Apple’s latest operating system has been out for a few weeks now so after going through the install and getting stuck in is this latest OS update all that it’s hyped up to be?

We’ve known for a while now about Apple’s latest update to their OS X. It’s been lingering in the background however and over-shadowed by the release of the iPhone C/5S and new iPads. Now it’s here with us for the, unexpected low price of, um, free, we can see where Apple is going with it. It’s not so much a complete OS overhaul, more or an under the hood upgrade with a few UI improvements. It looks almost the same as Mountain Lion on the surface with no UI updates to speak of. With the exception of the login screen, some core apps like Calendar and the new tags system, it all looks and feels familiar. The larger updates are part of the backend that help with things like better power consumption, more efficient memory allocation to apps and Power Nap to name a few.

My current system is a mid-2011 Macbook Air and while I can’t see a huge difference in performance, there is a slight difference in the snappiness of switching between apps. There’s been a lot of updates to various apps and some of them I use, some I don’t. The apps that have been introduced or updated that I don’t use are Safari 7, iCloud Keychain, Maps and iBooks. That’s not to say I don’t think these apps are bad, I just use alternate apps or web apps that I feel provide better functionality. For example I’ve been using 1Password for the last couple of years and love it’s integration in Chrome. I might come back to these apps in the future and give them another go as I tend to do after a while

The features that I’ve started to use immediately and have been most looking forward to are true multiple displays, Finder tabs and Tags.

OS X Mavericks features

While there’s been no real problem with multiple displays so far with OS X, it hasn’t been the most intuitive feature. If you wanted to run a full screen app on one display, it closed down the other. With Mavericks, you can do whatever you like on one display and it won’t effect the other. There’s now a tool bar at the top of each display which is nice and convenient. Sometimes when I’m designing I like to have a TV show or a movie playing on my second display and although there are workarounds for Quicktime and VLC, I can now shove it in full screen and carry on working.

The new Finder tabs are self explanatory. Just as tabs have been used in browsers for many years now, the same principle applies to Finder windows. Instead of having half a dozen windows open, you can hit Cmd+T (or you can go the long way round and select File > New Tab) and as if by magic a new tab appears. It’s just as easy to transfer files between tabs as it is separate windows too, just drag your files to the tab you want to move them to and after a second it switches to that tab where you can place them wherever you want. I like that Apple haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel with this and it works as simply as you would expect.

Finally Tags. These replace the old label system from previous OS X’s. Using Tags feels like a more organised way of getting your files in order. You get a bunch of pre-named tags to get you going but you can rename these and add more if you like. I’ve got 4/5 of them setup at the moment with this like “Design Assets”, “Blog Posts”, “Photos” etc. You can also set multiple tags if a file or folder falls under more than one category. If you keep up with the system and have some self discipline it can work a treat in tracking down all the files you need.

All-in-all it’s a welcome update that brings some nice features. I can see future OS X updates coming in this fashion with mostly under the hood enhancements and the front-end looking quite similar. Until they start integrating iOS a bit more which you can see has already happened over the last few iterations, I can see OS X looking this way for a few years yet. To me it’s a no brainer due to it being free and ease of upgrade through the App Store. I’d be interested in your thoughts on Mavericks, leave a comment.