- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

An informal survey of two Mac users spotted Sunday evening at the Tenleytown Starbucks in upper Northwest showed that neither had upgraded to the just-released Mac OS X, called Tiger.

Whether that’s an omen or an oddity is something to be discovered by Apple’s marketing department in the coming weeks. The new release of the Mac operating system didn’t inspire the kind of waiting-in-line-at-midnight mania of earlier premieres, perhaps because “launch” was at 6 p.m.

But the $129 Tiger has a few things worth the price, time and trouble of upgrading. Among the 200-odd improvements, my favorite is the Spotlight search feature, which will find just about anything on your hard drive, except for e-mail in Microsoft Entourage. (It’ll search through all levels of Apple’s Mail.app e-mail client, which, in turn, can import your Entourage messages, however.) Spotlight will even search within PDF files, highlighting desired words.

In short, this is the kind of desktop search we’ve been promised in the next version of Microsoft Windows, available next year, and which can be had with third-party applications from Google and Yahoo for Macs and PCs. But Spotlight doesn’t take much overhead, isn’t obtrusive and works very nicely.

Equally impressive are the improvements in Mail.app and the Safari Web browser. Safari now features an optional “private browsing” mode that won’t keep a history of where you visit or a “cache” of pages viewed. The browser can also read Real Simple Syndication, or RSS, “feeds,” such as those made available by The Washington Times, letting you easily check what’s new on a given Web site . Safari, overall, is much better as a Web browser now, and is a worthy competitor to Firefox, while leaving the Mac version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer back in the Dark Ages.

Mail.app is improved, too, with the slide-out “mailbox” drawer now a permanent part of the left side of the application window. HTML is the default e-mail composing language; e-mail “signatures” can now be applied to specific e-mail accounts. And the Spotlight search features work within Mail.app.

There’s some “eye candy” in the form of Dashboard, which takes the concept of little desktop helper applications, like the ones found in the “widget” program Konfabulator, and incorporates the idea, but not Konfabulator itself, into the operating system. The widgets in Dashboard will look up entries in your address book; check the weather, time and traffic; and link to a dictionary or thesaurus, among other neat tricks.

And if you have an ISight video camera and a fast-enough Mac and broadband connection, your online video chats will look more like a network TV news show than a herky-jerky public-access effort. That’s because the IChat AV application now supports the H.264 video compression standard, but again, you’ll need some horsepower to make it work.

You’ll also need some horsepower to install Tiger: A DVD disc is supplied in the box; CD-ROMs can be ordered separately. While Apple says 256 megabytes of RAM is needed, I’d suggest at least 512 megabytes and 1 gigabyte if possible.

Get ready to set aside about 30 minutes for installation and between two and four hours for the first “indexing” of your hard drive by Spotlight. But after that pain, Tiger is pleasurable and, for my money, worth the upgrade. Details at www.apple.com.

E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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