Released on April 29, 2005, the latest installment of Apple’s next-generation operating system is Mac OS X Tiger. Mac OS X 10.4 boasts more than 200 new features and improvements over Panther, though a lot of them have been made under the hood. In many ways, Tiger is perhaps the most important release for developers since Mac OS X 10.0. It includes several great new technologies that developers will put to use in their applications in the coming years. However, end users shouldn’t feel left out, as Tiger has plenty to offer you as well (Figure 1-8).
While it would be impractical to describe all of the benefits that Tiger brings to the table, here are some of the more noteworthy technologies Apple has introduced:
Perhaps the most touted feature of Tiger, Spotlight is a mix of several tools that bring powerful searching to the desktop. When first introducing Spotlight, Steve Jobs joked that it’s easier to find information on the Internet than it is to find it on your own computer. By creating a system-wide index of a user’s files and metadata, Spotlight empowers fast, convenient searches of all the data on your computer. By opening up that index to software developers, Apple has paved the way for future applications to harness this powerful technology. Spotlight has already been used to improve several of Mac OS X’s bundled applications, such as the Smart Folders found in the Finder and Mail.
Though AppleScript and, in recent years, shell scripting provide for the automation of many tasks on your Mac, they can be quite intimidating to new users. With Tiger, Apple has created a new application—simply dubbed Automator—that significantly lowers the learning curve. Automator allows you to create
workflows that can quickly perform a variety of tasks, all without having to learn tricky syntaxes and arcane commands. By dragging and dropping actions provided by applications installed on your system, you can easily create workflows that do everything from creating birthday emails to organizing your pictures and music.
Another feature in Tiger that’s sure to become popular is Dashboard. The Dashboard is a new component, built into Exposé, that provides a workspace for keeping
Widgets. Widgets are small web applications that are designed to provide users with tidbits of information at a glance. Based around HTML, CSS
, Dashboard Widgets can be developed by web designers for download over the Internet and by application developers for inclusion with their software.
While Apple’s AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)-compatible messaging client has had audio and video conferencing features for quite some time, those features have been significantly beefed up in Tiger. iChat AV now supports up to 10 participants in audio chats. Where it really shines, however, is with video conferencing. Tiger’s iChat has support for four simultaneous participants in a video chat. At the same time, its video quality has been improved through the use of the new H.264 video codec. In addition to improvement of its audio and video aspects, iChat AV has added support for the Jabber IM protocol.
The hardware requirements for using iChat AV with multiple participants may exclude some Mac users from taking advantage of video and audio conferencing, especially if they intend to host. While one-to-one video conferences can still be accomplished on 600MHz G3s and newer processors, hosting a four-person video conference requires at least Dual 1GHz G4. For more information on iChat AV’s requirements, see http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/ichat/.
Synchronization of your contacts, bookmarks, and calendars has been a core feature of iSync since its introduction. In Tiger, however, Apple has moved the .Mac synchronization services out of iSync and into a system library. By using this library, developers can synchronize their software’s settings between multiple Macs over the .Mac service. Tiger’s Mail and Keychain Access have both made use of the .Mac SyncServices, allowing .Mac users to sync their Keychains as well as mail accounts, signatures, and rules.