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Mac OS X is a line of proprietary, graphical operating systems developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Computer, the latest of which is pre-loaded on all currently shipping Macintosh computers. Mac OS X is the successor to the original Mac OS, which had been Apple's primary operating system since 1984. Unlike its predecessor, Mac OS X is a Unix-like operating system built on technology that had been developed at NeXT through the second half of the 1980s and up until Apple Computer purchased the company in early 1997. The operating system was first released in 1999 as Mac OS X Server 1.0, with a desktop-oriented version (Mac OS X v10.0) following in March, 2001.

The server edition, Mac OS X Server, is architecturally identical to its desktop counterpart but usually runs on Apple's line of Macintosh server hardware. Mac OS X Server includes workgroup management and administration software tools that provide simplified access to key network services, including a mail transfer agent, a Samba server, an LDAP server, and a domain name server.


Despite its branding as simply "version 10" of the Mac OS, Mac OS X has a history that is almost completely independent of the earlier Mac OS releases.

Mac OS X is based on the Mach kernel and the BSD implementation of Unix, which were incorporated into NEXTSTEP, the object-oriented operating system developed by Steve Jobs's NeXT company after he left Apple in 1985. Meanwhile, during the years without Jobs at the helm, Apple attempted to create a "next-generation" operating system of its own through the Taligent and Copland projects, with little success.

Eventually, NeXT's OS — called OPENSTEP at the time — was selected to form the basis for Apple's next OS, and Apple purchased NeXT outright. Jobs was re-hired, and later returned to the leadership of the company, shepherding the transformation of the programmer-friendly OPENSTEP into a system that would be welcomed by Apple's primary market of home users and creative professionals, as a project known as Rhapsody. Rhapsody later evolved into Mac OS X.

Mac OS X has evolved through its successive versions, away from a focus on backward compatibility and toward "digital lifestyle" applications such as the iLife suite, enhanced business applications (iWork), and integrated home entertainment (the Front Row media center).


Mac OS X was a radical departure from previous Macintosh operating systems; its underlying code base is completely different from previous versions. Its core, named Darwin, is an open source, Unix-like operating system built around the XNU kernel, with standard Unix facilities available from the command line interface. On top of this core, Apple designed and developed a number of proprietary components including the Aqua themed Quartz Compositor and the Macintosh Finder user interface shell.

Mac OS X included a number of features intended to make the operating system more stable and reliable than Apple's previous operating systems. Pre-emptive multitasking and memory protection, for example, improved the ability of the operating system to run multiple applications simultaneously without their interrupting or corrupting each other. Many aspects of Mac OS X's architecture are derived from OPENSTEP, which was designed with portability in mind, thus easing the transition from one platform to another: For example, NEXTSTEP was ported from the original 68k-based NeXT workstations to other architectures before NeXT was purchased by Apple, and OPENSTEP was subsequently ported to the PowerPC architecture as part of the Rhapsody project.

The most visible change was the Aqua theme. The use of soft edges, translucent colors, and pinstripes similar to the hardware of the first iMacs, brought more color and texture to the windows and controls on the Desktop than OS 9's "Platinum" appearance had offered. Some, including numerous users of the older versions of the operating system, decried the new look as "cutesy" and lacking in professional polish. Others, however, hailed Aqua as being a bold and innovative step forward in a time when user interfaces were seen as being "dull and boring". Despite the controversy, the look was instantly recognizable, and even before the first version of Mac OS X was released, third-party developers started producing skins for customizable applications which mimicked the Aqua appearance. To some extent, Apple has used the successful transition to this new design as leverage, at various times threatening legal action against people who make or distribute software with an interface the company claims is derived from its copyrighted design.

Mac OS X includes its own software development tools, most prominently an integrated development environment called Xcode. Xcode provides interfaces to compilers that support several programming languages including C, C++, Objective-C, and Java. It supports the ability to target both platforms for which Mac OS X is sold, allowing an application to be built to run only on PowerPC, only on x86, or on both processors as a universal binary.

The server edition, Mac OS X Server, is architecturally identical to its desktop counterpart but usually runs on Apple's line of Macintosh server hardware. Mac OS X Server includes workgroup management and administration software tools that provide simplified access to key network services, including a mail transfer agent, a Samba server, an LDAP server, and a domain name server.



The Carbon APIs for Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X were created to permit code to be written to run natively on both systems.

Apple now refers to the technology behind the OPENSTEP APIs as Cocoa. This heritage is visible in the Cocoa APIs, in which the class names mostly begin with "NS" for NEXTSTEP.

