Mac OS X public beta

Mac OS X, now only months away from its final release, proudly wears its Unix on its sleeve. This means greater security, with administrator passwords, and no single-user mode. It means stability, with pre-emptive multi-tasking and protected memory. It means better, faster networking, and native TCP/IP. It means that, for the first time, a command line is available (hurrah!).

However, it does not mean that OS X is no longer easy to use. Unix geeks now have access to the full gamut of industrial-strength utilities and services they expect, while, for the rest of us, there's still a highly intuitive interface. If you don't want to, you need never see command line.

The interface is not at all like the traditional Mac OS. There is, for instance, no Apple menu. That brilliantly useful tool proved just a tad too easy to customise, and ultimately led to poor performance and instability on many Macs.

Instead, Apple provides the Dock, a rectangular bar at the bottom of the screen. Any currently running applications appear in the Dock, as well as any Favourite applications you may wish to place there. It's also where you'll find active documents and (strangely) the Trash can.

As you might expect, the Dock can become unwieldy pretty quickly, so it is easy to make it smaller, or even hide it until needed. As the mouse rolls over an item in the Dock, the item magnifies instantly. (A very aesthetically pleasing effect, which had me idly rolling the mouse back and forth just to see things zoom out. I guess the novelty will eventually wear off.)The Dock is more functional than the Application menu it replaces, and it's easier to customise than the Start menu in Windows 9x. I don't much care for having the Trash can located on the Dock, though. It appears to be impossible to move an item (such as a document) from the Dock directly to the Trash, which means you have to go digging about using the Finder just to delete things.

Speaking of the Finder, this has also been transformed. As well as the traditional Icon and List views, there is also a Column view, enabling you to see several directory layers at once. This is a holdover from NeXTStep, the OS Apple acquired to build OS X around, and I have to say I like it. The Finder also has a set of Sherlock-style buttons at the top, and a browser-style "back" button, to aid in navigation around the computer. Disk drives are not, by default, visible on the desktop, and you have to click on the "Computer" button in the Finder window to see them.

Older applications, not designed to run under OS X, run in the "Classic" environment. This is a full implementation of Mac OS 9 (you need to have Mac OS 9 installed on your machine if you want to run the Classic environment) running within OS X. Theoretically, starting up an older application launches "Classic", and you work just as if you were running Mac OS 9. In practice, this is rather unstable, and some applications that run well under OS 9 itself seem to be downright clumsy under "Classic". Until this improves, you would be advised to install OS X on a separate drive or partition, and keep your OS 9 system untouched, just to be on the safe side.

This isn't a major complaint, of course. This is, after all, beta software, and a bit of instability is to be expected. Proper Mac OS X applications (with the notable exception of AppleWorks 6, which I couldn't get to run for more than a few seconds) run pretty solidly, and in the event of a crash, the rest of the system hums along as if almost nothing happened. Several Mac OS X native apps are included in the installation, including QuickTime and Microsoft Internet Explorer. More should be available by the time the final release ships.

Mac OS X public beta

Price: $55

Supplier: Apple Computer

Phone: 13 3622


Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?