What's New In Mac OS X 10.1? (Updated)

by , 1:40 PM EDT, October 1st, 2001

We are working on more comprehensive look at Mac OS X 10.1, but we wanted to offer a quick look at some of the changes in the meanwhile. This is by no means an exhaustive look at the new features and other changes, but it should give you a good idea of what to expect. Without further ado:

Speed: The first thing everyone has noticed is that the upgrade is fast. In terms of sheer responsiveness with windows, the Finder, scrolling, resizing, switching tasks, and the like, Mac OS X 10.1 is substantially faster than Mac OS X 10.0.4. It is not quite as fast in terms of responsiveness as Mac OS 9.x, and this is much more noticeable on G3s of 500 MHz and below. As has been well documented everywhere, application launching times have been cut by as much as a factor of three. iDisk speed is greatly enhanced as is File Sharing from the Finder. Everything just plain feels smoother, and this seems to be a universal reaction.

Logging In: One can still log in automatically if one wants. For those in a multi-user environment, you can also still choose to have the login come up every time your Mac starts. What's different with this is that all of the users that are set up on the machine are listed for you to choose from, and each user can have his or her own image for an icon. This is great for families, especially families with children and computer novices, but its a major security issue for those trying to keep their system "secure." Knowing the login is half the battle, after all. You can turn this feature off and have a text field for the login name, but the system will fill in that text field with a user name anyway. There may be a way around this, but we haven't found it yet. In any event, computer "security" is little more than an urban myth -- if someone can gain physical access to your computer, security has already been compromised.

The Dock: The Dock is now movable in the Dock Control Panel to either the left or right side, as well as the bottom of the screen as it has been. Programs that want your attention will now leap out of the dock like a Mexican Jumping Bean. It's a great concept, but it is very resource intensive on slower G3s and can bring such a system to its knees. There is no setting that we have yet found for turning this option off. While Most G4s won't notice the resource hit, other users may in fact want to turn it off, and we hope that Apple or a third party developer will make that possible (we're looking at you, Atomm!). Lastly, several things have been moved out of the Dock to the menubar atop the screen, including the control-strip like functions of display resolution, AirPort controls, volume, and battery power (for portables).

Menubar: Speaking of that menubar, other controls can also be moved to the menubar. For instance, Apple has released an AppleScript control called Script Menu (you can see a picture of it in use at Apple's Web site) that gives you instant access to a variety of AppleScripts. Better yet, you install Script Menu in your Menubar by *Dragging* it into the Menubar! It's that easy, and it's that cool.

AppleScript: Apple is billing AppleScript as being "reborn" in Mac OS X 10.1, and they aren't joshin'. There is an incredible tool coming later this fall called AppleScript Studio that will allow you to build your own applications without having any idea of what you are doing. What could be better? You can even add AppleScripts to your Finder window toolbars.

Classic: We have found Classic to so far be more stable within Mac OS X, but we have also found it to be MUCH slower. Apps launch a tad slower in Classic, and working with Classic apps feels a bit slower. That speed increase in Aqua had to come from somewhere, and it seems that not all of them came from optimization, but this is our guess and not something "official." All in all, we'll trade the speed for the stability and be happy. This will be especially true once the remaining missing OS X apps appear.

System Preferences: The System Preferences' Control Panels are now grouped together according to category. Those categories are Personal, Hardware, Internet & Network, System, and "Other." Other is a brand new and nifty thing for Mac OS X, third party control panels! TinkerTool was the first utility to provide this functionality, and we expect to see additional software take advantage of it in the near future. The downside to this is that the System Preferences window is now much larger to accommodate the wasted space of the categories, but new users will probably find it easier to deal with. There are a few other minor changes in individual Control Panels.

CD/DVD: The three biggest blemishes on Mac OS X have now been removed: you can burn CDs, including burning them straight from the Finder; you can play DVD movies; and you can burn DVDs, including the added bonus of burning those from the Finder as well. That last bit assumes you have a DVD-R drive of course. We have not tested these extensively as yet.

Hard Drive Icons: You can now change your hard drive icons! Thanks for fixing this, Apple!

Portables: One of the biggest unheralded features in Mac OS X 10.1 is the ability to move from dual to single display setups without restarting your Mac portable. If you close your lid and connect a second display, when you reopen the lid you will have a dual monitor set up. You can tweak that setup in the Displays Control Panel. The reverse is true as well: if you are hooked up to two monitors, simply close your lid, disconnect the external monitor, and when you reopen the lid you will be properly functioning as a normal portable with the built-in display. This is a life-saver for those who move their portables a lot.

Finder: Icons tend to stay where you put them, even after a restart. In Mac OS X 10.0.x, icons would often rearrange themselves on the desktop, and this was quite annoying. The Finder and other carbonized apps now support the scroll wheel for those mice so endowed. Long file names also appear on two lines so that they don't get chopped up and made unreadable.

Contextual Menus: Contextual menus have been vastly improved. There are more options available, including the ability to copy and duplicate files à la Windows. This should make some Windows forward migrators a tad more comfortable, and it is a handy feature. Strangely, there are no contextual menu options available for a file in list view. Ctrl-clicking (or right clicking for those with 2 or more buttons) on a file in list view is the same as ctrl-clicking on the window itself.

That's it for our Quick Look at Mac OS X 10.1. There are no doubt other things that we have not included, so feel free to drop a note in the comments letting us know what you have found. We also have a forum discussion on Mac OS X 10.1 in the TMO forums.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Mac OS X 10.1 is officially a Good Thing in our book. More importantly, it's ready for prime time, as Steve Jobs has said. This release fixes most of the problems that kept a lot of people away from the update, and it is everything that we had hoped to see in March. While we found Mac OS X 10.0.x to be a very good OS, Mac OS X 10.1 is all that and more. It's fast, stable, easy to work with, and full featured.