…

    @emg, I just meant that I will no longer allow automatic updates in the future. I will control if, and when, any upgrades are installed and one at a time to ensure there are no issues.

    For others, just wait…no doubt you will probably have problems. Mine seemed to be OK at first, too, but only after a while or perhaps it was the 10.61 update everything wreaked havoc. I thought it was a good update as I got more hard drive space back and it seemed faster and smoother, but ONLY at FIRST, until things started not working anymore, one at a time….

    Glad to hear it went smoothly for some. Perhaps it is my version of iMac although it is only 1 yr old. Yes, I need this machine for my work so it has been a frustrating process.

  22. I didn’t upgrade but moved from PC to Mac right at the time that Snow Leopard came out, so my machine was Snow Leopard. My InDesign docs were using Helvetica Neue (T1) and when I moved to Mac I switched to Helvetica Neue LT Std (Open Type). For each document I opened, I was presented with missing fonts and I manually matched up each weight. After that, I found that in some text boxes the text was entirely DELETED. No, the text is not overset, it’s gone. There is a hash mark (end of text) symbol in the text box. My docs have many tiny text boxes, some containing only one word. Most of them are fine, but in some (seemingly random) boxes, the text is just gone. Nightmare.

  23. Fine here on a late-08 MacBook Pro. Cloned my Leopard install (itself a clone from a hard disk upgrade) to an external and upgraded in place, which I almost never do. The only option I checked was to install Rosetta.

    CS3 runs fine, as does the old free Linotype Font Explorer X. Office 2004 had display issues with my old monitor profile (palettes turned dark grey) but a fresh one fixed it. I have experienced Office’s spontaneous logout issues, but I mostly avoid the suite anyway.

    As for the Epson 2200, I deleted the Gutenprint drivers and reinstalled Epson’s driver. The color is OK, but a bit darker than Leopard given the same settings–almost like it splits the difference between 1.8 and 2.2 gamma. Print is the same no matter what monitor profile I use, which is correct behavior. Weird thing is InDesign and Photoshop now print identically. They don’t in Leopard.

    I did launch a Quark file (QXP 7.5, runs fine otherwise) to see the Helvetica Neue issues. It was a mess with Font Explorer X, 1 more weight worked with the Suitcase Fusion 2 trial, and it actually looked OK with Font Explorer Pro. IIRC, the font menu appeared different with each font manager in both ID and Quark (!).

    Some people on the Apple forums claimed turning off file sharing fixed the Save As dialog problems.

  24. Just an update: My iMac has been having so many issues after installing Snow Leopard (even though just over 1 yr old) then re-formatting and trying to revert to OSX 10.5 not helping much, that Apple is giving me a new system. Thank goodness I paid for for the extra Applecare coverage.

    PS. The strange thing is that Snow Leopard is working on my MacBook Pro with only minor issues and that machine is nearly 3 yrs old. Oh and other than shortly after installing it the battery exploded (ok expanded so it is much larger and won’t fit) but am not sure these are related, because I guess this is happening to many people (the 15inch batteries were recalled and replaced). I got different stories about whether it would be replaced or covered and finally had to buy a new battery myself because I was sick of the runaround.

    PPS. Is anyone having trouble with Snow Leopard not finding fonts on your system even though they are installed in Library/fonts and System fonts? I have had the system say that Monaco could not be found upon opening a browser and it goes into my Time Machine backup to try to use the font from there AND the font IS in my Fonts folder? weird.

  25. Just an addendum:
    Adobe CS3 did have issues after upgrading my Macbook Pro to Snow Leopard and needed to be re-installed, but seems to be ok for past 2 weeks although I don’t use it as often or as intensively as on my desktop computer.

  26. Have a question for anybody that has upgraded to the new iMac 27 inch and has problems with CS3. I can’t seem to get it to work. It works fine on my G4 running OS 10.4.11. I did a migrate and would give me license error. Would not work on either machine and would not let me deactivate. I uninstalled the the programs from imac and still had issue on G4. Reset the imac back to factory. Did a erase and install of all discs. Now G4 works but afraid to try and install on imac.
    Anyone else have this issue?

  27. “Wait a second! What crippling problem?”

    I’ll tell you what crippling problem. Four words: Helvetica Neue Type 1

  28. Having just upgraded to OSX 10.6, on a Mac Pro Quad Core Intel I haven’t encountered many problems so far. My old version of Quark 6.5, which I now only use to view old work, needed to be “reactivated” which was a bit alarming when the dialogue box came up, but apart from that, everything else seems fine.
    Even printing from InDesign CS4 and and old version of Office for the Mac to an old EPSON Stylus Photo 890 seems okay. I have found that my old version of Word in versions of OSX Leopard and Snow Leopard runs really slow if it is activated AFTER Suitcase. However, since it is only used for text to be copied and pasted into InDesign layouts, I’m not about to upgrade unless I have to.
    Best way round is to launch Word before Suitcase and all its fonts become active.
    The biggest issue has been with the System fonts – Helvetica Neue, in particular ? conflicting with my own library. InDesign documents featuring Helvetica Neue 75 Bold were saying it was missing, even though it was active. It wouldn’t even appear in the font list. Removing the Helveticas from the System Folder has solved this problem.

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