America Online is launching a new version of AOL for Mac OS X. The company says it’s totally redesigned to look and feel like a true Mac application and offers some features not found on the Windows version.
“This is a new step for AOL,” Jeff Kimball of America Online told MacCentral. “AOL for Mac OS X is designed to be native, natural and comfortable for Mac OS X users. This is a first step in this direction, but not the last. Simplicity and ease of use are two of the similarities between AOL and Apple.”
The new AOL for Mac OS X was developed based on consumer feedback by AOL members who wanted an online service designed for how they use the Internet today and that was a seamless part of the design, functionality and navigation of the Mac OS X operating system, he added. A new design also brings the true look and feel of Apple to AOL with a visual appearance based on the Aqua style guide.
AOL for OS X brings together enhancements to AOL’s e-mail and instant messaging features, such as a counter on the Mac OS X dock that displays the number of new messages; the new AOL Search; the addition of new short-cut keys; and, as mentioned, there are several Mac-first features, including integration of the Netscape Gecko Web browser and use of the QuickTime Player for enjoying streaming video and audio content when accessing the AOL service through a high-speed Internet connection.
“AOL for Mac OS X detects whether you’re on a high-speed connection or not,” Kimball said. “We think users will appreciate our implementation of QuickTime. America Online leads in the use of QT in Mac OS X.”
AOL for Mac OS X is compatible with Apple’s iChat (a feature of the upcoming Mac OS X 10.2, due Aug. 24), for instant messaging between Mac.com members, AOL members and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) users.
Users have access to AOL Favorite Places from anywhere so members can access content and pages from their home computers as well as from work. With AOL for Mac OS X, members can also access their e-mail, Buddy List, Address Book and other features from any computer.
“It’s not local to a machine,” Kimball said. “It works anywhere you have a connection to the Internet.”
AOL for Mac OS X is compatible with the AirPort wireless technology, so you can be online anywhere at home or work if there’s an AirPort network implemented.
What’s more, Kimball said that AOL for Mac OS X maintains the Mac-only features of previous versions such as the ability to play and embed sounds in an e-mail and share them with other AOL Mac users; the ability to attach files by dragging and dropping them into the e-mail attachment window; and the ability to enter every e-mail address in a single box and change the delivery type for each address (to/cc/bcc) with a single click. Users can also have the text of instant messages, as well as chat, e-mail and buttons under their cursor read aloud using built-in speech synthesis.
Other features include support for HTML-rich e-mail; an online presence indicator with a one click way to send an instant message or e-mail and add names to the Buddy List feature or Address Book; Buddy Icons to personalize instant messages; the ability to extend an instant message conversation into a Buddy Chat with friends; and automatic address suggestions from a member’s Address Book when sending e-mail and instant messages.
The Buddy Lists are now more versatile, featuring the ability to customize font type style and size. They also have a “mobile indicator” in which the icon changes if you’re on a handheld device instead of your Mac, Kimball said. A new idle detection feature signals when members have been away from their computer. There are also personalized “away” messages. In addition, the Buddy List and Address Book can each be accessed with shortcut keys.
The all new AOL Search is a comprehensive online search service that delivers faster and more relevant results with Google’s technology, along with localized, contextual search results, Kimball said. The result is the “best search engine experience on the Internet,” he added.
Parental controls have been made more powerful, yet easier to use, Kimball said. Additionally, AOL for Mac OS X members can easily report Terms of Service (TOS) violations and questionable messages by simply clicking on a new “Notify AOL” button on the e-mail window.
There’s a new Welcome Screen with one-click access to e-mail; digital pictures, through the You’ve Got Pictures service; My Calendar; chat; and updated news and weather forecasts each time members sign on. Programming rotates throughout the day with expanded news coverage. The new design also puts local, community-focused features such as shopping, local movie and entertainment event listings and other resources “front and center” throughout the service, according to America Online. And many toolbar headings have been moved to the Menu Bar for convenience and easy navigation around AOL, Kimball said. After all, this is the area where Mac users are most accustomed to find commands.
The new version of the AOL for Mac OS X will be available today as an upgrade for existing members at no additional charge in the United States at AOL Keyword: Upgrade and at the AOL Web site.
AOL for Mac OS X requires a G3 or G4 Power Mac, Mac OS X 10.1 or higher, 128MB of RAM, 75MB of hard disk space, a minimum 800 x 600 screen resolution, and, of course, a pre-existing Internet connection, AirPort network or Mac OS X compatible modem.