Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar
Jaguar, Apple's new version of Mac OS X, packs a much bigger upgrade wallop than its 10.2 version number suggests. Part of the punch is the price: Jaguar costs $129 (no upgrade discount if you bought before July 17) for one user or $199 for a five-user license. But its slightly improved interface, powerful new networking tools, three new applications, and better performance and stability finally bring to fruition Mac OS X's potential. If you bought OS X 10.1 recently and aren't looking for networking support, $129 is too much to pay. But if you're a business user or have a cross-platform home network, take a serious look at Jaguar. Jaguar, Apple's new version of Mac OS X, packs a much bigger upgrade wallop than its 10.2 version number suggests. Part of the punch is the price: Jaguar costs $129 (no upgrade discount if you bought before July 17) for one user or $199 for a five-user license. But its slightly improved interface, powerful new networking tools, three new applications, and better performance and stability finally bring to fruition Mac OS X's potential. If you bought OS X 10.1 recently and aren't looking for networking support, $129 is too much to pay. But if you're a business user or have a cross-platform home network, take a serious look at Jaguar.
Installation and interface
Once you start up in Jaguar, you'll notice subtle, refined changes to the Aqua interface. The bulbous, primary-colored buttons now look flatter and are more subtly tinted, while other indicators, including drag-and-drop plus signs, sport a 3D design. Dialog boxes now display more information, too. For example, the streamlined Show Info box displays all data at once, instead of dividing it into tabs. Plus, you can now open multiple Show Info dialogs simultaneously.
Still longing for the handy spring-loaded folders feature from OS 8 and 9? Jaguar makes a concession just for you: folder after folder will open automatically as you drag a file over them, and all but the last one will close when you release the mouse button.
Find anything, anywhere
Jaguar's most compelling interface changes lie in its revamped Find commands. Apple has moved hard disk search functions out of Sherlock, OS X's search tool, and into the Finder. Now, when you open a Finder window, its toolbar offers a handy field that lets you search a particular folder, drive, or network volume. The Find command in the Finder's File Menu (command-F) brings up a streamlined advanced file-search dialog. We love the separated search, as the previous Sherlock often presented a confusing list of online and offline results.
In contrast, Sherlock 3.0 now searches the Internet only, neatly aggregating common Web search results into a single desktop window--no need for a browser. Sherlock even organizes Web search choices into channels, which it displays as toolbar buttons. For example, the eBay channel lets you search and track items by name and price range, then returns photos and auction data right in your Sherlock window. The Yellow Pages channel displays maps and directions, and the AppleCare channel presents entire Apple Knowledge Base articles, all within Sherlock. Our only complaint is that the general Internet channel includes only five search engines--and the preeminent Google is still not among them. Worse, both the five search engines and the Yellow Pages are fixed, so you can't switch, for example, to your favorite map site.
Simple productivity changes aside, Jaguar adds some seriously impressive networking tools. Any of these improvements would be a major breakthrough for the Mac OS; together, they more than justify Jaguar's price tag for anyone who runs a Mac on a network. Rendezvous, a dynamic discovery and self-configuration technology based on the ZeroConf standards, makes connecting to IP devices as easy as it was with the old AppleTalk. Plug in two Jaguar Macs to an Ethernet cable, for instance, and the systems configure their own TCP/IP addresses and locate each other in seconds. Jaguar also immediately recognizes any available wireless 802.11b network, presents it by name, and lets you connect with a simple click (and a password, of course).
But Jaguar's new Windows networking features take the cake. Adding a Mac to a Windows network is as easy as breathing. You no longer need to type in a server IP address or URL (as with 10.1). Windows servers now show up by name in the Connect To Server command of the Go menu. Simply double-click a name to mount the server on your Jaguar desktop and start browsing it.
