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May 8, 2005

{     Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger"     }    

Judging by the deluge of information about the most recent update to Apple's OS X the chances are excellent that if you have any interest in all about what Apple does you're already pretty well informed about what you can expect from this update. My obsession, however, compels me to throw my two cents in. Seeing as I've already bored the recalcitrant Windows users at work to the point of frustration with my excited tales of Dashboard and Spotlight the next logical step is to continue my raving online for the world to read. Simply put: Tiger is very, very good. Maybe even grrrrreat. (Sorry, I just couldn't help myself.) I've had Tiger for just about one week and the more I use it the more I realize I have yet to tap a small fraction of the potential of this new big cat. What follows are a series of first impressions of a few of my favorite new features. *Spotlight:* The much ballyhoed new search function is a deceptively powerful tool. Occupying a new space on the far right of the toolbar as well as the Finder search function at the top of each Finder window, Spotlight at first glance seems little changed from the search functions of yore. You type in a word and it gives you the results. What distinguishes Spotlight from its forebears is its power and versatility. Not only does Spotlight search for filenames, it searches inside documents as well as e-mails, bookmarks, and keywords (which can be edited in the Finder or in programs like iPhoto). It even searches inside of PDFs. Spotlight searches can be sorted by date, file type, or person. These searches can be further modified with provisions -- find images under 2MB that are black and white -- and then saved to create a folder alias that contains all of these files that supports live updating (change a photo from full color to black and white or reduce its file size and it pops up in your saved search immediately). You may never need to make a subfolder inside of your Documents folder again. Using Spotlight you can save anything wherever you like and still look organized. *Dashboard:* A collection of tiny programs called widgets that live below your desktop until you pull them up with a key binding or hotspot (much like Panther's Expos feature). Widgets can be essentially anything the designer wants them to be. Tiger comes with 14 of them ranging from a simple calculator to a dictionary/thesaurus. They all look beautiful and having immediate access has spoiled me instantly. Sure, I could hunt down my calculator program or open my web browser to check out the weather forecast but that would take precious seconds away from me. As of 07 May 2005 there are 109 different widgets available on the "Apple website":http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/dashboard/ , most of them free. My favorites so far are "TV Tracker":http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/dashboard/tvtracker.html, "Hula Girl":http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/dashboard/hulagirl.html, and "Package Tracker":http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/dashboard/packagetracker.html. What really amazes me is how much information is just floating around on The Internets that can be picked up and displayed in these pretty little packages. The TV Tracker, for instance, delights me to no end because remembering trying to navigate through, say, the TV Guide website sends shivers down my spine. I should mention that identical functionality has been available for some time on both the Apple and Windows platforms with the shareware "Konfabulator": http://www.konfabulator.com. *Safari 2.0:* The new version of Safari has only one major change, but it has totally changed the way I surf. Safari now has an RSS reader built in. When navigating to a page with an RSS feed it will show a blue "RSS" button to the right of the address. Clicking this brings up a simple yet attractive list of the most recent updates to that page. By creating a folder on your bookmarks bar you can view all of the feeds for those sites at the same time sorted by date, title, or source. This isn't necessarily a replacement for external RSS readers (such as the excellent "NewsFireRSS":http://newsfirerss.com/) but it sure is useful. I'm consistently amazed at how prevalent RSS feeds are these days. Even "gmail":http://www.gmail.com/ has one (provided you enter your name and password). Since getting Safari 2.0 I've been addicted to news sites, spending hours of my day reading aggregates of news stories from a half-dozen different newspapers and websites. *Dictionary:* Tiger comes with and electronic version of the Oxford American Dictionary and Thesaurus built right in. You can look up words in a stand alone application, a Dashboard widget, or on the fly in any Cocoa enabled application by holding down a key binding. Not much to say about that, but it's fucking awesome to have a dictionary quite literally at my fingertips all the time. *Quicktime 7.0:* This is one you don't need to upgrade to get (though you do need a Mac at present). It's available as a free download from "Apple":http://www.apple.com/quicktime/ just like it always has. New in 7.0 a substantial reduction in nags to upgrade to Pro (instead they just make it very obvious which features you don't have with the freebie) and the H.264 codec. Basically H.264 = real damn pretty movie trailers. At least, that's what I use Quicktime for 99% of the time. Provided you have the connection you can say "vaya con dios" to murky little movie trailers online. *Automator:* The happy little robot that does things for you. I would have given my left nut for Automator 7 or 8 years ago. iTunes has rather effectively dulled my interest in a program that can renamed, renumber, and reorganize my files. Back in my dark pre-Apple days I would spend hours poring through my music collection, logging on to the "CDDB":http://www.gracenote.com/music/ every few minutes to double check a track listing,only to decide a fewdays or weeks later that I really wanted my files named a different way. Now that I have iTunes all of my music files are maintained in a neat, orderly manner. Automator can doa whole lot more than rename files, seemingly anything you might do with your computer over and over again can be taken care of by this plucky little automaton. I've been using him to make my Spotlight searches more meaningful. I like to keep all of my Crown Dozen reviews and other writings in text files in my Documents folder. But since I don't typically include the words "crown" nor "dozen" in these files a Spotlight search will not locate them for me. I made a simple little Automator action that finds all the files inside of the folder called "crown dozen" and gives them all the Spotlight keywords "Crown Dozen C12." Without changing any of the text inside I've now made it monumentously easier to find anything I've written for the site. Keen! Apple promises "over 200 new features" in this version, which is pretty similar to the figure they bragged about for Panther. Just like Panther, these new features are not necessarily things you might notice. If your count is coming up short, you might want to check out "Daring Fireball's Tiger details list":http://daringfireball.net/misc/2005/04/tiger_details or "OS X Hints":http://www.osxhints.com/. Naturally, The Internets are already awash with reviews that are "more technical":http://arstechnica.com/reviews/os/macosx-10.4.ars or "in depth":http://macintouch.com/tigerreview/ than my own, and if you need a more complete picture I would wholeheartedly encourage you to do some more research. I'm just a guy who loves his Mac and loves to talk about it.

