After having had a first look at Panther‘s new features I can‘t get rid of the feeling that Apple is about to launch Mac OS 9.3 instead of 10.3. Why?
First, the overall look of the new UI is closing the gap to X‘s ancestor: the window title become solid grey, the menus regain the old school divider line and the Finder reintroduces color labels for files. Hooray. Have I waited for this for a long time? No. Well, I agree that this face-lifting is the right thing to do as it is obvious that Apple was mislead when going for the greyish striped look in critical user interface elements. However, this can be considered a bug fix, not a feature.
Then there is the “all-new” Finder. It is actually only slightly changed. It makes use of the obscure “Network” entry point for the first time. The technology behind is old: automount. This has been used by OS X for quite a while now (for mounting home directories from OS X Server). So for the first time we can use something in a way it was conceived from the beginning.
The Open/Save file dialog has been changed once again. This time it seems as if Apple has finally understood: it is the same interface like the finder. But halt, so far there is only the column and list view. No icon view. Why? And the list view does not feature triangles. Why? Argh. Apple, please. Add the icon view, get it finally right and please don‘t call it a new feature. Another bug fix.
Ah yes, and then there is Exposé. I admit it might be useful although it tries to steal another three function keys from me (but this can be changed). But Exposé is not really a revolution as it is just a workaround for the basic shortcomings of window-based user interface albeit a welcome one.
Fast User Switching: we have seen this on Windows. Bug fix. Faxing? Windows users do it for years now. FontBook? It‘s about time. FileVault? Still no details but crypto file systems are nothing new for UNIX users. Fast PDF rendering? I wondered why it was slow in the first place. Faster Mail.app with thread support? As long as it also stops crashing all the time, it is appreciated.
So far, I find nothing special that might be worth paying for. Okay, there are some other improvements in the Windows sharing and VPN area, there is explicit support for IPsec and so on. But this could be added to Jaguar as well. This is not a point release.