Put a Panther in Your Mac

"Prepare to pounce," counsels PC Magazine; Mac OS X 10.3's enhancements offer compelling reasons to upgrade.

Mac users, prepare to pounce. Panther, the code name for Apples latest operating system iteration, OS X 10.3, delivers enough useful and eye-catching improvements—like Exposé, fast user switching, and iChat AV—to warrant an upgrade.

Complete the easy, if somewhat lengthy, installation procedure (which took half an hour on a new dual-G5 but nearly an hour on a slower 933-MHz G4) and youll be ready to start exploring the 150 improvements that Apple has packed in.

The signature improvement for 10.3 is Exposé, an ideal solution for those who find it a hassle to switch between open applications. Depending on how you configure it in System Preferences, you can either press a key or move your cursor to one corner of the screen to activate Exposé. Once you do, your open windows will resize and fly across the screen, arranged so that you can see them all at once. Click on one to choose it, and it will take the foreground. Its a true time-saver, not to mention fun to watch. Exposé can also show all of the open windows in the current application or quickly hide all the open windows to show the desktop.

Fast user switching is a nifty improvement for Macs with multiple user accounts. Activate it in the System Preferences and your user name will show in the top right of the screen, with the other user accounts listed in a pull-down menu below it. Select a different account, type in the password, and the screen will rotate like a cube to show the next accounts desktop. Any open applications can keep running unaffected in the background.

iChat AV, Apples new videoconferencing and instant-messaging tool, is now out of beta and a part of the OS. This is good, as its now more stable, but bad in that its no longer free to those who dont upgrade to the new OS (it costs $29.95 if purchased on its own). To see how it compares with other IM tools, see our upcoming roundup "Videoconferencing: Look Again."

Speed is also a big reason to upgrade to 10.3. If youve got a G5 machine, with its a 64-bit processor, youll certainly feel the improvement, as the entire OS has been optimized for the new chip. But even on the two older Macs we tested (a 933-MHz G4 and a 733-MHz G4), common tasks—opening applications, resizing windows, saving files and so on—always felt noticeably faster and more responsive than under OS 10.2.


Read the rest of this review on PCMag.com.