The question crops up over and over again. Why should one upgrade to this new OS? In the case of Mavericks, there are plenty of good reasons to make the jump even if it weren't free. Here are just five must have features. And you can make that jump directly from as far back as Snow Leopard (10.6.8).
Here's my personal list of favorite, must have Mavericks features, those that I think will be used often and stand the test of time.
1. Power Saving. I remember the days of PowerPC-based PowerBooks when I got a little over two hours of battery life. Nowadays, we're looking at all day operation, up to 12 hours with a 13-inch MacBook Air, thanks to Apple's continuous developmental work in low power operation.
The specific power saving techniques used in Mavericks are discussed in the TMO full review, and this kind of work is what Apple means when it says that OS X is "the world's most advanced operating system." For now, I'll just mention a tweet I just saw. "Whatever OS X Mavericks does to improve battery life WORKS! It’s like I got a new battery."
2. Security fixes. Considering how wide ranging we are when we browse and how many people have learned how to make a living by hacking into our computer, a new version of OS X should always be greeted with eagerness.
Without going into too much technical detail, I'll just say that Mavericks has important fixes related to: a sandbox bypass, a man in the middle attack related to X.509 certificates. persisting cookies when thought deleted, a buffer issue that could allow a maliciously crafted PDF file to cause arbitrary code execution, and the possibility of the kernel allowing an unprivileged processes to cause arbitrary code execution.
That's just a (scary) sample; there are a lot more. Several dozen. How many of these items will be added to security updates for older versions of OS X hasn't been disclosed.
3. Multiple Display Support. With the popularity of MacBooks of all kinds, many users attach a second, larger display when working at home or in the office. Apple has made amends for its previous blunders, starting with Lion, in the handling of multiple displays, and Mavericks is even better than Snow Leopard in that regard. Any display can have the Menu Bar, any display can have the Dock and any display its own app in full screen mode.
Our days of suffering are over.
4. Finder Tabs. We've struggled with the Finder our whole lives. The Finder goes all the way back to the original Mac in 1984. And in all those years, especially since the advent of tabs in our Web browsers, we never had the convenience of tabs in the OS X Finder. Until now. And it's great.
Plus, tabs aren't just for viewing. You can copy or move items from one tab to another. Or you can create a new Finder window just by dragging a tab to the desktop. It's a delicious feeling, and these days, it's nice to have that feeling about our OS.
5. Finder Tags. Think of this a metadata about a file. You can assign a file a named tag and associate all the items with that tag in a single window -- without ever moving the documents.
What's interesting about this feature is that while iOS goes about the business of trying to obscure the files in its file system, Mavericks celebrates files and their associated meta data. With improvements to the Finder, like tabs, and Finder Tags, it's clear that Apple continues to recognize how content creators think and work on a Mac. That's nice to see.
Of course, these are just five new features in Mavericks that make it an essential upgrade. Apple claims over 200 new features, including Map integration with the calendar app, the ability to send Map directions to your iPhone, "Quick Reply," which is responses inside notifications, the iBooks app, AirPlay Display which treats your HDTV attached to an Apple TV as an additional display, and many new Accessibility options.
Finally, it goes without saying that if you're in a mission critical environment with, for example, Adobe software, it'll be necessary to check on the compatibility. But for the Rest Of Us, Mavericks brings back the fun. It's a must have upgrade.