Apple’s new operating system, Mavericks, is now available for download from Apple’s App Store. This latest update, besides eschewing Apple’s big-cat naming scheme in favor of a gnarly new title, provides updates that blend mobile features with desktop functionality. While still undeniably a desktop operating system, Mavericks does not shy away from borrowing looks and features from the iPad, and it offers improved iCloud integration in a number of apps. Here’s what you need to know before you download.
Yes, that’s right – free! Apple has always worked on a faster update cycle than Microsoft, and this has traditionally resulted in small leaps forward sold for between $20 and $30 dollars. The company has decided that that no longer makes sense, particularly since iOS updates are free of charge; from now on OS X will be distributed the same way. Anyone running OS X Snow Leopard or later can download the new version of OS X without paying a cent.
Users who have an older version of OS X will first need to purchase Snow Leopard, which is $19.99 on Apple’s official store.
Updates to OS X often come alongside the sun-setting of older Macs which lack the features and processing power required to run the latest incarnation. Such a move would certainly sting with Mavericks, considering it’s free, but Apple hasn’t knocked any new hardware off its list of supported devices with this update. If your Mac can run Mountain Lion, it can run Mavericks.
For those unfamiliar with the compatibility break-down, here are the supported Macs:
- iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
- MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, Early 2009 or newer)
- MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
- Xserve (Early 2009)
- MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
- Mac Mini (Early 2009 or newer)
- Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
While Mavericks will run on all the Macs listed above, some updates may be required before it can be installed. These should appear automatically under the Updates section of the Mac App Store.
As predicted, Apple announced Finder Tabs. Working a lot like tabbed browsing in Safari, the feature has the ability to merge multiple windows into one with tabs, and new tabs may be added by clicking a “+” in the upper-right-hand corner. One of the coolest things is that the tabbed finder allows for easy drag and drop copying to other folders and to Air Drop. It’s a lot more elegant than trying to arrange multiple windows and dragging files between them.
Along with tabs in the Finder, Apple has also added tagging. Now documents can be tagged to categories such as “In-Progress,” “Important,” or “School.” Tagging works everywhere across the Mac, and the tags appear in the sidebar of the Finder. The OS prompts you to add a tag when you save a document, but you can also assign tags by dragging and dropping files into a tag category folder in the Finder. Plus, the tags created on your Mac carry over to your iCloud, too. The tags are clearly meant as a more efficient way to both organize and categorize your files. Multiple tags may be added, plus you can search by tags. Of course, you can make things more colorful by color-coding your tags, too.
Another prediction we got right includes multiple display support for Mavericks. Instead of a secondary or “extended desktop display,” Mavericks treats your displays independently while still maintaining a relationship between them.
Each display has its own Mission Control, but you’ll be able to drag apps from one display to another without going through a bunch of window-resizing headaches. Full-screen apps will easily work in both displays, plus the menu bar and dock will appear on both. Users can independently swipe between Spaces on each display – so each display is truly independent of the other. The display isn’t limited to just monitors either. With Mavericks, users can output their Mac display to an HDTV using AirPlay and Apple TV.
Safari just a got a whole lot faster in Mavericks. On the back end, the browser was retooled to decrease memory and CPU usage, resulting in a net increase in battery life. Apple claims that Safari is 1.44 times faster than Chrome in the Java SunSpider benchmark and 3.8 times faster than Firefox in the JSBench Suite Benchmark test. Safari allegedly smokes Chrome and Firefox, while using 1.28 times less memory than Chrome and 2.9 times less CPU processing power than Firefox.
But Safari didn’t just get better on the inside. It was also updated with social-friendly features including a sidebar for bookmarks, your Reading List, and Shared Links from social networks. While scrolling through links from your Reading List or Twitter and LinkedIn you’ll notice both accelerated, stop-on-a-dime scrolling as well as an endless scrolling feature. As you finish reading one item, the next shared link or item on your Reading List appears right below it. This has the potential to keep someone catching up on all of their saved articles for days.
