When Mac OS X 10.0 (or the "second" public beta, as some referred to it) was released in 2000, how many of us really thought that we'd still be in love with it five years later? As much as I adore Apple and the products it produces, I had my own trepidations as to whether we'd all give up and be living on Windows (or, more realistically, Linux) in 2005.
Thankfully, Mac OS X has been a great success and has generated a steady stream of accolades from enterprise computing publications. Just today (early January 2005), InfoWorld released its "Technology of the Year" awards for 2004, including "Best Operating System: Mac OS X 10.3 Panther" and "Best Server Hardware: Apple Xserve G5."
Things will only get better with Tiger.
What's New Pussycat?
The first step in writing a book about Tiger is using the operating system. We've been running it for several months now, picking at the pieces, experimenting with the applications, and so on. Inevitably one of us has to end up writing the "what's new" section of the book and it's usually close to the last piece that gets typed up. By then, however, we're faced with two problems: First, there are so many new things that we could list, picking only a few seems inherently wrong; second, many of the features are so well integrated that they seem to have always been a part of Mac OS X at least until we sit down in front of an old Panther installation.
So, what do we consider the most outstanding new features? Let's take a quick look at what you can expect. Don't be surprised if your favorite new feature isn't listed here. This is our personal take on what will be the most influential new features in your Tiger experience.
Spotlight The Spotlight search, combined with the new Tiger file-system metadata, enables information searches that have never before been possible. These features are integrated into the Finder, Open/Save dialogs, and can be added to third-party applications. The days of organizing information into discrete folders are coming to an end.
Dashboard The Classic Mac OS provided near instant access to tiny, unobtrusive applications called Desk Accessories. Desk Accessories went away with the first release of Mac OS X, but have been reborn in the form of the Dashboard. This "instant-on" overlay of useful (and fun!) programs brings an entirely new dynamic to the traditional operating system desktop.
Automator AppleScript is great, but it requires its user to have at least basic programming skills. With the release of Automator in Tiger, Apple brings the power of application scripting to a purely visual environment. Automator enables even the most technically challenged individuals to author linear application workflows in seconds.
Darwin/HFS+ Compatibility Ever make a mistake and cp or tar a Mac file with a resource fork? In Tiger, you'll have no problem. Apple provides cross-platform support in the Darwin core for managing Tiger's special metadata, resource forks, and so forth. Common BSD utilities can now properly cope with Mac-specific data.
Sync Services Your premium-priced .Mac account is finally going to get a workout! Apple has recently expanded iDisk storage and introduced expanded .Mac Sync features in Tiger. You can now replicate your most important account settings between machines by way of .Mac syncing.
launchd Not satisfied with the transition from inetd to xinetd, Apple has again decided to change how processes are started. We have some thoughts on this, and we won't hesitate to share them with you.
Filesystem/Userland Synchronization When a file is updated, it is almost instantly reindexed for inclusion in Spotlight. The integration of file system and user interface doesn't end there. For the first time ever in Mac OS X, when you create a file at the command line or otherwise, it will immediately be displayed in the Finder. No more wondering when and where a file will appear. If it exists, you can see it.
Enhanced Internet Experience Safari, Mail, and iChat have all seen significant updates. Mail sports a new interface and finally updates IMAP mailboxes quickly and correctly. Safari supports RSS feeds and serves as an easy-to-use aggregator. Finally, iChat connects to Jabber servers and can host multiperson video and audio conferencing.
Access Control Lists Access Control Lists (ACLs) provide extremely granular control over file permissions beyond what is easily accomplished by basic owner and group settings. Tiger's support for ACLs will go a long way toward helping its adoption into the workplace.
VoiceOver After years of going without, Mac OS X now provides a high-quality screen reader feature for the visually impaired. Because VoiceOver is integrated with the operating system, it can work with any application and give an audible play-by-play of onscreen actions.
Parental Controls Tiger provides much more strict controls over what a user account can do and what Internet features it can access. For those sharing a machine with children, this is a much-needed addition.
Again, these are just what we consider to be the most notable of what's new in Tiger. As you work with the operating system, you'll discover just how many tweaks and changes have been made. Apple certainly hasn't been sitting still in the last 18 months.