Mac OS X has supported the Java Platform as a "first class citizen" — in practice this means that applications written in Java fit as neatly into the operating system as possible while still being cross-platform, and that graphical user interfaces written in Swing look almost exactly like native Cocoa interfaces. Traditionally, Cocoa programs have been mostly written in Objective-C, with Java as an alternative. However, on July 11, 2005, Apple announced that "features added to Cocoa in Mac OS X versions later than 10.4 will not be added to the Cocoa-Java programming interface."

Many software packages written for BSD or Linux may be recompiled to run under Mac OS X; such software is often distributed precompiled for Mac OS X in the form of Mac OS X packages. Projects such as Fink and DarwinPorts provide precompiled or preformatted packages for many standard packages. Since version 10.3, Mac OS X has included X11.app, the company's version of the X Window System graphical interface for Unix applications, as an optional component during installation. Apple's implementation is based on XFree86 4.3 and X11R6.6, with a window manager which mimics the Mac OS X look, closer integration with Mac OS X, and extensions to use the native Quartz rendering system and to accelerate OpenGL. Earlier versions of Mac OS X can run X11 applications using XDarwin.


For the early releases of Mac OS X, the standard hardware platform supported was the full line of Macintosh computers (laptop, desktop, or server) based on PowerPC G3, G4, and G5 processors. Later versions of Mac OS X discontinued support for some older hardware; for example, Panther does not support "beige" G3s, and Tiger does not support systems that pre-date Apple's introduction of FireWire ports. Tools such as XPostFacto and patches applied to the installation disc have been developed by third parties to enable installation of newer versions of Mac OS X on systems not officially supported by Apple, including some pre-G3 systems. Except for features requiring specific hardware (e.g. graphics acceleration, DVD writing), the operating system offers the same functionality on all supported hardware.

PowerPC versions of Mac OS X retain compatibility with older Mac OS applications by providing an emulation environment called Classic, which allows users to run Mac OS 9 as a process within Mac OS X, so that most older applications run as they would under the older operating system.

In April 2002, eWeek reported a rumor that Apple had a version of Mac OS X code-named Marklar which ran on Intel x86 processors. The idea behind Marklar was to keep Mac OS X running on an alternative platform should Apple become dissatisfied with the progress of the PowerPC platform. These rumors subsided until late in May 2005, when various media outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal and CNET reported that Apple would unveil Marklar in the coming months.

On June 6, 2005, Steve Jobs confirmed these rumors when he announced in his keynote address at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference that Apple would be making the transition from PowerPC to Intel processors over the following two years, and that Mac OS X would support both platforms during the transition. The last time that Apple switched CPU families — from the Motorola 68K CPU to the IBM/Motorola PowerPC — Apple included a Motorola 68K emulator in the new OS that made almost all 68K software work automatically on the new hardware. Apple has supported the 68K emulator for 11 years; however, Apple will be dropping support for the 68K emulator during the transition to Intel CPUs. Included in the new OS for the Intel-based Macs is Rosetta, a binary translation layer which enables software compiled for PowerPC Mac OS X to run on Intel Mac OS X machines. However, Apple dropped support for Classic mode on the new Intel Macs. Third party emulation software such as Mini vMac, Basilisk II and SheepShaver provides support for some early versions of Mac OS. A new version of Xcode and the underlying command-line compilers support building Universal Binaries that will run on either architecture.

Currently, a lot of software is available only for PowerPC, and is supported with Rosetta. However, Apple encourages Developers to produce Universal Binaries with support for both PowerPC and x86. Universal Binary software should run faster on Intel-based Macs than PowerPC-only software running on Rosetta. Moreover, some PowerPC software, such as kernel extensions and System Preferences plugins, is not supported on Intel Macs. While Intel Macs will run PowerPC binaries as well as x86 and Universal Binaries, PowerPC Macs will only support Universal and PowerPC builds

Support for the PowerPC platform will remain in version 10.5. Jobs also confirmed rumors that Apple has had versions of Mac OS X running on Intel processors for most of its developmental life. Such cross-platform capability already existed in Mac OS X's lineage — OPENSTEP had been ported to many architectures, including x86, and an x86 port of Darwin has been available as a free download since Mac OS X was first released. Although Apple stated that Mac OS X would not run on Intel-based personal computers aside from its own, a hacked version of the OS developed by the OSx86 community is available illegally through file-sharing networks. However it is no longer up to date with Apple's system updates; using the kernel from a previous update.

