Thoughts on OS X Mavericks

OS X Mavericks

Alongside iOS 7 in WWDC, Apple also announced a new version for its desktop operating system. The new version is the first OS X version that is not named after a cat. From now on OS X will carry names of famous places in California. First in this new naming series is OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

For the past couple of years, apple has chosen to release new OS X versions every year with incremental updates that bring iOS features to the Mac. This started with Lion, continued with Mountain Lion and is some way continues with Mavericks too. But Mavericks some also some great new features under the hood (more on that later) that remind me of Snow Leopard feature list (Snow Leopard had few new features regarding end-user experience, but introduced many new technologies under the hood).

So lets dive into the new feature-set of Mavericks. First comes iBook porting to the Mac. Apple has three digital stores: app store, itunes and ibook store. The last one was the only one missing from the company’s desktop os, so it is no surprise to see that iBooks app finally make its way to the Mac. iBooks for Mac brings all the expected functionality of iBooks with a clean design without any skeuomorphism. User can buy books, read them, keep notes, add bookmarks and of course all this stuff is synced across devices as expected. Textbooks will probably look great on the Mac and will have huge impacts in education.

Next new feature is another app that was available on iOS: Maps. Apple created a desktop client for its Map solution. Map for OS X carries all the feature from its mobile sibling: Flyover, local search etc. But in my opinion what makes maps on os x so great is the integration with the Apple ecosystem. For example, like many of us do when searching for a location, you search for a place in Maps on OS X, get directions, hit a button and boom: directions are sent to your iPhone and you are ready to go. But apple didn’t stop there. In calendar (which also got rid of all the skeuomorphic design) when you add a new event and attach a location to it, you can now choose how will you travel there (for example on foot, or by car) and it automatically adds the travel time to that event, so you will not schedule anything during that time.

Safari 7 will also make its debut to os x mavericks. The new version of Safari has a much more clean interface (top sites are just boxes without that curved design, reading list got rid of all the clutter) and features also a “shared links” tab which shows all the links shared from people you follow on Twitter. Javascript execution is said to be much faster in the new Safari and memory footprint much smaller thanks to some memory management improvements made under the hood.

As expected, iCloud Keychain will be available on the Mac too. You save your credentials there and they are available across all your devices. Notifications got a huge improvement too. Now you can interact with notifications right from the notification center. For example you receive an iMessage. No you can reply straight from the notification center, without having to open the Messages app. Websites can also send notifications in os x mavericks, and if you have locked your screen or put your mac to sleep, when you return you’ll see a summary of the notifications you received.

Another great feature in mavericks is support for multiple displays. Actually this is not a new feature, it is an old one, but this time it is made right. Dock and menu bar will be available to all of your displays and yes, now you can run different full screen apps in each displays without messing up.

Last but not list is the Finder. Finder got support for tabs, which will probably remove much of the clutter of our desktop. Besides tabs, finder also got tags support. Tagging has been proved as a very useful way for organizing things. You can simply apply current tags with drag and drop in the tab window in finder, or create new ones will saving a file. Efficient and elegant additions for managing your files.

Regarding performance of os x, apple added some great new technologies, promising to make your mac work faster and more efficiently. First of these technologies is Timer Coalescing. Timer Coalescing groups low-level operations together, creating tiny periods of idle time that allow your CPU to enter a low-power state more often. On top of that comes another new technology, called App Nap. App Nap helps you save power when you’re working with multiple apps at the same time. Mavericks can tell when an app is completely hidden behind other windows. And if that app isn’t currently doing something for you App Nap conserves battery life by slowing the app down. But as soon as you start to use it again, the app instantly shifts back to full speed. Apple claims that this shift back is so seamless that the end user will think that the app has been working all the time (and the good news is that all the os x mavericks up to now agree with this). Safari tabs also got some app nap like features, so now when an app is inactive it does not get resources from the os. Compress memory -another new technology- is aimed to handle memory in a more efficient way, freeing up memory for your apps. As your Mac approaches maximum memory capacity, OS X automatically compresses data from inactive apps, making more memory available.

OS X Mavericks will be available this Fall, and can be installed to all the Macs running Mountain Lion. I believe that Apple is in the right way with OS X. OS X is years ahead Windows, has a solid unix foundation which makes it stable and secure and Apple pushes small incremental updates (regarding end user features) each year. But these new features are valuable to the end user. Users get used to them and think of them as mandatory after a while. For example, me as an end user, I am happy with the way finder works in OS X Mountain Lion. But I am sure that after a short period of time using Mavericks, there will be no way back to a Finder without tabs and tags. Same had happened with Notification Center last year. Under the hood improvements are also a huge part in Mavericks. With all these new technologies your laptop can save much battery life. Gaining 1 hour of battery life with just software improvements cannot be underestimated.

For developers Mavericks brings map kit of course, sprite kit for creating 2D games, all the technologies for energy efficiency and multiple displays and LinkedIn integration within apps.

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