OS X Mavericks: What you need to know

OS X Mavericks is the next version of Apple's software for Macs. Here's what you need to know about it.

Apple took the covers off the latest version of its desktop operating system, OS X Mavericks, at its WWDC keynote speech in San Francisco last night. There's a whole heap of new tweaks on board, so to help you get to grips with it, I've picked out some of the key aspects.

Name

Having run out of big cats to name its software after -- and despite joking on stage about OS X Sea Lion -- Apple decided to switch its naming conventions to California place names. Rather than pertaining to a cop playing by his own rules, Mavericks is actually a surfing resort in North California. How that relates to quality desktop software, I'm not exactly sure -- better surfing of the Web, perhaps?

Maps, Calendar and iBooks

Apple has brought its Maps software to OS X. It's the same software that launched on the iPhone and received global ridicule for its sparse and often grossly incorrect information . Apple has updated it plenty since then though, and it's generally a lot better. It includes features like 3D buildings too, which also look great on the iPhone.

The calendar has been given a fresh new look, doing away with the skeuomorphic 'desk-jotter' style it sported previously. It's cleaner and works with Maps to give travel times between different meetings, as well as weather reports for the time and location, so you needn't get caught short without an umbrella.

iBooks will be on board with Mavericks, too. You'll have access to the same library you'll find on the iPhone or iPad, and your existing library will sync across all your devices using iCloud. You're able to make notes in books, which will particularly come in handy for students wanting to revise from textbooks. The notes and flashcards tool can help you remember your exam notes, such as which part of the brain is responsible for fear responses (the amygdala) or the name of the ship Charles Darwin sailed on around the Galapagos Islands (the HMS Beagle).

Lastly, iCloud Keychain stores all your saved passwords and credit card information and syncs it across all your devices. If you've saved your Facebook password on Safari on your phone, you won't need to input it again when you're on your Mac.

User interface

The overall user interface isn't drastically different from OS X Mountain Lion you might already be familiar with. Apple has made some key tweaks to Finder though, chief among which is the ability to make Finder windows full screen. You can also have tabbed browsing within one Finder window, rather than needing multiple windows scattered across your desktop.

Apple has also introduced tagging for files. When you save a document for work, for example, you can apply tags of 'Work' or perhaps 'Urgent'. These tags will be visible in Finder for you to instantly see what you've saved for that tag, or you can use the search bar to find something with a particular tag attached.

Support for multiple displays has been improved too. Additional displays can behave independently of the main display, allowing you to swipe between full screen apps on the second screen without affecting what's on your main screen. You'll also be able to see menu bars on all displays.

Performance upgrades

There are a bunch of improvements behind the scenes too that apparently help improve overall performance and battery life if you're on a MacBook. AppNap, daft name aside, does exactly what it says on the tin. It puts apps that are open -- but not in use -- into a low-power state, thereby keeping them ready for use, but not hogging power while doing so.

Other additions include Timer Coalescing and Compressed Memory, both of which aim to better manage idle processes, saving background processing power and, therefore, battery. Exactly whether these tweaks make any difference to overall performance remains to be seen in a full review.

Price and release date

Apple hasn't said how much Mavericks will cost to download. Mountain Lion was available as a download for existing Mac users for only £14, resulting in millions of downloads in the first few days . Whether Apple pushes out a big update for a similarly cheap price tag remains to be seen.

Mavericks is available now in beta form for developers only. A general release is scheduled for this autumn. Make sure to keep it CNET for more news about the software and in the meantime, let me know your thoughts in the comments below and on our Facebook page.

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About the author

Andrew is a senior editor at CNET and has always been fascinated by tech. When not getting up close and personal with the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

 

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