Prominent features

  • Quartz's internal imaging model correlates well with the Portable Document Format (PDF) imaging model, making it easy to output PDF to multiple devices.
  • Full-color, continuously scalable icons.
  • Drop shadows around window and isolated text elements to provide a sense of depth.
  • Global application Services menu - spell checker, special characters palette, color picker, font chooser and dictionary.
  • Anti-aliasing of widgets, text, graphics and window elements.
  • New interface elements including sheets (document modal dialog boxes attached to specific windows) and drawers.
  • Interweaving windows of different applications (not necessarily adjacent in the visible stacking order).
  • ColorSync color matching built into the core drawing engine, for print and multimedia professionals.
  • OpenGL composites windows onto the screen to allow hardware accelerated drawing. This technology (introduced in version 10.2) is called Quartz Extreme.
  • Exposé (introduced in version 10.3) — instantly display all open windows as thumbnails for easy navigation to different tasks, display all open windows as thumbnails from the current application, and hide all windows to access the desktop.
  • Pervasive use of Unicode throughout the operating system.
  • Straightforward architecture for localization of applications and other code, fully separating language dependencies from the core code of a program.
  • FileVault (introduced in version 10.3) encrypts the user's Home folder with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 128-bit keys.
  • Dashboard (introduced in version 10.4) supports small applications called desktop widgets that can be called up and dismissed in one keystroke.
  • Spotlight search technology (introduced in version 10.4) allows rapid real-time searches of data files, mail messages, photos, and other information, based on item properties (meta data) and/or content.
  • Automator (introduced in version 10.4) — an application designed to create an automatic work-flow for different tasks.
  • Smart Folders (introduced in version 10.4) allow for dynamically updated folders depending on a set criteria.
  • A well defined set of Human Interface Guidelines followed by almost all applications giving them intuitive, consistent user interface and keyboard shortcuts.
  • Xgrid allows networked Macs to form a distributed computing system.
  • Built in virtual file system images .dmg supporting encryption and compression, and optionally read/write capability.
  • Integrated Sync Services (introduced in version 10.4) allows applications to access a centralized extensible database for various elements of user data, including calendar and contact items. The operating system manages conflicting edits and data consistency.


Mac OS X comes included in the price for new Macs. Minor upgrades are free and can be downloaded using Software Update. Major upgrades cost US$129 (CAD$149) from Apple. There is also a US$199 (CAD$249) "Family Pack" version of Mac OS X that comes with 5 licenses for home users who have more than one Mac at home. Developers can register for free with the Apple Developer Connection (ADC) to download developer tools such as Xcode and documentation. ADC also offers several for-pay plans including both shipping and beta versions of Mac OS X. Student and educator pricing on Mac OS X software is roughly 10% to 50% lower than standard retail pricing. The Mac OS X Server 10-client license costs US$499 and an unlimited client license is US$999 as of April 1, 2006.


The character X is a Roman numeral and is officially pronounced "ten", continuing the numbering of previous Macintosh operating systems such as Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9. However, it is common to read it as the letter X and pronounce it "ex".

Mac OS X versions are named after big cats. Prior to its release, version 10.0 was code named "Cheetah" internally at Apple, and version 10.1 was code named internally as "Puma". After the immense buzz surrounding version 10.2, codenamed "Jaguar", Apple's product marketing began openly using the code name to promote the operating system. 10.3 was similarly marketed as "Panther". Version 10.4 is marketed as "Tiger". "Leopard" has been announced as the name for the next release of the operating system, version 10.5. Apple has also registered "Lynx" and "Cougar" as trademarks.

Apple faced a lawsuit from a computer retailer named Tiger Direct regarding its use of the name "Tiger". However, on 16 May 2005 the Florida Federal Court ruled that Apple's use of the name "Tiger" does not infringe upon Tiger Direct's trademark.


Internally, Apple uses a "build number" to identify each development version of Mac OS X. There may be many development versions each week. Under Apple's guidelines, the first development version of a product starts with build 1A1. Minor revisions to that are 1A2, 1A3, 1A4, and so on; the first major development revision becomes 1B1 (and minor revisions to that would be 1B2, 1B3, etc.), the next major revision would be 1C1, and so forth. The next major revision after the last 1_ series would be 2A, followed by 2B. The transition from one letter to the next occurs with changes in the minor release number. For instance, the first build of Panther (10.3) was 7A1. The first public release was 7B85; the last, 10.3.9, was 7W98. But the next build of Mac OS X was 10.4, 8A1. When a build is chosen as the next public release of Mac OS X, it is given a public version number. Build 4K78 was chosen to be Mac OS X version 10.0, build 5G64 became 10.1, build 6C115 became 10.2, build 7B85 became 10.3, and build 8A428 became 10.4.

