OSX Mavericks.
OSX Mavericks.

Apple Watch: Mavericks

I downloaded OS 10.9 'Mavericks' as soon as it appeared in the Mac App store on Wednesday morning, NZ time. This was onto my own MacBook Pro, my partner's 2010 27-inch iMac and onto the new 2013 Haswell iMac I still had as a test unit, with its Fusion Drive. It took me about 30-40 minutes to download in each case.

Immediately after restart, I ran the Mac App store app again and downloaded other updates that appeared, notably iPhoto and iTunes, restated again, ran Disk Utility>Repair Permissions (always a good idea after a system update - it's an Apple app in your Utilities folder) and restarted again. I noticed some cosmetic changes immediately - a menu on each of my two screens, for example, that stays semi-transparent on the screen you aren't using. Yay! I love this and I've wanted it for years - until now, you had to set which screen had your Menu Bar in System Preferences>Displays. Under Arrangement, where you dragged the white menu bar to the screen you wanted as your primary, and that's the only one that could have a menubar.

Also, now when you Full Screen something on one, you can still use the other, so I can watch a movie in iTunes on one screen while I ahem ... work on the other. (I know, bad habit.) But the price is you can no longer stretch apps across two displays.

Also, my Dock had two new items - Maps, which shows great detail, although doesn't go in as close as Google Earth and doesn't have Street View, but it was accurate enough to place my in the right part of my house, which was a bit freaky.

(WiFi needs to be turned on for this to work.) It also has a pretty cool-looking 3D view, plus Traffic and Directions buttons. I'll probably use this a lot, as I like to see where I'm going for a general idea before trusting to the TomTom app on my iPhone while in transit. Directions are shown as blue lines, while traffic buildup is shown as red lines and less problematic but building-up traffic as orange dots.

The other new item is iBooks, which updates any iBooks you have in iTunes (which used to only work on your synced iDevices). I had 71, as I'm a fan of this genre. Indeed, I've even published one, called 'What Did You Do During The War?' about car companies and wartime production during the last century.

I know, riveting, right?

The iPhoto icon in the Dock becomes blue if you have the latest Mavericks version (iPhoto '11- 9.5) Actually, iPhoto has several new features: iCloud photo sharing, Apple Maps have replaced Google Maps for the Places option, printing has improvements, sharing has been bolstered with custom photo book, card and calendar sharing and it takes advantage of optimised Mavericks routines for greater efficiency.

Safari got an update too, with a new sidebar, Shared Links and energy-saving offline routines.

Calendar looks quite different, and I'm not sure I like that look. It looks more like the iOS 7 version, which at least is more unified, but Calendar uses the new Maps app to figure out your walking and driving time to a destination, adding an alert accordingly, which is pretty cool. Maps integrates right in, actually, and some addresses will auto-complete (if they're 'landmarks' anyway).

At Finder levels there are Tags, which boost the little known and little used Label feature of all previous versions of OS X. (I used this a lot - many people I visit to help didn't seem to know of its existence). This has morphed into a rectangular Tags button to the top of Finder windows that lets you instantly label things (you can customise their names in Finder>Preferences>Tags). Supported files (ie, those of Apple apps like Pages and Text Edit) let you instantly tag by clicking on the file title in the header bar, which is pretty handy.

There are little things, too, which will pass many by, like new languages added to Apple's Dictionary app (Dutch, Italian, Simplified Chinese-English, Korean ...). This looks after spelling in Mail, Calendar, Text Edit, Pages, Numbers Keynote and the like.

A new item appears under the battery percentage menu which is nifty, too: Apps Using Significant Energy will help you get the most out of your system's power when your MacBook is not plugged into a power socket.

Performance-wise, there were unexpected benefits - and caveats. Once updated, my 2012 MacBook Pro booted up in 29 seconds, down from one minute six seconds just last week on OS 10.8. The Fusion iMac 27-inch I still had on test registered a startup time, after updating to Mavericks, of 17.5 seconds, though, up from 15.

Geekbench results improved too - up from a single-core score of 3259 to 3363 and up from a multi-core score of 12,748 to 13,010. The biggest pickup in performance seemed to be across the Floating Point and Memory routines.

Video ... not so much. Performance dropped a little in the Cinebench tests, from 51.35fps in the OpenGL score under 10.8 to 48.09 under 10.9. But Cinebench's CPU score showed about a little improvement, as registered by Geekbench: 578 under OS 10.8 to 580 under 10.89.

Surprisingly, though, or perhaps not considering the drop in OpenGL performance, one of my favourite ever Mac features, Quick Look has slowed dramatically, with a spinning beachball for the first load of any new item before it appears. This used to be instant.

QuickLook, in case you don't know, is an instant preview feature built throughout OS X.

Select any item and press your spacebar to get a full-screen preview of images, movies or playing sound files etc. Press it again to get rid of it, or arrow-down or up to see another item. If you're a Mac user and you're not doing do this, you're not living, as it's super handy both in the Finder and when, for example, you're trying top pick the correct file to attach to an email.

There's a lot more to Mavericks - as Apple says, there are over 200 changes. This blog, with its word limit, can only give you an idea.

I'm still thrilled it's free. What does that mean to Microsoft? Apparently the tech giant generates 96 per cent of its operating margins from operating system and productivity software licensing. Apple users now get those things almost, if not completely, free (iWork) and they sync way better iDevice to Mac and vice versa.

I guess, even more so than ever before, once you have the Apple hardware, the software just makes it - and your computing life - that much better.