Inside Mac OS X Public Beta, Part II

Mac OS X: Installation and Interface

Installation is far simpler than NeXTstep, sources said: Using a step-by-step interface familiar to Mac users, the installation application and the Setup Assistant mimic the Mac OS installation procedure.

Sources said the entire installation process will take less than 10 minutes on a typical Mac that meets the installation requirements: any Power Mac G3 or Power Mac G4; any PowerBook G3 other than the first model; and all iMacs or iBooks, provided they have at least 128MB of RAM and 1.5GB of free disk space.

The software also requires video support through internal video or an Apple-supplied ixMicro or ATI video card. One source reported that owners of Voodoo 3D accelerator cards from 3dfx Interactive will have to switch back to the video card that shipped with their computers.

The Mac OS X beta installer will let users install the new OS side by side on an existing Mac OS 9 hard drive -- a boon to users who lack multiple or partitioned drives. (The beta will not recognise second AT attachment disks on Power Macs, sources said.)

Side-by-side installation lets users boot back to the Mac OS 9 environment. Even if installed on an empty disk, Mac OS X can run current Mac applications in Classic mode.

Longtime Mac users might be taken aback by the Mac OS X beta's need for a user name and password when starting up or rebooting the computer -- a remnant of NeXTstep, which was designed for a multi-user, networked environment. Users who forget their user name or password may have to reinstall the OS, sources said.

The Mac OS X beta includes both the Aqua interface Jobs demonstrated at Macworld Expo/San Francisco and the Graphite option he announced at August's Seybold San Francisco 2000.

Selecting Graphite changes window controls and other system buttons from multiple, bright colors to gray.

The Dock -- Mac OS X's kitchen-sink replacement for window shades, the Apple Menu, the Application Switcher and more -- has also been slightly tweaked to include changes that didn't even make it into the beta's user guide, sources said.

For example, the user guide notes that open applications are distinguished from inactive ones in the Dock by three dots displayed beneath them; in the beta, a small arrowhead plays the role. What's more, application icons in the Dock "bounce" as that app is launched (although users prone to seasickness can turn off this behaviour).

While previous versions of the Dock let users resize it according to the number of icons in it or hide or unhide it (similar to the Auto-Hide function of the Taskbar in Windows), the beta's Dock can be resised simply by vertically dragging along the thin line that separates application icons from icons denoting documents, minimized windows, folders, servers, Web sites and other elements.

Since the Dock is designed "to reduce clutter," in Jobs' words, it can end up containing a virtually uncountable number of nearly indistinguishable icons. Apple's answer: an optional "magnification" feature that expands each tile in the Dock as the cursor passes over it, along with a "tool tip"-like text identification that is also activated by mouse overs.

Back to Part I

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