10.4.4 was the first public version of Mac OS X to run on both PPC (build 8G32) and Intel-based Macs (8G1165). All previous versions of Mac OS X have Intel counterparts, but those were never publicized or made available to end-users.

Mac OS X v10.0 (Cheetah)

On March 24, 2001, Apple released Mac OS X v10.0 (internally codenamed Cheetah). The initial version was slow, not feature complete, and had very few applications available at the time of its launch, mostly from independent developers. Many critics suggested that while the OS was not ready for mainstream adoption, they recognized the importance of its initial launch as a base on which to improve. Simply releasing Mac OS X was received by the Macintosh community as a great accomplishment, for attempts to completely overhaul the Mac OS had been underway since 1996, and delayed by countless setbacks. Following a few minor bug fixes, kernel panics became much less frequent, and Mac OS X began garnering praise for its stability at an early point in its development. It was criticized for being slow, with performance not much improved over the previous September's release of Mac OS X Public Beta.

Mac OS X v10.1 (Puma)

Later that year on September 25, 2001, Mac OS X v10.1 (internally codenamed Puma) was released, increasing the performance of the system as well as providing missing features, such as DVD playback. Apple released 10.1 as a free upgrade CD for 10.0 users, in addition to the US$129 boxed version for people running only Mac OS 9. It was discovered that the upgrade CDs were actually full install CDs that could be used with Mac OS 9 systems by removing a specific file; Apple subsequently re-released the CDs in an actual stripped-down format that didn't facilitate installation on such systems.

Mac OS X v10.2 (Jaguar)

On August 24, 2002, Apple followed up with Mac OS X v10.2 "Jaguar" (the first release to use its code name as part of the branding) which brought profound performance enhancements, a newer, sleeker look, and many powerful enhancements (over 150, according to Apple), including:

  • Increased support for Microsoft Windows networks
  • Quartz Extreme for compositing graphics directly on the AGP-based video card
  • An adaptive spam filter for Mail, based on latent semantic indexing
  • A system-wide repository for contact information in the new Address Book
  • Rendezvous networking (Apple's implementation of Zeroconf; renamed to Bonjour in 10.4)
  • iChat: an Apple-branded, officially supported third-party AOL Instant Messenger client
  • A revamped Finder with searching built directly into every window
  • Dozens of new Apple Universal Access features
  • Sherlock 3: Web services
  • Common Unix Printing System (CUPS): allowed the use of additional printer drivers such as those from the Gimp-Print project for "unsupported" printers. It also allowed — with some user recompilation — printing to serial printers
Mac OS X v10.2 was never officially referred to as Jaguar in the United Kingdom due to an agreement with the automobile manufacturer Jaguar, although boxes and CDs still bore the Jaguar-skin logo.

Some consider version 10.2, or Jaguar, the "first good release" of Mac OS X. Due to significant API changes between 10.1 and 10.2, most third party developers currently support 10.2 as a minimum requirement.

The Happy Mac which had appeared during the Mac OS startup sequence for almost 18 years was replaced with a large grey Apple logo with the introduction of Mac OS X 10.2.

Mac OS X v10.3 (Panther)

Mac OS X v10.3 "Panther" was released on October 24, 2003. In addition to providing much improved performance, it also incorporated the most extensive update yet to the user interface. The update included as many or more new features as Jaguar had the year before. On the other hand, support for some early G3 computers such as "beige" Power Macs and "WallStreet" PowerBooks was discontinued. New features of "Panther" include:

  • Updated Finder, incorporating a brushed-metal interface, customizable sidebar and fast-searching
  • Exposé: a new system to manipulate and view windows
  • Fast User Switching: allows a user to remain logged in while another user logs in
  • iChat AV which added video-conferencing features to iChat
  • Improved PDF rendering to allow for faster PDF viewing
  • Built-in faxing support
  • Much greater Microsoft Windows interoperability
  • FileVault: on the fly encryption and decryption of a user's home folder
  • Increased speed across the entire system with more support for the PowerPC G5
  • Safari (web browser)

Mac OS X v10.4 (Tiger)

Mac OS X v10.4 "Tiger" was released on April 29, 2005. Apple stated that Tiger contains more than 200 new features. As with the release of Panther certain older machines have been dropped from the list of supported hardware; Tiger requires a Mac with built-in FireWire ports. Among the new features of "Tiger":

