OS X 10.9: The Ultimate Guide

At the opening keynote of their World Wide Developer Conference, Apple wasted no time in introducing dozens of improvements to OS X as part of their 10.9 Mavericks release. And no, a Maverick isn’t a big cat you’ve never heard of, it’s the first in their series of releases named for places in Apple’s home, California. But the changes in OS X extend far beyond a new naming convention reaching to all corners of the OS with everything from a more refined (leather-free) interface to new power management under the hood allowing all day battery life on some MacBooks.

Read on to find out more.

File Tags

Tabs are now present in Finder - finally.

Tabs are now present in Finder – finally.

In a major update to the way files are managed, OS X now includes the ability to tag files. This a core part of the file system and as such, these tags are given their own section of the Finder sidebar and can be searched for within the Finder. As you might expect, multiple tags can be applied to a single file making it a robust alternative to folder based sorting. Tags can be added when saving a new document via the system standard “Save” dialog box. Files in iCloud can also be organized using tags. In addition to adding them when a document is created, tags can be added by dragging a file to a tag in the Finder’s sidebar or by a new option included in finder’s toolbar.


iBooks finally has a home on the Mac.

iBooks finally has a home on the Mac.

iBooks users no longer need to watch jealously as their Kindle-using counterparts enjoy reading on the Mac with the introduction of the long awaited iBooks for Mac. This is an obvious and natural continuation of Apple’s work to unify their content offerings across devices. Similar to the rest of Apple’s newly updated apps, iBooks does away with its skeuomorphic design in favor of an interface which looks right at home on the Mac, utilizing the Mac’s standard controls. As one might expect, books and reading positions are synced via iCloud. Finally, the Mac now joins the iPad in being able to read books created with iBooks Author which will no doubt be appreciated in classrooms around the world which have deployed Macs instead of iPads.

iCloud Keychain

Imagine an Apple created 1Password clone – that’s iCloud Keychain in a nutshell. Passwords and Credit Card information are securely stored using industry standard AES 256-bit encryption. In addition to storing your passwords, iCloud Keychain will also help you create new ones with a password generator built right in. Of course, as it’s made by Apple, iCloud Keychain has the notable advantage over competitors like 1Password of being integrated in Safari across all their devices.


Craig Federighi demos Maps for OS X at WWDC 2013.

Craig Federighi demos Maps for OS X at WWDC 2013.

Despite the debacle created over Apple’s switch away from Google Maps on iOS last year, they appear to be forging forward taking the next logical step in bringing Maps to the Mac. Much like iBooks, this is not unexpected and as such, it works in much the same way as its mobile companion with standard features like real-time traffic, bookmarks, Flyover, and local search. Points of Interest are also complete with addresses, phone numbers, website links, photos — and even Yelp reviews. Maps brings with it a new “Send to iPhone” feature which allows you to plan a trip on your Mac and sent it to your iPhone where you can receive turn-by-turn voice instructions. Developers will also be able to integrate these new maps into their OS X apps with an SDK which will be detailed further during WWDC.


When it comes to notifications, Macs have always been second-class citizens compared to iOS. That’s no longer the case with the improvements made to Notifications in OS X Mavericks. Users will now be able to interact with notifications without entering into the corresponding app, this means you’ll be able to respond to messages and emails, as well as FaceTime calls within the notification itself. You’ll also receive a summary of any notifications received while not at your Mac.


Calendar features a much-improved UI.

Calendar features a much-improved UI.

Goodbye leather. Goodbye stitching. The new calendar on the Mac is really much closer to what iCal used to be, which is exactly what most people wanted. Its interface has done away with all of the hated skeuomorphic elements, replacing them with OS X’s built in controls. Notable feature improvements include travel time which automatically calculates the time to get from different appointments, weather forecasts, location auto-complete, and maps which are all housed inside of the app’s improved Inspector. Apple also went more than skin deep in removing Calendar’s limitations inspired by the physical object, implementing continuous scrolling between months and weeks, allow the user to stop anywhere in-between.


Compared to the other apps which are receiving updates as part of OS X Mavericks, Safari’s improvements are minor – on the surface at least. “Top Sites” has been redesigned with a nod to Apple’s new flat design trend and the ability to add sites from your bookmarks. There’s also a sidebar which lets you see your bookmarks, Reading List, or Shared Links from your Twitter or LinkedIn friends alongside the page you’re currently on. Thanks to the new Nitro Tiered JIT and Fast Start technologies, browsing in Safari will also be noticeably faster. There’s also plenty of new power saving secret sauce which Apple promises will help deliver long battery life on new and older machines alike.

Multiple Displays

In a nod to their power-users, Apple improved OS X’s handling of Multiple Displays exponentially with Menu Bars and the Dock displayed across all your displays and Full-Screen Apps which don’t impact the content of other displays. In addition to wired displays, Apple now supports using AirPlay and Apple TV to wirelessly turn your HDTV into a fully functional additional display. Much like iCloud Keychain obsoletes 1Password for most users, so does multiple display to AirParrot.

OS X Server

In another nod to OS X’s power users, OS X Sever has gained a few notable improvements. OS X Sever users can expect new, and as of yet, unspecified features in Xcode Server which will allow greater collaboration within development teams. This is another area which Apple will likely elaborate on as WWDC continues. Caching Server 2 has also been updated including speed improvements for the download and delivery of software through the App Store, Mac App Store, and iTunes Store. It can also now cache on your server for faster downloading to iOS 7 devices.

Other Improvements

The default Desktop on OS X Mavericks

The default Desktop on OS X Mavericks

Finder Tabs – Finder can now take its rightful place as the best file manager of 2005 with the inclusion of tabs. Seriously, this has been a long time coming. They work just like tabs in your web browser; nothing special here, but appreciated nonetheless.

Energy Saving – During the keynote Apple executives made a big fuss over the energy saving technologies built into OS X Mavericks. The behind the scenes technology here is pretty complicated, but the increase in battery life should be noticeable.

Performance Enhancements – OS X Mavericks has also received many behind-the-scenes performance enhancements which should speed up just about any Mac. These include Compressed Memory and Safari Power saver which increase performance system wide.

Desktop Backgrounds – Like any new operating system release, OS X Mavericks includes a pretty cool new default Desktop Background, supposedly taken at Mavericks in California.


OS X Mavericks will be released sometime this Fall.

OS X Mavericks will be released sometime this Fall.

Small additions like iBooks and Maps coupled with game-changing ones like the inclusion of tags in the Finder, make OS X Mavericks the biggest update to OS X since Lion. Whether it’s due to new features or simply performance enhancements, most users will find something to get excited about in OS X Mavericks. And although we haven’t yet had a chance to get our hands on a preview copy of the OS, OS X Mavericks should pan out to be a must-have upgrade when it’s released this fall. Or, if you’re a Mac developer and can’t wait to get your hands on it, you can download the beta today.