Sonoma puts the last nail in the coffin for PostScript on macOS

Posted:
in macOS edited September 2023

PostScript, the venerable page description language dating back to Macs in the '80s, has finally hit the end of the road in macOS Sonoma.

Apple's support for Adobe PostScript hits the end of the road in Sonoma
Apple's support for Adobe PostScript hits the end of the road in Sonoma



Apple is clear about the removal in its release notes for Sonoma, saying that "macOS has removed the functionality for converting PostScript and EPS files to PDF format."

"As a result, CoreGraphics' CGPSConverter returns an error when invoked, ImageIO no longer converts EPS files, NSEPSImageRep does not display EPS files, and PMPrinterPrintWithFile does not accept a PostScript file for non-PostScript print queues," it elaborates.

It's a bit of a sad footnote for a one-time revolutionary technology that helped kick off the desktop publishing revolution in which Apple and Adobe were both such central players. But times have changed: In 2021, PostScript's inventor Charles Geschke passed away at age 81.

Dr John Warnock, who co-founded Adobe with Geschke, passed away in August, 2023 at age 82.

For the most part, Adobe's own PDF document format has succeeded PostScript, so this issue is unlikely to affect most people beyond those with archives of PostScript or EPS files.

PostScript's demise on the Mac shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who's been paying attention. The writing has been on the wall for years, as Apple has slowly dismantled support for PostScript in successive macOS releases.

This process began with Catalina's release in 2019, when Apple retired support for PostScript Type 1 fonts in favor of OpenType. Adobe itself followed suit by eliminating Type 1 font support in Photoshop in 2021.

The removal accelerated with the release of macOS Monterey 12.3, when Apple pulled the ability for PostScript files to be viewed inline. And in macOS Ventura, the Preview application removed PostScript conversion support.

PostScript's removal from the Mac is good security, opined Mac developer Dr. Howard Oakley. Security researchers have uncovered several serious vulnerabilities in common PostScript interpreters, he said.

"PostScript is an old stack-based interpreted language designed at a time when code security had barely been conceived, and malicious software hardly existed," wrote Oakley in a recent blog post. "Among its attractive features is the fact that any PostScript object can be treated as data, or executed as part of a program, and can itself generate new objects that can in turn be executed.

"More recently, security researchers have drawn attention to the fact that it's a gift for anyone wishing to write and distribute malicious code," Oakley added. "As it's effectively an image format, embedding malware inside a PostScript file could enable that to be run without user interaction, as with some other graphics formats."

Oakley noted those with a need to access PS and EPS files on their Mac still have a few options, including Adobe's commercial Distiller app, Artifex's Ghostscript, or a Virtual Machine (VM) running macOS Monterey.

Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    crpeckcrpeck Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    Wow, I remember the 1st Apple LaserWriter, and when Postscript was introduced. I was able to buy Adobe at their IPO.
    davenbloggerblogwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 15
    davendaven Posts: 693member
    Yup, I also remember typing up my thesis and printing it on an Apple LaserWriter. One LaserWriter for a room of about 20 computers. I was sad to hear it go until I read the malware part of the article and can see why it was sunsetted.
    Alex1NFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 15
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,215member
    Excellent article, full of both history and important/relevant now info.
    FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 15
    Can we still print to Postscript printers with macOS Sonoma?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 15
    deh2k said:
    Can we still print to Postscript printers with macOS Sonoma?
    I'm guessing yes - the printer itself has the PS interpreter onboard so macOS can just transmit the file to the printer.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 15
    Back in the 1980s and 90s, university IT departments charged actual money for processor time on the mainframes and Computer Science students had to spend that money to get their coding assignments done - an extra incentive to make sure you didn't write an infinite loop or inefficient code, to be sure. But there were still problems that took a reasonable amount of processing even with the best algorithms available, and that could cost a student $5 or more - the price of a pretty good meal at the time. Some enterprising souls took it upon themselves to write their solutions in PostScript and send that code to the communal LaserWriter in the computer lab, which cost $1 per page - expensive, but a fixed cost - and would tie up the printer for sometimes more than half an hour, leading to general consternation amongst the gathered students who simply wanted to print a plain text document, and to the lab administrators who noticed a drop in revenue. Eventually the powers that be twigged to what was going on and mandated use of the mainframes for assignments, but I always got a chuckle out of the story.

    I admired the inventiveness that led to the exploit of building a virtual machine inside an EPS image using the PostScript capabilities of the format as well, but the nefarious uses to which that was put just can't be allowed.

