At Apple Computer Inc.s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., last month, CEO Steve Jobs used the first-day keynote event to offer a public "sneak peek" at the next major release of Mac OS X, code-named Jaguar.
The new version, which sources said will probably be released at Macworld Expo/New York in July, will encompass a wide range of enhancements and improvements.
Since then, sources have provided eWEEK with an advance look at additional features and changes in Jaguar, based on pre-release builds of the new OS.
For starters, Jaguars Finder will boast a plethora of interface tweaks. Some will be noticeable right off the bat, for example, the cursor will have a 3D shadow, but more important will be updates such as spring-loaded folders and new customizability options for window toolbars.
In addition, Jaguar will show off an interesting piece of Unix functionality: When a minimized window in OS Xs dock is dragged onto the rest of the screen, it will be left in that spot as a miniaturized window icon, scaling back to full size when clicked.
With Jaguar, Apple will introduce a new instant messaging app that has the potential to benefit consumers and business users alike.
iChat is an AIM-compatible IM client that will stand from other clients for a key reason: For the first time ever, AOL has agreed to integrate another user database, Apples Mac.com iTools, into its own AIM system. Effectively, "firstname.lastname@example.org" will be just another AIM screen name.
Like any modern instant messaging client, iChat will include common features such as emoticons, chat, buddy info, buddy actions, and file transfer, on par with AOLs own Instant Messenger program.
Like most of Apples software, however, iChat will feature a distinctive interface, using "dialog bubbles" for communication. These dialog bubbles, which can best be described as speech balloons in combination with buddy photos, will be Apples attempt to turn instant messages into a more natural conversation. Less-adventurous users will have the option of turning off the speech bubbles, allowing users to opt for a more conventional IM format.
Behind the iChat eye candy will be some unique and useful capabilities. With "My Network," users will be able to communicate with other iChat clients on a private Ethernet or AirPort network. This innovation has great potential in enterprise or corporate settings, allowing users to tap private and public IM networks within a single app. No server, accounts or administration will be necessary for the My Network functions of iChat, and all messages will be peer-to-peer.
Jaguar will also include the final release of a major update to Apples media technology, QuickTime. Version 6.0, of which Apple released a public preview on Tuesday, will include support for MPEG-4 video, AAC audio, Instant-On, skip protection, an updated user interface, and additional codecs and APIs.
With Version 1.2 of Apples Mail application, users will gain access to a wealth of improvements that approach the capabilities of professional e-mail programs such as Microsoft Entourage X.
One of the largest improvements is a junk-mail filter, which, like similar features in competing e-mail clients, will automatically flag and mark unsolicited spam e-mail. Another important update, particularly to professionals, will be to Mails filtering rules, which will have unlimited criteria and advanced options.
Other updates will include interface tweaks, improved search functionality, added SMTP authentication protocols, advanced mailbox settings, and increased control over viewing and composing e-mail.
Like Mail, the new version of Address Book will finally make it a viable option for many Mac professionals. The utility will bear little similarity to its predecessor, with an entirely new interface and a significant number of new options and attributes for storing contact information. Other features will include support for directory services, and import/export of contacts as vCards.
Also in Jaguar, Apple will have moved the file-search capabilities of its Sherlock search app into a streamlined "Find File" app integrated into the Finder. The third version of Sherlock will evolve into more of an Internet-information tool that expands on the softwares existing search functions to provide useful information.
Search "channels" in Sherlock 3 will include an internet search, movie times, images, Yellow Pages, news, stocks, flights, package tracking, text translation, a dictionary, and a search of the AppleCare KnowledgeBase for information on compatibility and fixes of Apple products.
Jaguar will include an Apple technology called Ink that adds support for handwriting recognition to Mac OS X. Using the new InkPad application, users will be able to enter text with a stylus and input tablet. Also, Inks preferences will allow users to set a variety of "gestures" that ease text input, such as "undo," "paste" and "horizontal space."
Many of the utilities and smaller applications will be updated in Jaguar, but some are relatively significant. Disk Copy 10.2 will have a variety of new features, including tighter integration with Disc Burner. Preview, OS Xs image/PDF-viewing app, will boast a revamped interface. Jaguar will also include Audio MIDI Setup, which will act as a controller for external audio and MIDI devices.
But thats not all. Jaguar will also include Rendezvous, Apples new push for automatic device discovery over IP protocols; Quartz Extreme, which will accelerate graphics rendering on supported hardware; new Unix tools such as the GCC3 compiler and updates to FreeBSD; increased SMB compatibility; and VPN support.
Nick dePlume is Editor in Chief of Think Secret.