Well, it's done. Tiger is out, and all the speculation about its much-ballyhooed features can at long last be put to rest. To further that end, we're focusing on Tiger in several ways. For the rest of this issue, and undoubtedly a number of articles in future issues, we'll be writing about what's new, what it means, and how well it all works. This week, for instance, you'll find articles looking at the upgrade process, Dashboard, Automator, and Spotlight.
But there's no way in TidBITS that we can go into the kind of depth that readers want and that Tiger deserves. That's where our Take Control ebooks come in with over 350 pages of painstakingly researched and professionally edited advice about upgrading to Tiger, customizing Tiger, users and accounts in Tiger, and sharing files in Tiger (with Macs and other platforms). The ebooks are good, they're inexpensive, they aren't copy protected in any way, they come with free updates, and they're available now - weeks or months before most other books about Tiger will appear. Tonya and I, along with Joe Kissell, Matt Neuburg, Kirk McElhearn, and Glenn Fleishman, worked our tails off for the last few months to release all four ebooks simultaneously with Tiger (for overseas customers who pre-ordered, we even made the ebooks available at 6 PM on April 29th in local time zones around the world).
To kick off our coverage here in TidBITS, though, I'd like to reflect on a question that likely didn't even occur to the thousands of people who have bought the ebooks so far: Should you upgrade, and if so, when? If you're on the fence about when to upgrade, see if you fall into one of the following categories.
The Hobbyist -- I suspect that most people who consider the Macintosh a hobby have already decided to upgrade, but if not, I'd recommend ordering a copy. A new version of the operating system means new toys, new features to explore, and a nearly infinite amount of raw material for discussing with friends. If you consider yourself a Macintosh hobbyist, then I'd recommend an upgrade fairly quickly, if only so you can continue to feel like one of the tribe.
The Filing-Challenged -- If you're continually losing files on your Mac, Tiger's Spotlight technology will become your new best friend. For that matter, I'm betting that Spotlight will come to the aid of anyone who has trouble figuring out where to file documents, anyone for whom a rigid hierarchical filing system never made much sense and who just ended up storing everything on the Desktop. If you find yourself saying things like, "I put it on the thing next to that other thing," Spotlight sweeps away the artificial analogy of filing so you can think conceptually when searching: "To whom did I write that letter? When did I write it? What did it say?" My recommendation is to upgrade soon, so you can at last throw some light into the darkness of your hard disk organization.
The Scripter -- Many people just use their Macs manually, but others understand that one of the great uses of a computer is to automate repetitive tasks. These people have long adopted macro utilities like QuicKeys, iKey, and Keyboard Maestro, and many of them have gone a step further in learning AppleScript. If you fall into this category, Automator may be the next arrow in your automation quiver, since it goes beyond scripting to give you a visual interface to automating tasks without having to make applications march about like marionettes. I suspect that the possibilities offered by Automator will encourage such people to upgrade in the relatively near future, even if the true promise of Automator takes a while to be realized fully by third-party developers.
Short Attention Span -- Hang on, I need to check something quickly. Right, the weather report for the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas for my trip this week is looking OK, so I can get back to writing. If, like me, you find yourself needing to check in on things or use small utilities - just a minute, I need to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius so I can explain the current weather to a friend in Australia - Dashboard and the plethora of Widgets it will give you are a good reason to upgrade. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if most of the things that Dashboard Widgets can do in Tiger aren't also available in Panther thanks to Konfabulator, so you don't need to upgrade instantly just for Dashboard.
Driven by Deadline -- Most people in this category have their noses to the grindstone to finish projects, and honestly, it's a hard sell to say that they should upgrade any time soon. The reason is simple - they're so deep in Microsoft Word, or Adobe Photoshop, or the like, that the specifics of the operating system aren't likely to make that much difference in their day-to-day work, and taking time out to install Tiger and come up to speed on the new features isn't realistic. If you're one of these workaholics, I do recommend that you upgrade, but not until Apple has had a chance to release a few minor updates to eliminate any initial problems, and then not until you have a clear opportunity in which to install Tiger and spend some time gaining familiarity with the new features.
The Stick-in-the-Mud -- "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is your motto, and Panther ain't particularly broke. I won't say that you should upgrade, although in the next 12 to 18 months, I expect to see new applications that take advantage of Spotlight and Automator and Dashboard in interesting ways. If you find some of those promises attractive, an upgrade may be worthwhile at that point. Plus, if you buy a new Mac in the next year or so, you'll end up with Tiger pre-installed, so you could also just put off an upgrade until then.
Tiger Details -- To recap the details from Apple's initial announcement, Tiger costs $130 for a single user license; the Mac OS X Tiger Family Pack offers a five-user license for $200; and the Mac OS Up-to-Date upgrade package costs $10 for those who bought a new Mac on or after 12-Apr-05 (this offer ends 22-Jul-05). Note that Take Control ebooks come with a coupon worth $5 off any order, including Tiger, at TidBITS sponsor Small Dog Electronics.
Tiger requires a minimum of 256 MB of RAM (but please install at least 512 MB) and will run on any Macintosh that has both a PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor and built-in FireWire.
Tiger ships only on DVD media; if your otherwise-compatible Mac has only a CD drive, you can either boot your Mac in FireWire Target Disk Mode and install to it from another DVD-equipped Mac, or you can pay Apple $10 (plus your local sales tax, which you must compute) for a set of Tiger CDs. To order the CD set, download the PDF form linked below, and package it up with your payment, your proof of purchase, and your original Tiger DVD. Apple says they will ship CDs within 24 hours of receipt if they're in stock, but only via the U.S. Postal Service. So, it might take two to three weeks from when you put your order in the mail to receive your discs if Apple has them in stock.