(This weekly column looks at features and products that revolve around Mac OS X, Apple’s next generation operating system that’s due in early 2001. If you aren’t familiar with terms like “Rhapsody” and “OpenStep,” check out our explanatory “Note” at the end of this article before proceeding.)
As you doubtless know by now, Mac OS X will go on sale March 24 for US$129 and come pre-installed on all new Macs starting in July. And though several changes have been made to the next generation operating system since the public beta was released, Apple still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
“We have more surprises planned for the final version,” Shelia Annis, Apple’s Mac OS product manager, told MacCentral.
Also, the newly released Mac OS 9.1 will be the Classic environment in the finished version of X. Currently, 9.1 and the public beta of X aren’t simpatico. Also, if you’re planning on buying one of the new Macs unveiled in San Francisco, take note: the public beta won’t run on them.
Unfortunately, Annis wouldn’t elaborate on what new goodies we could expect in the final version of OS X. However, the “surprises” unveiled at this month’s January Macworld Expo in San Francisco included the return of the Apple Menu, though it’s evolved from its present form. In the Mac OS X Public Beta, the Apple logo in the menu bar sat in the middle of your screen — and did nothing but look sharp. Now the menu has returned to the left side of the screen and is useful once more.
In Mac OS X, you’ll be able to head to the Apple Menu to accomplish tasks such as Sleep, Restart, and Shutdown that you now have to tackle via the Finder to handle. The Location Finder, currently a Control Panel/Control Strip, will return in X and be accessible through the OS X Apple Menu. You can also log-out, force quit, and access preferences for the System and Dock from the menu. And, a la the traditional Apple Menu, you can place aliases of files and folders for fast, one-click hierarchical access to the contents.
When the complete version of Mac OS X arrives, the Finder will sport a smaller tool bar that users can customize and modify. Mac OS X Public Beta’s Finder packed a fixed set of quick-access folder and command shortcuts in a toolbar. In the final release, you’ll be able to add your own commands and folders, and decide whether they’re shown as text only, icons only, or both. For instance, you can add a status bar if you prefer to show things like the number of items, available space on a disk, etc.
When you choose the Customize Toolbar command in the Finder’s Application menu, the Finder will offer a palette of commands and folders (including New Folder, Back, View options, Eject, Find, Connect to Server), Customize, and any that you’ve made) and you can drag ’em to the toolbar. Clicking on the icon executes the related command. You can also restore the default set of commands and folders.
What’s more, clicking on a new, white button on the far right of a window collapses the tool bar and leaves you with a Finder-style window that those who demand the traditional Mac OS look and feel should find comforting. And with the tool bar closed, Mac OS X’s Finder will open new windows just like the current operating system does.
Popup menus are back. Sorta. They now appear in Mac OS X when you click on and hold an icon in the Dock. If you click on a drive or folder icon, you can navigate through its contents via menus. And you can drag and drop items from several folders deep in these product menus.
Support for AirPort, printing, plug-and-play networking, and PPP over Ethernet are in the current build of Mac OS X (not the public beta). And the next generation operating system will integrate QuickTime 5 and offer full Java 2 support.
What’s more, you can now drag hard drives and other media to the desktop. The controversial Font Panel has been redesigned. You can now shrink it down to a form that is small and has popup menus — in case you want to leave it open at all times. Jobs said that Apple had also licensed new “fun” fonts for inclusion in Mac OS X.
Apple has also added a new screen saver to OS X. It shows your Mac’s icons “floating” around the screen. Plus, you can add your own pictures, such as photos, and take advantage of the OpenGL in OS X to have them cross dissolve and fade into each other.
However, still no Control Strip or Application Switcher. But, hey, who knows. We’ve still got two months left before liftoff.
As for more details, well, we’re working on them. The version of X that Jobs demoed during his Macworld Expo keynote was an “internal build” preview (late beta) of the final OS X release. Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of the operating system update so am covering the new features second hand. But watch for a report soon.
Finally, at the request of several readers, I’m working on a story regarding the ability to run UNIX executable programs under Mac OS X. If you have any input on the matter, drop me a line at
Note: Mac OS X is the upcoming, “next generation” operating system from Apple, due in the first half of 2001. Mac OS X will include components of the traditional Mac OS, as well as components of the Rhapsody project. Rhapsody was once planned as Apple’s next generation operating system. It’s still around as Mac OS X Server, and parts of Rhapsody technologies will become part of Mac OS X. Rhapsody/Mac OS X Server is partially based on OpenStep technologies that Apple obtained in the purchase of the NeXT company. Carbon is the modified version of the Mac OS application programming interfaces (APIs) that lets applications be rewritten with relative ease for Mac OS X.)