    So I'm sad to see the end of such a useful technology, but the time has come to replace it with the newer, more robust options that have been subsequently developed.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 7 of 15
    Okay, but can someone tell me how to print a nicely formatted man page now when I used to use ps2pdf?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 15
    Does upgrading to macOS Sonoma also break the conversion from EPS to PDF via ghostscript and epstopdf?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 15
    quarx said:
    Does upgrading to macOS Sonoma also break the conversion from EPS to PDF via ghostscript and epstopdf?
    Ghostscript is third-party isn't it?  But yes, eps2pdf and Preview EPS import seem to be gone as well.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 15
    I wonder which are the “other graphic formats” Oakley is referring to that can also run malware without users knowledge? Is it gif, tiff, avg?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 15
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,267moderator
    s.metcalf said:
    Okay, but can someone tell me how to print a nicely formatted man page now when I used to use ps2pdf?
    It's usually possible to install removed command line tools via homebrew ( https://formulae.brew.sh/formula/ghostscript ).

    There's also the following option for man pages (switch ipconfig for the command needed):

    man -t ipconfig | open -f -a Preview

    https://osxdaily.com/2010/09/27/open-any-man-page-in-preview-and-save-as-pdf/
    edited September 2023
  • Reply 12 of 15
    cmfcmf Posts: 64member
    Marvin said:
    s.metcalf said:
    Okay, but can someone tell me how to print a nicely formatted man page now when I used to use ps2pdf?
    It's usually possible to install removed command line tools via homebrew ( https://formulae.brew.sh/formula/ghostscript ).

    There's also the following option for man pages (switch ipconfig for the command needed):

    man -t ipconfig | open -f -a Preview

    https://osxdaily.com/2010/09/27/open-any-man-page-in-preview-and-save-as-pdf/
    As written, this doesn't do what it says - at least on my machine. I prefer the following, which should work for just about anything that installs a manpage:

    preman() {
        mandoc -T pdf "$(/usr/bin/man -w $@)" | open -fa Preview
    }

    With this, I can say `preman ipconfig` and Preview does its thing.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 15
    cmf said:
    As written, this doesn't do what it says - at least on my machine. I prefer the following, which should work for just about anything that installs a manpage:

    preman() {
        mandoc -T pdf "$(/usr/bin/man -w $@)" | open -fa Preview
    }

    With this, I can say `preman ipconfig` and Preview does its thing.
    This appears to open the postscript source in Preview, since it can no longer do the conversion.  So frustrating.  Apple can't expect people to read large manuals in the Terminal, surely.  The entry for "find" for instance is very, very long.
    edited September 2023 cmf
  • Reply 14 of 15
    Be nice if when removing functionality on the basis of security they could replace it with something equivalent but secure instead of just making macOS less compatible and capable.  macOS has been getting increasingly difficult to work with (mainly thanks to security) for a while.  While I applaud the security efforts, there need to be alternatives to needed functionality.  Why do I get the feeling Apple would ditch Terminal altogether if they could?

    I'm also more confident in Apple managing security in macOS than most 3rd parties, but this will force people to switch to third-party alternatives, which seems like a backwards step.  If they don't want us to use postscript, they could at least let us keep the binary that allows us to move away from it: i.e: ps2pdf.  How much of a threat has ps been on the Mac anyway given all their developments in SIP and encryption and the like?
    edited September 2023 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 15
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,267moderator
    s.metcalf said:
    Be nice if when removing functionality on the basis of security they could replace it with something equivalent but secure instead of just making macOS less compatible and capable.  macOS has been getting increasingly difficult to work with (mainly thanks to security) for a while.  While I applaud the security efforts, there need to be alternatives to needed functionality.  Why do I get the feeling Apple would ditch Terminal altogether if they could?

    I'm also more confident in Apple managing security in macOS than most 3rd parties, but this will force people to switch to third-party alternatives, which seems like a backwards step.  If they don't want us to use postscript, they could at least let us keep the binary that allows us to move away from it: i.e: ps2pdf.  How much of a threat has ps been on the Mac anyway given all their developments in SIP and encryption and the like?
    It is frustrating when they remove/change functionality randomly in new systems without warning because they quite quickly force an upgrade due to software updates not installing on old systems.

    They could at some point remove the Terminal from systems and make it so that developers have to install it but a lot of the unix system tools would need to stay bundled.

    There's a GUI app for man pages here, that might work on Sonoma and the source code is available to build for newer systems:

    https://www.clindberg.org/projects/ManOpen.html

    The command line tools like ps2pdf can be installed via homebrew or macports.
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