Trying to add up the new features and enhancements you’ll find in Panther? Prepare for a long count. For every feature Apple has highlighted since it unveiled OS X 10.3 this summer, there are even more additions and improvements that have escaped much attention.
Now that Apple has unleashed Panther, we’ve gotten a firsthand look at the changes in the latest version of OS X. Apple claims that OS X 10.3 includes more than 150 new features and innovations. We haven’t found that many–but then again, we’re still counting. We’ve already told you about some of Panther’s most conspicuous changes, such as Exposé, Fast User Switching, and Font Book (see “Take a Peek at Panther,” September 2003). Here are some of our favorite hidden gems, as well as a collection of tips that will help you get the most out of this major update.
1. Universal Security
The new Security preference pane puts all of Panther’s security features in one place. From here, you can set up your Mac to require a password when it wakes from sleep or a screen saver. This pane also lets you disable automatic login of users, password-protect your system settings, and enable automatic logging out after a set duration with no activity. Unfortunately, there’s no option for automatically locking Keychain–for that, you have to use the Change Settings For Keychain command in the Keychain Access utility.
2. DVD Player’s Big Step
Apple’s DVD Player application jumps forward in Panther. DVD Player 4.0 features built-in support for 5.1 surround-sound audio tracks. It can also display closed-captioning information in a separate window, which you can move away from your video. Plus, DVD Player now supports full-screen presentation modes on Macs with multiple monitors, and it lets you bookmark spots on your DVDs for quick reference.
3. iDisk Anywhere.Mac members have access to at least 100MB of storage space on Apple’s servers. This can be a useful place to stash files, especially if you’re moving from one computer to another. However, before Panther, you had to remember to mount your iDisk and copy files before you unplugged and headed out for parts unknown. With Panther, you can permanently integrate iDisk into your Mac. In the new .Mac preference pane, select Create A Local Copy Of Your iDisk. Panther will do just that–it places your iDisk on your Mac’s hard drive. If you set OS X 10.3 to synchronize automatically, it’ll upload any changes you make to the local copy of your iDisk. If you’re not connected to the Internet, Panther will synchronize the changes the next time you connect. You can also synchronize manually–a useful option if you have a slow Internet connection.
4. Your Disk Keeps a Journal
A new feature in Panther (it was previously only in Mac OS X Server) is journaling. When your hard drive is journaled, the operating system keeps a log of every modification made to the disk. So if your Mac crashes or the power goes out, your Mac knows exactly where it was when things went south, and it will start up much faster following a system crash than it otherwise would. Journaling is on by default. To enable journaling on other drives, open Disk Utility and choose Enable Journaling, or select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) when you format a drive.
5. Disk Utility Megamerger
In previous versions of OS X, the Disk Utility application was an unassuming program for formatting and partition- ing drives. It still does all that, but it has also assumed the responsibilities of the eliminated Disk Copy and Software Restore utilities. If you want to create or burn a disk image, or restore your hard drive with the contents of a disk image, Disk Utility is now the place to go.
6. Return of Desktop Printers
An OS 9 feature reappearing in Panther is desktop printing. When you use OS X 10.3’s Printer Setup utility–formerly Print Center–to add a new printer, you create a tiny application for that printer in your user folder’s Library: Printers folder. You can make aliases of as many printers as you like and place them on your desktop, or just drag them into the Dock. If you drag PDF files onto a printer icon, they’ll print to that printer. Other documents will automatically open in the appropriate application and prompt you with a Print dialog box.
7. Check,Mate Don’t play chess? Then you won’t care that Apple’s included Chess game, now at version 2.0, features improvements such as a rotating board and new options that let you change the look of the board and the pieces.
8. Introducing the Sidebar
New to Finder windows is the sidebar, a pane on the left side that shows mounted disks, file servers, and favorite folders. The sidebar is aimed at making it easier to find what you’re looking for on your Mac. To quickly add favorite items to the sidebar, just select them in the Finder and press CMD-T.
9. Open and Save, Redeemed
When Apple first showed us OS X, the Finder offered only one way to display files: column view. By the time the operating system arrived, other traditional ways of viewing files–as icons or as a list–had returned to the Finder. But they were still missing from Open and Save dialog boxes, which kept column view as the only option. But with Panther, the process of navigating to the right folder in which to open or save a file has gotten much easier. The new Open and Save dialog boxes include a Finder-inspired sidebar containing your favorite locations for quick access. You can also opt for an OS 9style List view.
