Now in its fifth major release (version 10.5), Mac OS X has been called many things, from revolutionary to evolutionary to being so innovative that it threatened the very existence of the Mac as we had come to know and love it. And all of those descriptions were appropriate. The first release of Mac OS X was a giant leap forward for the Mac platform. Its innovations in basic architecture, the way it works, and even its user interface made Mac OS X the mostsignificant event for Mac users since the first Mac was introduced back in the Jurassic period, circa 1984. Mac OS X was more stable, more powerful, and even more beautiful than any previous version. However, the first version of Mac OS X had some rough spots, not surprising at all because it was the first release of a brand-new OS (despite the version number implying it was the successor to Mac OS 9).
About a year later, version 10.2 was released. This release smoothed many of the rough edges left over from version 10.1 and added many new features. Due to some fundamental improvements in the core operating system, version 10.2 caused some ripples in the Mac universe because many applications had to be updated to run under that version. Version 10.3 began to show the maturity of Mac OS X’s more than two years of life. Version 10.3 continued the process of refining the OS along with adding some excellent new features, such as a totally redesigned Finder, Expose, improved applications, and so on. It also continued to improve the stability and performance of the OS. Much of the foundation work for the OS was accomplished by the previous two releases; version 10.3 was less disruptive than the previous releases while continuing to make major improvements in functionality, reliability, and performance.
Version 10.4 was less of a change than previous releases of Mac OS X were. This was good news because it meant that the core OS functionality has stabilized, and transitions to each subsequent version will have lots of benefits with less pain. While it was less disruptive than previous releases, new features abounded, such as the Dashboard and widgets, which provide instant access to accessory applications; the Spotlight, which enables you to quickly search your Mac for information of all kinds at the same time, and so on.
Now, version 10.5 continues to refine the OS while adding totally new features. For example, the new Time Machine application enables you to perform one of the most critical tasks (seldom done by most Mac users) that of backing up your data. Other areas have continued to improve such as new Finder functionality for the desktop and the cool web widget creation tool that enables you to capture parts of web pages as widgets on your Dashboard.
Of course, if you are new to the Mac or have never used Mac OS X before, all the previous versions don’t matter. You get to enjoy the results of Mac OS X’s evolution without having been through the growth process. Mac OS X is a very powerful and feature-rich OS. Although many of the features of the OS are intuitive, some might not be obvious to you. And because of the amazing number of powerful applications that are part of the standard Mac OS X installation, such as Safari, iTunes, and many others, using Mac OS X effectively is much more than just manipulating the Finder and using the Dock.