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Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar

  • Editors' rating
    8.2 Excellent
  • $129.00

Pros

  • Greatly improves Mac, Windows and Internet networking
  • refines Web and hard drive search tool
  • upgrades performance and responsiveness
  • includes Bluetooth support.

Cons

  • No upgrade discount unless your new Mac was bought on or after 17 July
  • iChat not as versatile as AIM
  • still no Google searching in Sherlock.

Jaguar, Apple's new version of Mac OS X, packs a much bigger upgrade punch than its 10.2 version number suggests. Part of that punch is the price: Jaguar costs £99 (inc. VAT), and you only get an upgrade discount if you bought a new Mac without version 10.2 on or after 17 July. But its slightly improved interface, powerful new networking tools, three new applications, and better performance and stability finally bring Mac OS X's potential to fruition. If you bought OS X 10.1 before 17 July and you're not looking for networking support, £99 is too much to pay. But if you're a business user or you have a cross-platform home network, take a serious look at Jaguar.

OS X's installation hasn't changed much in Jaguar; it's as easy as ever, despite involving two discs. You're forced to enter quite a bit of personal information at setup, which gets sent to Apple for registration and marketing purposes. Read the privacy policy before you give out your phone number or email address. Jaguar uses some of the registration information for your benefit; for example, Sherlock's new Yellow Pages search feature automatically provides driving directions from the location that you specify as your home address.

Once you start up in Jaguar, you'll notice subtle, refined changes to the Aqua interface. The bulbous, primary-coloured buttons now look flatter and are more subtly tinted, while other indicators, including drag-and-drop plus signs, sport a 3D design. Dialogue boxes now display more information, too. For example, the streamlined Show Info box displays all data at once, instead of dividing it into tabs. Plus, you can now open multiple Show Info dialogue boxes simultaneously.

Still longing for the handy spring-loaded folders feature from OS 8 and 9? Jaguar makes a concession just for you: folder after folder will open automatically as you drag a file over them, and all but the last one will close when you release the mouse button.

Jaguar's most compelling interface changes lie in its revamped Find commands. Apple has moved hard disk search functions out of Sherlock, OS X's search tool, and into the Finder. Now, when you open a Finder window, its toolbar offers a handy field that lets you search a particular folder, drive, or network volume. The Find command in the Finder's File Menu (command-F) brings up a streamlined advanced file-search dialogue. We love the separated search, as the previous Sherlock often presented a confusing list of online and offline results.

In contrast, Sherlock 3.0 now searches the Internet only, neatly aggregating common Web search results into a single desktop window -- no need for a browser. Sherlock even organizes Web search choices into channels, which it displays as toolbar buttons. For example, the eBay channel lets you search and track items by name and price range, then returns photos and auction data in your Sherlock window. The Yellow Pages channel displays maps and directions, and the AppleCare channel presents entire Apple Knowledge Base articles, all within Sherlock. Our only complaint is that the general Internet channel includes only five search engines -- and the pre-eminent Google is still not among them. Worse, both the five search engines and the Yellow Pages are fixed, so you can't switch to your favourite map site, for example.

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Simple productivity changes aside, Jaguar adds some seriously impressive networking tools. Any of these improvements would be a major breakthrough for the Mac OS; together, they more than justify Jaguar's price tag for anyone who runs a Mac on a network. Rendezvous, a dynamic discovery and self-configuration technology based on the ZeroConf standards, makes connecting to IP devices as easy as it was with the old AppleTalk. Plug in two Jaguar Macs to an Ethernet cable, for instance, and the systems configure their own TCP/IP addresses and locate each other in seconds. Jaguar also immediately recognises any available wireless 802.11b network, presents it by name and lets you connect with a simple click (and a password, of course).

But Jaguar's new Windows networking features are the icing on the cake. Adding a Mac to a Windows network is as easy as breathing. You no longer need to type in a server IP address or URL (as with 10.1). Windows servers now show up by name in the Connect To Server command of the Go menu. Simply double-click a name to mount the server on your Jaguar desktop and start browsing it.

