Apple have done away with their animal named operating system for Mac OS X version 10.9, opting instead for the sleek sounding ‘Mavericks’, which by definition means unorthodox. With this in mind the name is slightly misleading, as the OS sticks to the blueprint set out by Apple in their OS X vision, it is very much a slight improvement upon previous iterations rather than a huge reimagining, which means it falls in line with most OS X updates.
This is not to say that the OS is a bad one, or even that upgrading would be pointless, because the slight tweaks and the new features that have been introduced to come together to make Mavericks one of the most intuitive and pleasing systems Apple have released.
In this review I’ll run through the new features that I have taken note of by using Mavericks in a normal day-to-day setting over the last few days, by no means is this a comprehensive guide to new features, rather it is an evaluation of the more prominent features that will affect most people during day-to-day computing.
Adding tags to organise your workload
The first new feature that users will notice is the inclusion of tags in Finder folders, this will be instantly noticeable when you open Finder due to the coloured dots in the Finder sidebar, under the heading of “Tags”.
This is a pretty self-explanatory feature, it enables you to categorise files or folders by colour coordinating them using the pre-determined tags laid out by Apple, you also have the ability to create your own tags and add files and folders to your own made category.
As someone who has a terrible habit of dumping files anywhere without thought this is a great little addition to the OS, it doesn’t take long to sort through a clogged up folder and categorise different files into a variety of subjects.
It’s simple and intuitive to set up new tags and the ability to add multiple files at the same time also saves time and streamlines what could be a pretty arduous task.
Adding tags to Finder items is hardly groundbreaking, without doubt it’s a useful feature, as you can see from the screenshots I could have benefitted greatly from it when I was studying at university, and it will certainly help most users clean up their Finder.
OS X Mavericks allows you to open a number of tabs in the Finder window, which is a nifty little feature that’ll let you jump around your Mac with relative ease.
Again this is a nice touch that increases the feeling that OS X is becoming a more rounded and complete operating system, it’s handy and increases the user friendly nature of Macs, it’s a nice way to put an end of having ten different Finder windows open as you can open all the areas you need under one window and navigate amongst the lot.
Transferring files between tabs is nice as well, it’s a simple case of dragging the chosen file up to the desired tab, it is the simplicity of this action that could mean tabs will never see you having more than one Finder window open ever again.
An area that has been improved upon from the last iteration of OS X is the notification center, which was borrowed from iOS and placed onto desktops in Mountain Lion, but it was a slightly hasty port and left out some key bits of functionality.
This has now been remedied with OS X Mavericks, for example you can now directly respond to certain notifications directly from the notification bar that appears on the right of your screen, this seems like a feature that should have been available from the introduction of the notification center in Mountain Lion, but it is nice it has been added now.
The increased functionality of the notification center makes the whole feature more workable and adds to the overall feeling that Mavericks is a slick and fluid operating system, responding to iMessages and emails straight in the notification center is a testament to this.
Another aspect about notifications that has been tweaked is the ability to turn on ‘Do Not Disturb’ when mirroring to TVs or projectors, meaning that if you are watching a movie through your Mac on a larger TV you won’t be constantly interrupted by notifications.
While on the topic of multi-window display it may be worth noting the tweaks to how Macs respond to a second monitor in OS X Mavericks, which has received some useful improvements.
With Mountain Lion Apple made one of the best new features one of its biggest drawbacks, as it introduced the ability to make most apps and Finder windows fullscreen. This was a great concept and fullscreen browsing looks great, however once you added another monitor to the mix this feature became slightly counter-intuitive.
If you chose to enable fullscreen mode on an app in one display the other would go dark, effectively rendering it useless. This has been fixed in Mavericks and now you can open, let’s say, Safari in fullscreen on one monitor and still work on a document on another monitor.
This useful fix is not the end of the updates to multi-window support, as users can now have menu bars and docks on more than one display. There were third-party apps that used to provide this feature but they were never ideal and often felt like square pegs for round holes, so it is nice that Apple have added this functionality themselve in Mavericks, it certainly increases the usefulness of having more than one monitor set up.
Now I’ll be open here and say that I haven’t used Safari for a while, I turned to Google Chrome a little while back due to some bugs I was facing with Safari at the time, however one of the big updates with Mavericks was a reworked Safari.
With this in mind I fired Safari up for the first time in a long time and tested it out for a few days of normal browsing, and while there are some nice new features it still doesn’t seem as fast and responsive as Chrome and it did little to swing me from Google’s browser.
The new Safari boasts a reworked home screen, which features one of the most appealing aspects of the latest version of the browser.