Windows browsing from a Mac
On top of that, Windows users can now log on to Mac OS X and access Mac files. To enable the sharing, click System Preferences > Sharing, and check the box next to Windows File Sharing. Jaguar generates a URL that you can give out to approved Windows users so that they can access public files using the Windows SMB protocol--something that was impossible in Mac OS X 10.1. And, thank goodness, Jaguar now includes built-in virtual private networking. In the Internet Connect utility in the Utilities folder under Applications, click File > "New VPN connection window," and Jaguar lets you create a PPTP connection to a Windows VPN server so that you can connect remotely over high-speed access.
If that's not enough, Jaguar includes a new Internet-sharing feature that lets you turn your Mac into an Internet gateway, allowing other Macs and PCs on your local network to share a single Internet connection while remaining connected to each other. In the Sharing dialog under System Preferences, choose the Internet tab and check the box next to "Share the connection with other computers on built-in Ethernet." We found this process to be a breeze compared to similar third-party software, such as IPNetRouter from Sustainable Softworks.
New, not always improved, apps
Apple has also loaded Jaguar with a slew of new apps, but we found some to be less than essential. The new instant-messaging app, iChat, is a bit disappointing. iChat piggybacks on the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) network, so you can either use your old AIM screenname or your .Mac account name--but not both simultaneously. iChat is nowhere near as flexible as AIM, either, with fewer security options and preferences yet more bugs. In our tests, the program twice refused to quit entirely, and we had to choose Force Quit from the Apple menu. Additionally, iChat won't let you communicate with other instant messengers, such as MSN or ICQ. iChat offers some benefits if you're in an all-Apple environment, however: It automatically finds other Jaguar users on your Rendezvous network and lets you launch chats from within Apple's e-mail app, Mail. Also, any buddies you enter into iChat (and those who enter you) will automatically appear in Jaguar's new systemwide Address Book app.
Speaking of which, the Address Book is Jaguar's nicest new app; it also makes contact information available to Mail; Palm devices; Bluetooth-enabled cell phones; and iCal, the free calendar app that Apple promises for September. We were able to easily import hundreds of e-mail addresses from Claris Emailer into Address Book and access that information from Mail with no additional setup. Despite its systemwide benefits, however, Address Book looks like a draft version, with few options for displaying or sorting information.
Mail 1.2 doesn't make much of a splash, either. The Outlook Express-like app still isn't as powerful as Entourage, the e-mailer included in the Microsoft Office X suite. Nonetheless, it offers a few useful improvements. Most notably, Mail's new, easy-to-use, junk-mail filtering system analyzes word meanings, rather than simply looking for word matches, then flags suspicious messages. Mail lets you train the filter to eventually look for spam and other unwanted e-mail automatically. We found it to be accurate, catching most junk mail.
In terms of application speed, our benchmark tests found that Jaguar averages out about the same as OS X 10.1.5. In everyday use, however, we found that the revamped Quartz graphics engine, new multithreaded Finder, and updated FreeBSD 4.4 Unix core all add up to a more responsive Mac OS X, especially when opening windows with hundreds of files and switching between menus. Scrolling is still a bit choppy compared to OS 9, but it has improved over 10.1.5.
We also discovered that Jaguar boots faster and that the Classic environment, which runs applications that aren't OS X compatible, launches more quickly. In our tests on a Power Mac G4/350 AGP, Jaguar started up a whopping 20 percent faster than in 10.1.5, and Jaguar's Classic environment launched in less than half the time of Classic in 10.1.5 (54 seconds rather than 150 seconds).
Because previous versions of Mac OS X drained a laptop battery in half the time OS 9 would, we're also happy to see that Jaguar's battery-power management is now up to par with that of Mac OS 9, preserving battery life for the same length.
Go for it
At this point, price is the only thing holding Jaguar back. It's the OS that Apple should have released in the first place, and it might be the best Mac OS ever. The price is a tough blow if you recently purchased version 10.1, but we still urge you to consider upgrading. The new networking features make Jaguar a must-have upgrade for anyone using OS 9 or OS X 10.1 in a corporate setting, and even those of you with small offices or home networks can reap the benefits.