  • Spotlight: A content- and metadata-based file search tool, which finds items containing the key words you search for.
  • Dashboard: Widgets for common tasks available on a desktop overlay accessible by a mouse gesture or keyboard function key, similar to Exposé. Its similarity with Konfabulator caused some criticism.
  • Smart Folders: A virtual folder that uses Spotlight to populate the file listing instead of showing a true folder on the filesystem.
  • Updated Mail program with Smart Mailboxes, allowing virtual mailboxes defined by Spotlight searches.
  • A new version of iChat: A new version supports the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC video codec for conferencing and allows for multi-party audio and video chats. Support for the Jabber online instant messaging protocol is also introduced. (Mac OS X version 10.4.3 and later also include support for encrypted chat via .Mac.)
  • QuickTime 7: the new version includes H.264 support and a completely re-written interface.
  • Safari 2: this new version of the system's default web browser includes the ability to view RSS feeds directly in the browser, among other new features.
  • Automator: automates repetitive tasks without programming.
  • VoiceOver: A built-in screen reader for those with vision disabilities.
  • Core Image and Core Video: allows additional effects in video and image editing to be performed in real time.
  • 64-bit memory support for the new G5 for programs or program parts without a graphical user interface, with an LP64 programming model (graphical user interface front ends still must be programmed in 32-bit).
  • Updated Unix utilities, such as cp, mv and rsync, now respect HFS Plus metadata and resource forks. (cp in 10.4 is like CpMac, mv is now like MvMac, compatibility issues naturally arise.)
  • An extended permissions system using access control lists.
  • A brand-new Application Programming Interface called Core Data, which greatly faciliates the management of application data in Cocoa applications.
  • Added Sync Services, an operating system managed truth database exposed to applications via a published Application programming interface. Applications use Sync Services as a conduit to other applications, or the users other computers or mobile devices. This service is featured in the operating system with the Address Book, iCal, and Mail applications as well as the Apple Keychain using this service.
An Intel x86 version of Mac OS X Tiger was previewed by Apple, and subsequently leaked to the Internet, following Apple's announcement to switch to the Intel platform. It was revealed by Apple at the June 2005 Worldwide Developers Conference that Intel versions of all previous versions of Mac OS X had been compiled internally, keeping feature parity between the Intel and PowerPC versions, "just in case." Developers were provided the chance to buy an Intel-based Pentium 4 developer transition system loaded with 10.4.1 in June 2005, and 10.4.2 and 10.4.3 were released to developers in September and November 2005 respectively. The Intel version of 10.4.4 was the first update to Mac OS X that was released through Software Update. All new Intel Macs are preloaded with Intel versions of Mac OS X Tiger.

Soon after the release of the developer transition kits, copies of the Intel version of Mac OS X were released onto the Internet and a community effort called OSx86 started up to help coordinate efforts to get Mac OS X running on non-Apple hardware. As each update was released, patches were updated to circumvent Apple's efforts to lock their operating system to their hardware.

Mac OS X v10.5 (Leopard)

Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard" was announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference on June 6, 2005, and was shown to developers for the first time at the 2006 Worldwide Developers Conference on August 7, 2006. Steve Jobs stated that OS X Leopard will be available in "Spring 2007". Apple has said it will support both PowerPC- and Intel x86-based Macintosh computers. Though Apple maintains that "All features referenced in the Mac OS X Leopard Sneak Peek are subject to change," some officially previewed features include:

  • Time Machine: An automated backup utility which allows the user to restore any file that has been deleted, misplaced or replaced by another version of a file.
  • Spaces: an implementation of "virtual desktops" (individually called "spaces") for Mac OS X, allowing users to have multiple desktops per computer and be able to place certain applications and windows in a desktop. Users can organize certain Spaces for certain applications (i.e., one for work-related tasks and one for entertainment) and switch between them. Exposé will work inside Spaces, allowing the user to see all at a glance all desktops fitted onto one screen.
  • Full support for 64-bit applications, including graphical applications.
  • New features in Mail, such as templates, notes, to-dos, and an RSS reader.
Publicity materials at WWDC 06 made dismissive comments towards Microsoft's Windows Vista, using banners which read, "Introducing Vista 2.0" and "Hasta la vista, Vista".

On April 5, 2006 Apple released a beta version of an application called Boot Camp, which eases the installation of Microsoft Windows XP on Intel Macs alongside Mac OS X in a dual boot configuration. Apple simultaneously published a firmware update with BIOS support (as Windows does not support the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) used in Intel Macs), and the Boot Camp software automatically repartitions the user's hard disk to a custom size, and burns Windows drivers to a CD. Boot Camp is currently in public beta, with the final version intended to be included in Leopard.

source: wikipedia

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