In the left hand bar next to the top sites page there is now a ‘shared links’ tab, this aggregates all the links that were posted by social media contacts, so friends on Facebook or those you are following on Twitter for example, which you can set up in System Preferences when configuring the notification center.
This is a great little feature, especially if you have some time to kill and you feel like dong some web browsing, you can simply peruse through this side bar and find articles and webpages that your friends have posted on various social media websites, giving you an endless list of links to follow.
Despite the nice touches that have been added to Safari and the hugely appealing shared links feature I could not wait to get back to Chrome, for me it is still the better browser.
Maps and iBooks
There is an overriding iOS 7 feel about Mavericks, slight tweaks to fonts and styles give it the more informal feel that accompanies Apple’s new mobile operating system. This iOS feel is extended greatly by the inclusion of Maps and iBooks on OS X Mavericks, both of which now have their own dedicated apps, which show up in your dock after you install Mavericks.
The integration of Maps is rather pleasing, certainly it is a lot more functional now than the disastrous unveiling of the product by Apple in iOS 6.
It may seem a little strange having a native Maps app on Desktop, why use it when you can just open a Browser and use (the still superior) Google Maps, however some of the features of the native Maps app do make it an appealing addition to Mavericks.
You can jump to Maps from other apps like Calendar and quickly look up the destination of an appointment, seeing almost seamlessly how long it will take to travel to your appointment, you can also do this without fear of being led onto an airport runway.
There is also good cross-platform integration with Maps as you can send directions from your desktop Maps to Maps on any of your iOS devices via iCloud, this is handy if you wish to do the research for a trip from the comfort of your desk but need them on the go when you jump in your car.
iBooks is hardly a knockout feature, all is as it should be in this regard really, integration with your Apple ID (obviously), which results in all the books and such that you’ve downloaded around the Apple ecosystem to appear in the desktop app, you can also browse the iBooks store directly from the app.
In reality who really reads books on their computer? Sure laptop users may find this addition useful but to me this seems like a pointless addition to Mavericks, of course it does no harm being included.
Now they’re just some of the main new features that will greet users who choose to make the jump to Mavericks, these are the features that will likely affect you mostly day-to-day, as I say throughout these are nice little additions and tweaks that add up to make Mavericks one of the nicest operating systems Apple have released.
There is one pretty big downside to Mavericks if you are making the jump from Snow Leopard however, and it might be one that could put some users off upgrading. This is the continuation of Gatekeeper, which was introduced in OS X Mountain Lion, and does not allow apps from unidentified developers to be opened.
Now the reasoning behind Gatekeeper is clear, developers that Apple do not recognise may be trying to spread harmful files and Mavericks stops that from happening by not opening any program that is not from a identified developer.
This is all well and good but I have the same opinion now as I did when Gatekeeper was introduced, it’s a rather nanny like approach from Apple, dictating what apps I can and can not open. It remains a nuisance, especially for programs such as Audacity, which I used for a while before Mountain Lion ruined that party, even though I knew the developer and app were safe.
It would have been nice if Mavericks slightly eased the strict control over smaller apps, the ability to add certain programs to a ‘safe list’ or something of the sort would be a welcome update for example, anything really that made the ruling on certain apps less set in stone.
Issues with third-party apps do not stop at Gatekeeper and smaller developers though, as I’ve had problems with big names such as Skype since I’ve upgraded, with the video calling app just flat out failing to open and presenting me with the following message every time I try to open.
I will take part blame this issue, I was hasty with my upgrade and apparently did not take the necessary steps to ensure I had the versions of certain apps that will work alongside Mavericks, but really I don’t think version incompatibility is a problem that the new OS should face, things should work as you left them and users shouldn’t be faced with a headache like this from an OS that is so effortless elsewhere.
So my advice in regards to these downsides is do your research, for example if you’re making the jump from Snow Leopard to Mavericks it may be worth double-checking that crucial program you use everyday will actually open in Mavericks.
Whatever OS you’re making the upgrade from I would also recommend following some of the “things to do before you move to Mavericks” guides that you can find online, it’ll save you the hassle I’m currently facing trying to get all my apps back to working order.
I said at the start of this review that Apple were not rewriting Mac computing with this update and that is very much the case, but as I listed the small changes here and there this article started to get a bit out of hand in the word count department.
This somewhat sums up OS X Mavericks, it was not long-winded paragraphs detailing a massively foreign OS that pushed this article towards the boundary of ‘too long’, rather it was the small details that all added up to make this piece the length it is.
That is where the beauty of Mavericks comes from, it is recognisable enough to enable you to slip straight back into action, unless you have the same nightmare with apps as I did, but it has enough improvements to provide a satisfying taste of change and a large improvement on the day-to-day usability of OS X.
Best of all it’s free! To download Mavericks head on over to the App Store.