Hands on with OS X 10.9 Mavericks

apple maps

Apple is saying goodbye to the big cats with OS X 10.9 Mavericks. First revealed at WWDC 2013, OS X 10.9 Mavericks brings changes in the form of Finder, Safari, Maps, Calendar, iBooks and more. Mavericks includes increased security in the form of iCloud, Keychain and boosts energy-saving features. OS X 10.9 Mavericks supersedes OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and although it doesn’t introduce any revolutionary changes to OS X, includes some nice features, especially for fans of iOS. Here are some of the highlights:

Finder Tabs

Finder now has tabs to help reduce clutter as you browse through categories. Previously, you’d have to open up multiple windows for the same effect. You can set up tabs for folders such as Applications, Desktop, Movies, and Pictures. Similar to web browser tabs, Finder tabs will change category when you select any of the options on the sidebar. This can be a little confusing at first, but quickly becomes intuitive.

Finder Tabs

You can also use tabs to easily move files between locations – simply drag and drop a file between tabs. The Finder window can also be set to full screen, making it even easier to move files. We thought that one of the most convenient features is the ability to turn several Finder windows into tabs via the window menu.

Tags

A new feature you’ll spot in Finder are tags, which can help organize files. The tag button at the top of the window will allow you to create new tags and rename the ones you already have. All tags will display on the left sidebar, allowing fast access to tagged files. Lastly, you can search for tags in the Finder search field.

tags while saving

The best part is that tags go beyond just the Finder. When you save a document, even simple ones such as text documents or pictures, you can assign tags right in the save confirmation window. You can even quickly add tags to files within iCloud, allowing a fast universal search for both local and cloud stored files. Using tags in conjunction with Finder is very easy to understand – it’s fluid and makes it very simple to track documents.

Safari

Safari has several new technical upgrades, among them Fast Start and Nitro Tiered JIT. Apple claims these make the web browser faster and more responsive, and improves power saving. We didn’t notice drastic changes during our testing, which could mean the changes are subtle, working quietly in the background, or it could mean they’re just not that great!

Safari changes

There are also many cool new frontend features that will come in handy. First, when you open Safari or a blank new tab you will see Top Sites, which includes sites you frequent, and favorites. While this isn’t new on its own, it’s now much faster to organize and delete any of the sites that show here. The sidebar has been upgraded to list bookmarks, reading list, and shared links.

The shared links is impressive, providing links posted by people you follow on social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter. It even includes their corresponding message/tweet, giving you context for what site these people want you to see. While Safari’s other features are mostly bonuses, shared links has the potential to easily connect people’s interests without the need of external apps or sites, making it a truly noteworthy feature.

iCloud Keychain

Improvements to Safari might mean you’ll use the internet more often, which in turn might make it hard to remember all of your passwords. Thankfully, Mavericks includes iCloud Keychain to help remedy this issue. Similar to other password security apps such as PasswordBox, iCoud Keychain stores your usernames and passwords and encrypts them. You can even use iCloud Keychain on other compatible devices, like iPhones running iOS 7.

keychain suggestion

Besides storing passwords, iCloud Keychain can suggest new passwords when you create online accounts and store credit card information. With 256-bit encryption, it sounds like it will be a very secure feature, although it’s always possible that dedicated hackers will attempt to breach security. iCloud already requires an Apple ID and enabling two-step verification might be a good way to further strengthen iCloud Keychain. For now, though, the sheer convenience of having a first party service that stores and suggests passwords is very useful.

Read iBooks on your Mac

Another iOS feature that’s arrived on Mac is iBooks. Now you can read anything that you’ve downloaded with iBooks on your iPhone or iPad on your Mac. Again, reading books on a Mac isn’t exactly the most popular pursuit for many users but for students and academics, it can be a useful took when it comes to writing essays and quoting textbooks. And with iCloud, iBooks always remembers which page you were on no matter which device you are using.

Notifications

Mavericks has improved notifications, allowing you to see updates outside of the app you’re using, or even while your computer is locked. You can use notifications to get updates on email, FaceTime, and websites you frequent. By default, the notifications appear in the top right hand corner and feature a simple headline, summary/message, and an icon to identify the source. You can also check a summary of all recent notifications, and use this space to quickly send messages or respond to linked services. During our testing we were never bombarded with too many notifications, but it will be interesting to see how notifications evolve once in the hands of the public.
notifications

Maps

Originally on iOS, Apple Maps leaps to Mavericks and retains much of the same functions. You can view maps in standard, satellite, and a hybrid view. The latter two are more graphically intensive, which for us made the maps load slowly. There are of course standard tilt and zoom controls, and also the ability to bookmark locations and get real-time traffic updates.

apple maps

While it’s nice to have a map app packed right in the OS, Apple Maps still pales in comparison to the great updates within Google Maps. The latter also still has clearer and easier to find directions, especially when you’re on the go, and provides accurate routes quickly. What is nice is that the Apple Maps on Mavericks can quickly sync to iOS 7 maps, which in turn can provide voice navigation. Still, at the moment that isn’t really enough to compete with Google.

Calendar

calendar

The calendar app has a new redesign that adds new views and features. First you can continuously scroll between dates, allowing you to view partway through one month and into the start of the next. Calendar syncs to other apps, showing events provided by services such as Facebook, and adds travel times to events. When hovering over an event, an improved inspector popup will show details including driving directions and weather reports. This view can even suggest related and nearby locations simply by typing an address. These improvements are very nice if your meetings require a lot of travel to new and distant locations, but will be less useful for nearby appointments.

Just a taste

These are some of the highlights in OS X 10.9 Mavericks. There are also a few more complex and hardware-focused features in the OS, such as network servers, multiple screen display improvements, and battery conservation, but these aren’t that interesting for most standard users. Let us know what you think of the latest incarnation of OS X.

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