Contrary to what Mac cynics might say, the upgrades in Apple's latest operating system, Mac OS X Version 10.4, also known as Tiger, are not just cosmetic. New features such as Tiger's search tool are powerful enough to change the way Mac users work and intriguing enough to possibly convert a few Windows users.

The £89 upgrade should work on any G3, G4, or G5 FireWire-era Mac. We installed a shipping version of the OS on an ageing 867MHz PowerBook and a newer 1.67GHz PowerBook with no problem, in about an hour each.

Tiger's breakthrough feature is Spotlight, a desktop search tool that rummages through files, folders, email, Apple applications and major third-party programs and displays results neatly by category.

Spotlight can search not only by file name and keywords but also by a dizzying variety of deeper metadata such as author, audio bit-rate and photo aperture. You can even save searches as Smart Folders that continually update.

Tiger includes plenty of other useful additions. Dashboard Widgets are attractive mini applications that aggregate information like stock prices and flight times. You also get Safari web browser support for RSS (really simple syndication) for reading blogs and news feeds, as well as parental controls for the Finder, Mail, iChat and Safari. Reports of networking bugs have surfaced, so if you use a cross-platform network or VPN, check for compatibility.

Tiger OS X 10.4: Specs

  • Macintosh computer with Power PC G3, G4, or G5 processor
  • 256MB RAM
  • 4GB hard disk space
  • Macintosh computer with Power PC G3, G4, or G5 processor
  • 256MB RAM
  • 4GB hard disk space

OUR VERDICT

You don't need this upgrade. But Mac OS X Version 10.4's powerful new features - particularly Spotlight - are good and useful enough to make Tiger well worth the purchase price.

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