Contrary to what Mac cynics might say, the upgrades in Mac OS X Version 10.4 (also known as Tiger), Apple's latest operating system, are not just cosmetic. New features such as Tiger's search tool are powerful enough to change the way Mac users work, and intriguing enough to possibly convert a few Windows users.
The $US129 upgrade should work on any G3, G4, or G5 FireWire-era Mac. I installed a shipping version of the OS in about an hour each on an aging 867MHz PowerBook and a newer 1.67GHz PowerBook, with no problem.
Tiger's breakthrough feature is Spotlight, a desktop search tool that rummages through files, folders, email, Apple applications, and major third-party programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel (but not Entourage email). It then displays results neatly by category. Spotlight can search by the usual criteria (file name, keywords) but also by a dizzying variety of deeper "metadata" such as author, audio bit-rate, and photo aperture. You can even save Spotlight searches as Smart Folders that continually update and add related files.
Tiger includes plenty of other useful additions. Dashboard Widgets are attractive mini-applications that aggregate information like stock prices and flight times. You also get Safari support for Really Simple Syndication (RSS) for reading blogs and news feeds, as well as parental controls for the Finder, Mail, IChat, and Safari.
Reports of networking bugs have surfaced, so if you use a cross-platform network or VPN, check for compatibility. You don't need this upgrade. But Spotlight is cool and useful enough to make Tiger well worth the purchase price.
TigerStripes: Apple Mac OS X Version 10.4
Robust desktop-search tool makes Tiger a worthy upgrade.
The product is distributed by KH Distribution, Express Online and ITW.
RRP: $199. A family pack (single-residence, five-user license) is available for $299.