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Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar review: Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar

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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.

Performance gains
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.

Mac OS X 10.2 sports new file-finding features; new networking features, such as virtual private network links; and new apps, such as iChat and Address Book.

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