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  9-26-03 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.


Coming Soon: Mac OS X v10.3 Panther


By Bob LeVitus

Last summer at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, Steve Jobs previewed the fourth major release of Mac OS X in four years, version 10.3 Panther. And though Panther isn't available just yet, here's a taste of what you can expect when Panther leaps onto the scene sometime before the end of the year.

The first thing you'll notice is that Finder windows have been radically altered. To begin with, they look different. The subtle striped background is out, replaced by the brushed chrome look of iTunes and iMovie. Whether you love or hate the chrome look, it offers one big advantage: You can drag chrome windows around by clicking and dragging anywhere on the chrome, which means you can drag windows from their side or bottom again (like you could in OS 9—what a concept).

The second thing you'll notice about Finder windows is that many items Jaguar offers in the Toolbar, such as quick-access icons for Home, Applications, Documents, and Computer, have been moved to a column on the left side of every window known as the Sidebar. The nice part about the Sidebar is that its contents also appear in Open and Save dialog boxes and sheets, so opening and saving files is more intuitive than ever before.

Exposé is another new Panther feature that makes life easier by offering three new ways to arrange and rearrange windows:

  • Tile all open windows in all open applications so all can be seen at once.
  • Tile all open windows in the current application so all can be seen at once while hiding all other open windows behind a transparent gray curtain, letting you focus exclusively on the task at hand.
  • Show the Desktop by moving all open windows to the edges of the screen so you can find items on the desktop easily even when dozens of windows are strewn across the screen.

I've raved about another Panther feature before—iChat AV. Just add an iSight video camera ($149) and you're set up for 1 to 1 video or audio conferencing. And while Jaguar users will have to buy their copy of iChat AV for $30, it's included with Panther.

Another Panther feature that looks tasty is fast user switching. This long-awaited feature lets you quickly switch between user accounts without closing documents or quitting applications. So what now takes minutes occurs in mere seconds under Panther. I can't wait for this one.

Because I'm such a nut about backing up my work, the new synchronized iDisk feature in Panther appeals to me a lot. In Panther, designated files and folders are regularly and automatically synchronized with your iDisk on Apple's servers whenever you have a network connection. If you use more than one Mac, this means your latest changes are will be accessible from whichever Mac you happen to be using. Sweet!

Of course, this iDisk feature requires you have an iDisk, which requires a subscription to Apple's .Mac service, which will run you $99 a year.

Speaking of .Mac, even without the synchronized iDisk feature, which isn't available yet, I use .Mac regularly to share files with friends, display my pictures and movies quickly and painlessly, and to store important files. I just renewed my membership and even without the bonus gift ($20 off my next purchase from the online Apple Store) it was worth every penny.

Panther will be available by the end of 2003 for a suggested retail price of $129.

If you want to know more about Panther, Apple has a Web page that tells you everything except when it will ship (more recently announced as Oct. 24th):

Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including The Little iTunes Book and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to [email protected].

Copyright © 2004 Bob LeVitus




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