Here's What Your Favorite Mac Apps Would Have Looked Like in 1999

Spotify and Slack weren't even a thing 22 years ago, but driven by curiosity and an interest in the evolution of user interfaces, graphic designer Michael Feeney has painstakingly reimagined them and other macOS 12 applications to see what they would have looked like in the Mac OS 9 era.

mac os 9 spotify
In order to realize "(mac)OStalgia," Feeney first went back and analyzed the Mac OS 9 environment using the SheepShaver emulator, and then created a library of UI components that he could reuse throughout the project.

He then took a number of apps crucial to his daily workflow, including Spotify, Slack, Zoom, Figma, TextEdit, and Google Chrome, and gave their UIs the Mac OS 9 treatment. The results of Feeney's project are impressive, as you can see in the embedded video below.


As for what stood out the most in terms of the differences between the user interface and user experience, Feeney says:

Even though Design and UI trends definitely changed a lot in the past 20 years, applications still behave and look (somehow, aesthetic aside) very similar. After all, it is indeed difficult to replace well installed behaviour such as visual feedback on hover, scroll for more content, double click to launch application, etc. Basically, because our Operating Systems still behave in a similar way, so did the UI and the UX of many of our apps.

One area where both UI and UX improved dramatically as part of the operating systems is on the accessibility front. The apparition (and improvement) of a full-fledged Voice Control, integrated screen readers, dark mode, etc. is definitely what stood out the most looking back at Mac OS 9.

Mac OS 9 was introduced on October 23, 1999, and featured internet support out of the box with Internet Explorer, an email client, text-to-speech, and Sherlock 2.0 – the built-in tool that let users search their computer and the internet, and the direct ancestor of Spotlight in macOS. Apple discontinued development of Mac OS 9 in 2001 and it was succeeded by Mac OS X.

Feeney's Mac OS 9: UI Kit is available to download for free, for use by the Figma community and in personal projects as well.

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Top Rated Comments

Kissmo1980 Avatar
32 months ago
Notice how the interface is not rainbow vomit and how it focuses on content.
It’s something that died with the introduction of flat over the top saturated UI elements.

I wish Mac OS would allow users to theme or at least to provide the Aqua interface alternative.
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
robertcoogan Avatar
32 months ago
Right here is a good argument as to why Apple should let people mod their desktops.

I miss (the old) ResExcellence.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
smirking Avatar
32 months ago
This was so awesome. I miss that OS and the days when your computer plugged you into a parallel universe that required imagination to fully experience instead of some bastardized version of the real world condensed down to the size of your screen.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Freeangel1 Avatar
32 months ago
I still have a fully functional dual G4 1GHZ Quicksilver loaded with os9 software including Final Cut Pro, Pro Tools and Sound Designer 2.83 with an Audiomedia III card from DigiDesign.

I HAVE THEE LARGEST OS9 software collection on the planet.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sw1tcher Avatar
32 months ago

Oh I remember those days. But as i recall most were using dialup modems in those days so video conferencing was only available in schools and corporations.
1000 free hours on AOL FTW!

And when you tried to cancel, they'd give you another free 1000 hours. ?

It was nice getting free internet back then. Just rinse and repeat with AOL, MSN, CompuServe, Prodigy, Juno, MindSpring, Earthlink, NetZero
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
now i see it Avatar
32 months ago
Mac OS 9 and all the ones before it crashed way too often. Daily crashes was the norm in my experience. Also OS 8 was the real star. OS 9 was just a slight (and bloated) refinement of OS 8.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)