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What's New in Mac OS X

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Mac OS X is a major revision to the Macintosh operating system. Not only does it add and update features, but in many cases, it completely changes the way tasks are done. Peachpit Press author Maria Langer hits the highpoints in this article.
This article is excerpted from Max OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide, by Maria Langer.

From Max OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide, by Maria Langer

Mac OS X is a major revision to the Macintosh operating system. Not only does it add and update features, but in many cases, it completely changes the way tasks are done. With a slick new look called "Aqua" (Figure 1) and with preemptive multitasking and protected memory that make the computer work more quickly and reliably, Mac OS X is like a breath of fresh air for Macintosh users.

Figure 1 A look at the new Aqua interface.

Here's a look at some of the new and revised features you can expect to find in Mac OS X.

Installer Changes

  • The Mac OS X installer automatically launches when you start from the Mac OS X install CD.

  • The installer offers fewer customization features for installation.

  • The Mac OS X Setup Assistant, which runs automatically after the installer restarts the computer, has a new look and offers several new options.

System Changes

  • System extensions and control panels no longer exist.

  • By default, Mac OS X is set up for multiple users, making it possible for several people to set up personalized work environments on the same computer without the danger of accessing, changing, or deleting another user's files.

  • A new Log Out command enables you to end your work session without shutting down the computer.

  • A new System Preferences application (Figure 2) enables you to set options for the way the computer works (learn more about System Preferences).

    Figure 2 The new System Preferences application enables you to set many systemwide options.

  • The default system font has been changed to Lucida Grande.

  • Finder icons have a new "photo-illustrative" look (Figure 1).

  • A new, customizable Dock (Figure 1) enables you to launch and switch to applications.

  • Icons for applications in the Dock can have a different appearance when the application is running or performing a specific task.

Window Changes

  • Finder windows offer a new column view (Figure 3). Button view is no longer available.

    Figure 3 A window in column view.

  • Pop-up windows and spring-loaded folders are no longer supported.

  • Window controls have been changed (Figure 3). The left end of a window's title bar now includes Close, Minimize, and Zoom buttons.

  • Drawers (Figure 4) are subwindows that slide out the side of a window to offer more options.

    Figure 4 The new Mail application utilizes the drawer interface.

  • Document windows for different applications each reside on their own layer, making it possible for them to be intermingled. (This differs from previous versions of Mac OS which required all document windows for an application to be grouped together.)

  • You can often activate items on an inactive window or dialog with a single click rather than clicking first to activate the window, then clicking again to activate the item.

Menu Changes

  • Menus are now translucent so you can see underlying windows right through them.

  • Sticky menus no longer disappear after a certain amount of time. When you click a menu's title, the menu appears and stays visible until you either click a command or click elsewhere onscreen.

  • The Apple menu, which is no longer customizable, includes commands that work in all applications (Figure 5).

    Figure 5 The revised Apple menu.

  • A number of commands have been moved to the revised Apple menu (Figure 5) and new Finder menu (Figure 6). There are also new commands and new keyboard equivalents throughout the Finder.

    Figure 6 The new Finder application menu.

  • A new Go menu (Figure 7) makes it quick and easy to open windows for specific locations, including favorite and recent folders.

  • Figure 7 The new Go menu.

Dialog Changes

  • Dialogs can now appear as sheets that slide down from a window's title bar and remain part of the window (Figure 8). You can switch to another document or application when a dialog sheet is displayed.

  • Figure 8 A dialog sheet is attached to a window.

  • The Open and Save Location dialogs have been revised.

  • The Save Location dialog can appear either collapsed (Figure 9) or expanded (Figure 10).

  • Figure 9 The Save Location dialog box collapsed to show only the bare essentials...

    Figure 10 ... and expanded to show everything you need to save a file.

Application Changes

  • Applications that are not Mac OS X compatible run in the Classic environment, which utilizes Mac OS 9.1. Learn more about Classic applications.

  • The list of applications and utilities that come with Mac OS has undergone extensive changes to add and remove many programs.

Help Changes

  • Balloon Help has been replaced with Help Tags (Figure 11).

  • Figure 11 Help Tags replace Balloon Help.

  • The Help Viewer offers more options for searching and following links.

  • Guide Help is no longer available.

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