OS X Mavericks includes new notifications that allow you to respond to texts, emails, and FaceTime calls right from the Notification Center in the upper right hand corner. You can choose to reply, delete or save it for later. Plus, iOS-like notifications will now appear on your desktop. For instance, a fantasy football app can now send you lineup reminders like it would on your iPhone. News websites will be able to send you breaking news notifications like they can on iOS, even if Safari isn’t running. Even better, apps from the Mac App Store will now update automatically. When you log back into your Mac in the morning, you’ll be able to see notifications for everything you missed on the login screen – just like on the iPhone’s lock screen.
The new Calendar has a cleaner look with continuous scrolling, so you can view the second half of one month and the first half of the next month, or quickly scroll through weeks at a time with the swipe of a couple fingers. Apple now integrates your Facebook calendar items for easy help remembering your friends’ birthdays and events.
When you create an appointment, the new Event Inspector will autofill suggestions as quickly as you type. Plus, it’ll let you know the weather for the location of the appointment and even show a map. One of the niftiest features is that you can call up driving or walking directions to an appointment and include travel time. The calendar will then notify you when you need to leave in order to make it to your destination on time. It’ll even suggest places to eat near your appointment.
The Contacts app has also been given a fresh coat of paint which aligns it with the minimalist design of iOS and Mavericks. A new photo picker gives users who have connected their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts the chance to choose which profile pictures should be imported. Google contacts now appear the moment a Google account is added to contacts, and any edits made in the Contacts app are synced with Google. Finally, a view maps button can now be found along side all addresses enter in contacts and will, unsurprisingly, bring up said address in the Maps app.
Apple Maps has finally made the leap to the desktop. It has the same fancy 3D photo-realistic Flyovers we saw in our iPad, and it shows off a fantastic amount of detail, including the ability to turn the view from above to a view that’s nearly level with the ground. While Maps on the desktop is cool, it’s made exponentially more useful thanks to a button that automatically sends directions to your iPhone. Once you’ve sent it to your iPhone running iOS 7, you’ll get turn-by-turn voice navigation to your destination.
Maps is fully integrated into OS X Mavericks, with Maps popping up in Mail, Contacts, and Calendar. Apple continues to improve its geographical knowledge, too, with an improved point of interest search that integrates Yelp reviews. Maps has also improved in reporting traffic conditions and suggested alternate routes. Plus, it will sync your saved location bookmarks across all of your devices.
iBooks is also debuting on the desktop with all of the 1.8 million available iBooks on it. All of the iBooks currently on your iOS device will sync to your Mac and be instantly available whenever you need them thanks to iCloud. You can still zoom in and scroll through pages like you would on an iPad using the Mac’s trackpad. One of the best features is the ability to have multiple books open at once. For research and studying, it makes it easy to reference different sources without having to exit one before entering another. In our opinion, it makes it more like the spread of real books you would have laid out on a table.
Unlike a physical book, iBooks will automatically create a citation when you quote a passage. As anyone who’s suffered through MLA or APA citation styles will know, that’s a massive time saver. Other things you won’t find in a physical text book are interactive illustrations, photos, and videos, which many publishers have integrated into their iBooks textbooks.
There’s also a nice note-taking feature that allows you to highlight a passage and then create a sticky note next to it to add your own notes that appear on sidebars flanking the text. Your created notes can then be used as study cards for reviewing information from a text book before a test or before attending a book club meeting.
Apple’s Keychain app has always been a bit of a lifesaver, and the new iCloud Keychain expands on it. First up, it syncs across all of your devices. It will save your Wi-Fi network passwords and credit card information so that you can easily make purchases online without having to carefully type in your full card number in the middle of a coffee shop. However, you’ll want to memorize your card’s security code, because you’ll need that to actually use it. iCloud Keychain will even suggest complex, generated passwords for websites like eBay that you don’t have to remember because iCloud Keychain will do it for you via autofill.