10. Instant File Compression
Panther’s Finder lets you compress files and folders without any add-on applications using the Zip file compression standard common on Windows. To compress items in the Finder, select them and then choose Create Archive Of File name or Create Archive Of Number Files from the Action menu, found in either the contextual menu you get by control-clicking on your selection or the Finder’s File menu. To uncompress a Zip file, just double-click on it in the Finder.
11. At Long Last, Labels
Panther may just restore the goodwill of grumpy OS 9 users who never quite forgave Apple for getting rid of Finder labels. Now you can label items in the Finder by control-clicking on them and selecting a color label, by using the toolbar’s Action menu, or by choosing a color at the bottom of the File menu. To edit label names (by default, they’re just the names of the label colors themselves), choose Finder: Preferences and click on Labels. Panther’s labels don’t look like OS 9’s labels: the background behind the item’s name is tinted, rather than the item’s icon. (In list view, the entire row devoted to a labeled item is colored.)
12. Network in the Finder
In OS 9, you browsed your network for a file server via the Chooser. In OS X, you did it via the Finder’s Connect To Server command. In Panther, local servers simply show up in the Finder–just choose Network from the Go menu to see a list of servers in the familiar Finder interface. If the server you’re connecting to isn’t local, you can enter remote server addresses by choosing Connect To Server.
13. Control the Finder
OS X is based on Unix, an operating system with a complex series of file permissions that prevent users from deleting or moving files that don’t belong to them. The problem is, Mac users are used to moving files anywhere they please–and they aren’t happy when OS X tells them what they can’t do. Fortunately, Panther’s Finder isn’t quite as obstinate when it comes to moving files into protected areas, giving a certain amount of control back to users. If you try to move something into a protected location and you have administrative privileges, you can enter your password and force the action to happen, permissions be damned.
Other Interface Tweaks
14. Subtler Interface
Elements You’ll see a lot less of OS X’s trademark striping in Panther. The texture behind the menu bar is much subtler, and active window title bars now have a slight gradient. Inactive windows are no longer translucent; instead they have no color or gradient.
15. Good-bye Tabs, Hello Chiclets
The original OS X interface featured lots of tabbed items. Apple has eighty-sixed tabs from Panther. Instead of blue tabs at the top of windows, the interface now features blue buttons on the perimeter of a shaded box that contains the window’s content. The areas under tabs used to appear as square windows with slight drop shadows; now they’re rounded areas that appear to be etched into the surface of the parent window. It’s a subdued but attractive effect.
16. Highlighted Toolbar Items
In Panther, applications that let you toggle between windows now highlight the currently selected toolbar item. For instance, if you click on the Displays icon in the System Preferences toolbar, its background will become shaded to show that it’s selected.
17. Smooth Scrolling
In the new Appearance preference pane–the pane formerly known as General–there’s a Use Smooth Scrolling option. When this option is selected, applications that support smooth scrolling will–as the option’s name suggests–scroll more smoothly. For example, if you hit the Page Down key while you’re in Safari, the browser will scroll line by line down to the next page. This feature’s appeal is matter of taste, but it’s growing on us.
18. Integrated iPhoto
With Panther, Apple has integrated iPhoto even more deeply into OS X. Before, if you wanted to select specific iPhoto albums or your entire iPhoto library for screen-saver images or desktop pictures, you had to do so from within the application. Panther lets you do so from the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane.
19. Network at a Glance
The Network preference pane now has a friendly face–the Network Status view. It shows you at a glance what’s going on with your various connections. For example, it can tell you that you’re currently using Ethernet, but that you’re also connected to an AirPort Network or that your modem configuration hasn’t been set up yet.
20. By All Accounts
Rather than dividing user information among Jaguar’s Users, Accounts, and Login Items preference panes, Panther puts it all in the Accounts preference pane. From Accounts, you can set your startup items and user picture, as well as edit other accounts on your system (as long as you have administration privileges).
21. Help for the Help Viewer
Ever accidentally pressed the help key and then groaned as Apple’s slothful Help Viewer application took an eternity to launch and display help pages? Well, those days are over. Panther offers a new Help Viewer that uses the same HTML-display technology in Safari. The result is a fast, good-looking help system–and one that won’t make you cry when you inadvertently ask for help.
22. Internet Connect’s Virtual Features
OS X’s Internet Connect utility lets you connect to the Internet by dialing a modem or logging on to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) securely over a network. Panther improves greatly on Internet Connect’s VPN technology, adding support for IPsec VPN servers and adding a VPN menu bar item so users of corporate networks can get online and offline without having to open up Internet Connect each time.
[Editor in Chief JASON SNELL has followed the changes to Mac OS X since before it had a roman numeral.]