The more things change, the more we may want them to stay the same, especially when it comes to computing. Advancing and upgrading means new learning demands, unknown behaviour and uncertainty. When you throw in the expense, many people simply prefer to stay with what they have. I have been bragging about the wonders of Panther, Apple's new operating system upgrade, for the past few weeks. Bragging about the new features it has and tricks it can do. But can those treats be acquired by other means? The answer is yes. Here is a list of shareware that offers a few of the more popular Panther features for the system you are running now. Panther's Finder has a few productivity enhancements that some people will not be able to live without. Pfinder ( www.landsbert.freeserve.co.uk , US$10) gives you some of the utility of Panther's new Finder and simulates the Panther interface in older versions of OS X and OSes back to 8.6. On the other hand, PathFinder ( www.cocoatech.com , US$34) takes the Finder interface to a new level of ease. There were two or three OS 9 utilities that made the Mac sing, but until PathFinder there was nothing special for OS X. It works in both Jaguar and Panther, and if you check out only one new Mac utility this year, this should be the one. I particularly like PathFinder's Drop Stack feature. Instead of having to open two or more windows, you can move files from one folder to another by using the holding window that is right in the Finder. PathFinder also has a Finder drawer for active applications, and Finder Tabs that link to recent folders and documents. Everything you need is right there in the open window, which cuts your mousing mileage way down. Mac users got used to colour-coding in OS 8 and Panther finally brought it back. If you are looking for just that one feature, check out Color Labels ( www.landsbert.freeserve.co.uk , US$5 OS X and 9). Panther comes with built-in encryption that is fast and handy, but SubRosaSoft File Utilities ( www.subrosasoft.com , US$24.95 OS 9, X and Windows) will provide the same security for the older OSes. SubRosaSoft sells a package of five programs that attend to basic security needs from secure trash deletion to encrypting files so they cannot be recovered. Its apps are top notch and represent good value if you need these utilities on your older Mac. Apple has finally delivered font management with Panther's Font Book, but those in the know have been using Font Reserve ( www.fontreserve.com , US$89.95 OS 8.5 through 10.2 and Windows). Font Reserve was the first to have system-wide automatic font activation for InDesign, Quark and Illustrator. Because of its long list of features, it will take Apple's Font Book a few years to catch up. Panther has direct faxing from within whatever application you are using. And Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) documents can be created just as easily. When you select print under the file menu, you can now choose the Save as PDF or Fax options in the print dialogue box. If you just want those handy features and you only have OS 10.2, check out Fax Center ( www.macadvocacy.com , US$10) or PageSender ( www.smilesoftware.com , US$29.95). They are just as straightforward to use as Panther's fax tool and may be more dependable and versatile. For creating PDF documents from your print dialogue box, check out Print to PDF ( www.jwwalker.com/index.html , US$20 for OS 7 to 9). Print to PDF is a pro-quality application that is a godsend for people who create PDFs on a daily basis. I know many professional printers who prefer it to Adobe's own Acrobat PDF tool. Last but not least, IChat ( www.apple.com , US$29.95 OS X), which comes free with Panther, can be bought separately for use with OS 10.2. IChat is Apple's video/audio chatting application that enables the iSight camera to work - something I think will be the future of family and business communication. As you can see, there are lots of great solutions that will stave off a forced upgrade should you be cautious, shy or broke but still crave the features of the future. E-mail Dave Horrigan at firstname.lastname@example.org with your Mac queries.