Your passwords are protected by AES 256-bit encryption, so no one (aside from the government) will be able to crack the code.
Macs are often associated with professionals, so Apple has made using the professional’s social network easier. A new sign-on form in Mavericks’ System Preferences menu will allow a user to enter their LinkedIn details, just as was previously possible Facebook, Twitter and other services. Once entered, that user’s Contacts will be integrated with LinkedIn, making it possible to see connections made with the social network in the Contacts app. Users will also be able to import profile pictures for contacts from LinkedIn, receive notifications in the Notification Center, and share links with LinkedIn connections via Safari or the Notifications Center.
Dictation was introduced in the previous version of OS X, Mountain Lion, but it was rather basic. Mavericks moves functionality a step forward with Enhanced Dictation, which is similar but now works offline. The time limit on how long a user can talk before dictation cuts off has been removed, and words now appear on-screen as dictated in real time rather than after dictation is paused. While most users don’t use dictation, these improvements will be a big deal for those who do.
Along with all OS X Mavericks’s feature enhancements, Apple has made several performance tweaks to dramatically increase power and battery life.
Among the enhancements Apple has included in OS X Mavericks is Time Coalescing, which groups low-level computer operations together so that there’s more idle time, and thus more battery life conservation. If you caught the WWDC keynote, the feature was described as split-seconds of idle time that exist between the CPU processing low-level tasks. Time Coalescing groups those small processes together, creating seconds of idle time from those split seconds. The end result is a 72 percent reduction in CPU activity, which translates to longer battery life. Apple claims that previous MacBooks will enjoy up to an hour of additional web browsing time and 1.5 hours of additional video playback just by installing Mavericks.
Application-pausing technology borrowed from iOS was also among the rumors for OS X 10.9. That’s what App Nap does in Mavericks. It pauses apps or browser tabs that are open, but not performing a task like downloading files, checking mail, or playing a song. This reduces the active load on the processor by allocating power only to apps that currently need it. According to Apple, the end result of App Nap is a maximum of 23 percent reduction in CPU usage.
Another improvement introduced in Mavericks is Compressed Memory, which frees up memory space taken up by apps by compressing it down and freeing up memory, instead of the previous, more power-consuming method of writing inactive apps to the disk. Apple claims it can store up to six gigabytes of data in four gigabytes of physical RAM, a trait that may improve overall responsiveness if it delivers on its promise.
Mavericks also handles video memory differently than previous versions of OS X, increasing maximum video RAM from 512MB to 1GB on Macs with an integrated graphics processor. The new video memory management methods can also work in reverse, reducing the RAM allocated to video memory when it’s not needed, thus providing more memory for other tasks. OpenCL support has been added, too, which means developers will be able to call upon a Mac’s integrated or discrete graphics processor to perform compute operations.
Lastly, Apple has made a few more power saving tweaks to Safari and iTunes HD. Safari will now detect and pause what it detects as Flash ads and superfluous animations running in the margins of a webpage. You’ll be able to watch the video you searched for without the distraction and power drain of the “Lose weight with this 1 weird trick” video flickering on the side of the window. iTunes HD’s power efficiency has been improved too, by taking advantage of the graphics hardware in the Mac, decreasing disk access frequency, and even improving audio playback efficiency. So now you can watch an HD movie sans power cord without fear that your Mac will die during the final scene.
OS X Mavericks is available for download immediately. Check out our guide on how to download Mavericks for free.
[Additional reporting by Matt Smith October 22, 2013 at 9:15 p.m. ET: Updated to add LinkedIn, Enhanced Dictation, Contacts, Compatibility and price.]
[Updated June 10, 2013 at 6:25 p.m. PST: Updated to add iBooks, performance enhancements, iCloud keychain, and photos.]
Originally posted June 10, 2013 at 11:45 a.m. PST.
Images via Apple