Mac OS X 10.3 beta first impressions

So yesterday I installed the WWDC release of 10.3 on a spare G4/933 at the office. It simply flew. It is fast. Wicked fast. Below are some of my observations of it on the 933, as well as my PowerBook G4/500. (ATPM staffers, you’ve seen most of this already.)
Mac OS X 10.3 appears as fast–if not faster–than OS 9 on the same machine…
The system in question is the aforementioned G4/933 single-proc with SuperDrive. Our OS 9-based graphics configuration was loaded on it, but this system hasn’t seen any testing in a while, so it was a perfect candidate for co-opting to test Panther. I loaded the Panther Disc 1 into the SuperDrive, and started the installation. Typical OS X install, began after a restart, pretty boring. I figured that the install would kill the existing OS 9 config, but that’s easily replaced, so it was no big deal.
Filled out the contact info, selected my time zone, and voila!, it brought me to the log-in prompt. First surprise: don’t all previous versions of OS X want to restart at this point? So I logged in, and brought up a Finder window. Second surprise: all of my OS 9 stuff was still there, the Panther install didn’t touch any of it! (The reason for this is that on the Panther developer beta, the default install is to upgrade the existing OS X system, if present. If not, it simply installs it. If you want to wipe the drive for a clean install, you have to tell the installer.)
Eye candy-wise, they haven’t put in any new user pics, desktops, or screen savers just yet.
Regarding the new Finder window: I like it. Yes, it is a little Windowsy, but damn if Apple hasn’t outdone Windows on a Windows feature/interface. I have nearly always used the OS X Finder in column mode anyway, so there was little for me to get used to with the new one. I made that change in my Finder prefs right away, so that all my Finder windows open in column view. And yes, boys and girls, Finder prefs are sticking!
System Preferences have been streamlined. Desktop and Screen Effects are now one and the same, with buttons denoting each to click between. They are not tabs in the sense that they do not look like tabs, but that is how they function.
While I’m not wild about the metal appearance everywhere (it has grown on me through repeated iChat, iTunes, Safari, and Mellel use), I do like the removal of the Aqua stripes from all windows. Most pleasant.
It’s fast. Fast. Wicked fast. Did I mention it was fast?
As usual, there are many subtle interface surprises that you wouldn’t think to look for, but when they happen, they pleasantly surprise you, then you promptly forget about them. Which is why I’m not listing any here right now. 🙂
Exposé is a very cool feature. Very cool. Wicked cool. (Yes, I like that word.) It’s going to change the way people work in OS X with windows and applications, and I believe it will be a change for the better.
One thing that’s missing thus far: an Internet pref pane. They pulled the .Mac stuff out and gave it its own pref pane, but Internet is AWOL. So no way that I’ve found thus far to determine default browser, default mail, etc. Hey, it’s a developer beta, there’s more to come.
Safari 1.0 is included. IE 5.2.2 is the other web browser of note. I don’t have a FireWire cam to use with iChat AV, but I like the app itself, especially how the typing area at the bottom of a chat window automatically expands as you type. This way, you don’t have to scroll up one line at a time to see exactly what you’ve typed.
Cool switching, Cmd-Tab, brings up an enormous bar with your active apps in the center of the screen, with a semi-transparent background, like with the brightness and sound pop-ups. It also puts the current app at the front of the list, with the app you last used right behind it. For instance, right now I’m switching back and forth between Safari and iChat AV, and I don’t have to go to the Dock and cool-switch through a bunch of other stuff between the two, or use my mouse to click. One Cmd-Tab smoothly switches me back and forth. I think this is going to kill a good portion of the market for Liteswitch.
That’s about as far as I’ve gotten right now. I have yet to encounter one of my apps or little extras that’s breaking under the beta, but then again I haven’t given my systems a total workout with the new OS just yet. I expect that now that this release is in developers’ hands, we’ll begin seeing updates to applications left and right in the coming month or so. More to come.