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Welcome to Tiger

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.

Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed

By its very design, Mac OS X accomplishes two seemingly contradictory goals. It creates an easy-to-use system that is crash-resistant and resilient to user error. First-time users can sit down in front of the system, find the tools they need, and immediately start working. At the same time, advanced users have complete access to an underlying Unix subsystem, advanced networking capabilities, and a wealth of Open Source technologies including the Apache web server, Perl, Postfix, and many other powerful applications.

We've now been working on this book for almost five years, and with each revision of the operating system, we try to evaluate what you, the reader, will find most useful. We must balance the ever-increasing feature set of the operating system with the finite space of this book. For example: Gone from this edition is the no-longer-free iLife suite. We still provide everything you need to use the core Tiger software effectively, but dedicating 300 pages to applications that were designed to be used without needing an instruction manual (and don't come with the operating system) wasn't a good use of space.

At the same time iLife was removed, we beefed up other areas of the text, such as writing a chapter on setting up QuickTime Streaming Server and QuickTime Broadcaster, including spam and virus filtering in the Postfix mail server chapter, adding a how-to for creating dynamic Safari-compatible RSS feeds, and much more. The content itself has also been reorganized and topic headings rewritten to provide quicker and easier access to the information you need.

Reading through the book, you might be surprised to find that we question how a number of operating system features have been implemented, and are sometimes vocally critical of Apple's design decisions. Although there are many things we love about the operating system, there are still plenty of headache-inducing “gotchas” that crop up from time to time, and we'll do what we can to steer you clear of them.

Mac OS X will grow and update frequently as Apple continues its efforts to provide an optimal user and server platform. As we work to create this resource, we will make every attempt to present the latest and most accurate Mac OS X information available. Be aware that to get this book on the shelves before the next version of Mac OS X ships, we often have to work with software that is beta quality. In addition, Apple provides periodic updates to Mac OS X throughout the year. If you find an example that no longer works as you'd expect, drop us a note and we'll try to find an answer for you.

Comments, suggestions, and questions, are always welcomed.


John Ray (jray@macosxunleashed.com)

William Ray (wray@macosxunleashed.com)

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