OS X 10.9 does something interesting; it departs from the use of big cat names and instead goes for something a little more close to home for Apple, giant waves. But, no, it didn’t name the next iteration of the “world’s most advanced desktop operating system” simply OS X “Giant Waves,” and it didn’t name it OS X “Sea Lion” either as it joked during the WWDC Keynote back in June. This new version is named Mavericks, “Maverick” being a term used by surfers to describe the wave-of-all-waves. Well, with this new version of OS X, Apple had a lot of ground to cover. Starting with OS X Snow Leopard, Apple began a cycle of releasing a “maintenance” update after releasing a “feature” update. Leopard being a “feature” update, and Snow Leopard being a “maintenance” update. This was seen again with Lion and Mountain Lion. Well, Mavericks is definitely a feature update, bringing a whole set of new features and changes to the table. I’ve been on the Mavericks Developer Previews since the first one was released alongside iOS 7 beta immediately following the Keynote, and have combed through it in order to find which of these new features I found myself using most often, and personally deemed the most useful features. Without further ado, out of all the “thousands” of new features found in Mavericks, here are my top 5.
1. Multiple Display Enhancements
Before OS X Mavericks, it was impossible to use full screen apps effectively when you had more than one display. It was just impractical and pointless. If you took one app full screen, the other displays (in my case, I have a 3 display setup, so my other 2 displays did this) are simply switched to a linen background and become, well, pointless. So I never used to take apps full screen on my iMac; there just wasn’t a point really.
However, after installing Mavericks, my computer feels like a brand new machine because of the newly implemented multiple display enhancements. Now, instead of each display being one “Space”, each display acts as its own, completely free and separate of the others. You can switch spaces individually by display, instead of them all shifting at once. For someone with 3 displays, or even 2, this is a complete dream come true. If Mavericks could only come with one new set of enhancements, out of everything, this is what I would personally pick to be those enhancements. Full screen apps now act as independent spaces as well, leaving you free to use your other display(s) as normal, instead of having them filled with that nonexistent linen background.
2. Finder enhancements
Finder got a lot of much needed attention in OS X Mavericks. Something that Finder has long been lacking, so much so that other applications have been built to make up for it (looking at you TotalFinder), is tabs. Finder finally has native tab support, so you can now open as many Finder tabs as you wish and quickly and easily drag and drop files between them. If you are someone like me that is constantly in Finder organizing all sorts of things from photos, to Xcode projects, to school documents, etc, then you will fall in love with the new Finder.
Not only will you fall in love with it over tabs, but tags as well. This feature is something that I never thought I’d use until I had it there for me. I now find myself tagging just about every file I have when saving them. I have tags set up for work, school, personal, and more. And it couldn’t be more simple to create a new tag; when you are saving a file, you simply type in what you want something to be tagged as and there it is, it creates the tag right there on the spot. Finder can also go full screen now, which I don’t see too many people using, but I surely used it a lot. I have screens to spare though, as with my triple monitor setup, I still have 2 others open for use if I take Finder full screen on one.
3. Lack of Skeumorphism
I know this isn’t necassarily a feature, but I felt that it should definitely be addressed seeing as this was on of the major talking points of OS X and iOS pre-WWDC Keynote.
One of the many jokes that were made during the Keynote was when Craig Federighi said, “No virtual cows were harmed in the making of this interface.” Everyone in the audience sort of laughed but didn’t know if they should, seeing as it was almost surely a direct jab at former head of iOS Scott Forstall and his [supposed] obsession with skeumorphic design themes. He said this right before the new Calendar application in OS X was showed off, which completely drops the leather stitching and ripped paper look. Across the board, skeumorphism has been dropped in favor of a more aluminum design to go along with the rest of the operating system. There are still a few exceptions, however, such as Game Center and the Notes/Game Center/Reminders icons; but the software is still in developer preview, so they may be addressed before release. Apps such as Notes, Calendar, and Contacts, however, are completely void of any leather stitching or notepad paper within their actual interfaces.
Calendar now has a fantastically clean and easy to read interface that I think makes it much more efficient to maneuver around. It just looks so much better without the gaudy leather and ripped paper theme that it was wrapped in before. Another place you will see has changed is the login screen, Notification Center, and folders in Launchpad. No longer is there a linen background behind these, and instead will find either a matte dark gray or, in the case of the Launchpad folders, a transparent background that uses a Gaussian blur; such as the one found through iOS 7. Overall the lack of skeumorphism does exactly what Apple wanted it to do, and that is put the content in the focus of an applications user experience and not the interface.
4. iCloud Keychain
I was never a user of services such as 1Password or other password generating/saving/syncing services, but I definitely knew many people that were, and know that the business of password syncing is one that is fairly huge. Well, Apple has just about broken that market now with the introduction of iCloud Keychain. What this does is exactly what you’d think it does by the name: it syncs your login information for websites across all of your iOS and OS X devices through your iCloud account. Not only does it simply save them and sync them though, it also offers password suggestions for when you are creating a new account, and will make it a very secure password that will fit the required password criteria for near any website, then sync that across devices so you don’t have to remember it. This is something that I have come to love, as I can create an account on my computer, then when I go to check it on my phone it will already have it typed in and ready for me to sign in. I am overly curious to see what 1Password has in mind as a way to stay relevant now that Apple offers an in-house and more deeply integrated version of what 1Password’s base service is supposed to be.
This is obviously an application, not “feature,” however it is in some form a feature of its own. With OS X Mavericks, Apple has brought its controversial Maps service to the desktop, and I must say, I absolutely love it. I have never had a problem personally with Apple Maps, so I have never really understood the hype over it and have always thought it an overreaction, but that’s just me (I used it on a trip while iOS 6 was still in its first beta and had zero issues). Over the past year, Apple has been hard at work trying to bring its Maps service up to par with customers’ expectations, and have thus far done a fantastic job at consistently updating its data. Obviously Apple has thought that it has worked hard enough to go ahead and bring it to OS X, and it did a fantastic job with it.
The one feature that, to me, made Maps worth a top 5 mention, is the send-to-phone feature. Not even Google does this with its Android operating system and Google Maps on desktop (well, web). What you can do is search for a location and find directions from your current location to your selected destination, and simply go to the “Share” button at the top and choose your device (iPhone or iPad). Then you get a notification on your device that you sent it to and, like magic, it loads up Maps in navigation mode ready to take you to your destination. I am currently in the process of moving from northern Florida to central Florida for college, and have no idea where I am going in Orlando (where I am moving to). This new Maps feature has, and will continue to come in handy as I learn my way around where I am, and for people on vacation visiting somewhere or for people like me who are moving, it is something that is definitely appreciated.
All in all, OS X Mavericks is a fantastic update to Apple desktop operating system, and I am excited to see what everyone thinks once it is released this fall. I think everyone will love the update. I know I do.
What do you think? Are you excited for OS X Mavericks? What features are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments, or tweet me @TiP_Kyle.