     » Tiger at apple.com

     » Buy it...

Comments

i'm thinking about sinking into debt for an upgrade to a powerbook from my ibook, and now that i get Tiger as a bonus it's all that more tempting... if only i wasn't so nervous that a month after i buy a new powerbook they will drop G5s in 'em. When is the next big Apple thing anyway?

Posted by: shane at May 8, 2005 10:10 PM

I don't see them getting the G5 into the PowerBook line any time too soon. Like I said in my iLap review, these G4 ones throw off a tremendous amount of heat already and the G5 is just going to run even hotter. Now, I'm no expert on processors and heat dissipation or any such thing, but I get the feeling that the current iMac configuration is about as small as the G5 is going to get.

But, I feel your pain on that indecision. A little while back I coordinated the purchase of an iMac as a birthday present for my girlfriend along with her folks. Four days after it arrived they announced that you could get Tiger for free as a rebate. One month later they threw in the Bluetooth and the AirPort for free, bumped up the processor speed, doubled the RAM, and built in a better video card.

This pain dulls over time. Since I got my PowerBook Apple has updated them in some minor fashion at least two-three times. It's just the way the industry works.

Posted by: benjamin at May 9, 2005 5:44 PM

Nerds.

Posted by: Adam at May 9, 2005 6:28 PM

Tiger was grrreat! untill I tried to open up pro tools only to discover i needed a new driver. after oh, about six years on hold some puke at digidesign told me a fix would be out in maybe 8 weeks. I realize Im stupid for not checking with digi before upgrading, but common! they've known about tiger for months WTF!
digidesign= F minus!!!!!!

Posted by: k at May 18, 2005 7:06 PM
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