On top of that, Windows users can now log on to Mac OS X and access Mac files. To enable the sharing, click System Preferences > Sharing, and check the box next to Windows File Sharing. Jaguar generates a URL that you can give out to approved Windows users so that they can access public files using the Windows SMB protocol -- something that was impossible in Mac OS X 10.1. And, thank goodness, Jaguar now includes built-in virtual private networking. In the Internet Connect utility in the Utilities folder under Applications, click File > ‘New VPN connection window’, and Jaguar lets you create a PPTP connection to a Windows VPN server so that you can connect remotely over high-speed access.

If that's not enough, Jaguar includes a new Internet sharing feature that lets you turn your Mac into an Internet gateway, allowing other Macs and PCs on your local network to share a single Internet connection while remaining connected to each other. In the Sharing dialog under System Preferences, choose the Internet tab and check the box next to ‘Share the connection with other computers on built-in Ethernet’. We found this process to be simple compared to similar third-party software, such as IPNetRouter from Sustainable Softworks.

Apple has also loaded Jaguar with a slew of new applications, but we found some to be less than essential. The new instant-messaging program, iChat, is a bit disappointing. iChat piggybacks on the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) network, so you can either use your old AIM screen name or your .Mac account name -- but not both simultaneously. iChat is nowhere near as flexible as AIM, either, with fewer security options and preferences and more bugs. In our tests, the program twice refused to quit entirely, and we had to choose Force Quit from the Apple menu. Nor does iChat let you communicate with other instant messengers, such as MSN or ICQ. iChat offers some benefits if you're in an all-Apple environment, however: It automatically finds other Jaguar users on your Rendezvous network and lets you launch chats from within Apple's email app, Mail. Also, any buddies you enter into iChat (and those who enter you) will automatically appear in Jaguar's new system-wide Address Book utility.

Speaking of which, the Address Book is Jaguar's nicest new application. It also makes contact information available to Mail, Palm devices, Bluetooth-enabled cellphones and iCal (the free calendar that Apple promises for September). We were able to easily import hundreds of email addresses from Claris Emailer into Address Book and access that information from Mail with no additional setup. Despite its system-wide benefits, however, Address Book looks like a draft version, with few options for displaying or sorting information.

Mail 1.2 doesn't make much of a splash, either. This Outlook Express-like program still isn't as powerful as Entourage, the emailer included in Microsoft’s Office X suite. Nonetheless, it offers a few useful improvements. Most notably, Mail's new easy-to-use junk-mail filtering system analyses word meanings, rather than simply looking for word matches, then flags suspicious messages. Mail lets you train the filter to eventually look for spam and other unwanted email automatically. We found it to be accurate, catching most junk mail.

In terms of application speed, our benchmark tests found that Jaguar averages out about the same as OS X 10.1.5. In everyday use, however, we found that the revamped Quartz graphics engine, new multi-threaded Finder and updated FreeBSD 4.4 Unix core all add up to a more responsive Mac OS X -- especially when opening windows with hundreds of files and switching between menus. Scrolling is still a bit choppy compared to OS 9, but it has improved over 10.1.5.

We also discovered that Jaguar boots faster and that the Classic environment, which runs applications that aren't OS X compatible, launches more quickly. In our tests on a Power Mac G4/350 AGP, Jaguar started up a whopping 20 percent faster than in 10.1.5, and Jaguar's Classic environment launched in less than half the time of Classic in 10.1.5 (54 seconds rather than 150 seconds).

Because previous versions of Mac OS X drained a notebook battery in half the time OS 9 would, we're also happy to see that Jaguar's battery-power management is now up to par with that of Mac OS 9, preserving battery life for the same length of time.

At this point, price is the only thing holding Jaguar back. It's the OS that Apple should have released in the first place, and it might be the best Mac OS ever. The price is a tough blow if you recently purchased version 10.1, but we still urge you to consider upgrading. The new networking features make Jaguar a must-have upgrade for anyone using OS 9 or OS X 10.1 in a corporate setting, and even those of you with small offices or home networks can reap the benefits.

Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Operating System Apple MacOS X 10.2
System Requirements
Min RAM Size 128 MB
Min Hard Drive Space 3 GB
Additional Requirements CD-ROM, graphics card
Software
License Type box pack
Version 10.2
License Category shrinkwrap
Operating System
Package Type retail
Header
Brand Apple
Product Line Mac OS
Model X Jaguar
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility Mac
OS Provided
OS Family MacOS
Type Apple MacOS X 10.2
Media CD-ROM
Miscellaneous
Package Type retail

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