Mac OS X Tiger: All roads lead to Spotlight

Mac OS X 10.4 — the much-anticipated update to Apple’s operating system — hits retail shelves Friday at 6 p.m. local time. But the company has already begun talking up the massive OS X update known as Tiger.

While many of OS X 10.4’s marquee features — including Spotlight, Automator, and an updated version of Safari — have been publicly known for almost a year, Apple executives say there is a lot in the OS that will make Mac users’ lives easier. And they add that you’ve been hearing a lot about Tiger’s Spotlight search technology for a good reason.

“We think that people using Mac OS X Tiger will be in the Spotlight menu all the time,” Brian Croll, Apple’s senior director of Software Product Marketing, told MacCentral. “You can go there to find documents, pictures, applications or anything else you want. All roads lead to Spotlight.”

Spotlight and its ability to create and automatically update Smart Folders in the Finder will help users find and organize files on their hard drives. This has become more of a problem in recent years because “hard drives are so big we never throw anything away,” said Chris Bourdon, Apple’s product manager for Mac OS X.

Besides Spotlight, Tiger features other new tools, aimed at helping Mac users in their everyday lives, including Automator. While the built-in automation utility has been linked to AppleScript and has sometimes been referred to as visual AppleScript, Bourdon said that is not the right way to look at things since AppleScript is only one piece of the Automator puzzle.

“AppleScript has been an extremely great technology for people that wanted to automate things on the Mac — it’s great for people that want to dive in there and learn some scripting,” Bourdon said. “There are a ton of people that know what they want to do with their computer and how they want their applications to work together, but they don’t know scripting. We’ve broadened the market of people who can take advantage of automation in the operating system without having to write any code.”

Other major additions and enhancements in OS X 10.4 include:

• an update to Safari that adds RSS-friendly capabilities to Apple’s Web browser;

Dashboard, a new layer of the OS for housing mini-applications called widgets;

• a new version of iChat AV that adds multi-person video and audio chats;

• the updated QuickTime 7, featuring the new H.264 video codec;

• built-in .Mac syncing;

• enhancements to the built-in Mail application; and

• under-the-hood changes to OS X’s Unix underpinnings.

“Tiger is an unbelievably deep operating system,” said Croll. “This by far the richest release we’ve done.”

Mac OS X Tiger will be available on Friday, April 29, 2005 for $129. Tiger requires a minimum of 256MB of memory and 3GB of available space on your hard drive (4GB, if you install Tiger’s XCode 2 developer tools). The update is designed to run on any Macintosh computer with a PowerPC G5, G4 or G3 processor and built-in FireWire.

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