OS X Mavericks now available to download for free

Apple has launched its Mac OS X Mavericks desktop software today and will allow users to upgrade for free, following in the footsteps of Microsoft.

Craig Federighi, senior VP of Software Engineering at Apple ran through some of the key features of Mavericks on stage. In particular he highlighted the battery life advantages Mavericks will bring to new devices. Users will get 60 mins more web browsing time and 90 minutes more when watching iTunes video using Mavericks on the latest MacBook Air, he claimed.

Apple introduced Mavericks, the tenth major release of its desktop operating system at its WWDC conference, in June.

The release of OS X 10.9 Mavericks sees Apple drawing a line under its cat-based naming convention for the software, despite a joke made during the keynote suggesting the release could be called Sea Lion.

The consumer electronics giant claims the release boasts more than 200 new features, and here we will walk you through the key ones we think will be of most interest to business users.

Improved Finder experience

Fittingly, perhaps, for a product that takes its name from a famous Californian surfing destination (Mavericks), Apple has bolstered its Finder tool to provide users with a more web-like browsing experience.

The tool now offers browser-type tabs, which means all their Finder windows can be found in one place, reducing desktop clutter.

The software has already been released to members of the Mac Developer Programme, and will be available to download via the App Store this autumn.

Users can also tag their documents to make finding files stored on their systems or in iCloud easier. They will also be listed in the Finder sidebar, so users can browse for files by project-type, for example.

Apple goes to iWork on iCloud

As cloud syncing and storage services go, iCloud has been perfectly serviceable, but the inability to create and edit documents like you can in Google Drive and Office 365 has always been something of a drawback.

That all looks set to change with the announcement iCloud users will soon be able to edit and create iWork and Microsoft Office documents using their web browsers.

This isn't a feature that is going to be exclusive to OS X 10.9 Mavericks, though, as Apple revealed that Windows 8 users will also be able to make use of it.

Still, for business users that work on a variety of devices running various operating systems, this will undoubtedly prove to be a major boon.

iCloud lockdown

This isn't the only new iCloud-powered feature to make its debut in OS X 10.9, as Apple is rolling out a new offering that will sync and store login details, credit card numbers and Wi-Fi passwords across multiple devices using the Safari browser.

The feature is called iCloud Keychain and uses AES-256 encryption to protect the users' details.

Maps debuts on Macs

Maps didn't have the easiest time of it when it made its debut in iOS 6 last September, with numerous press reports about out of date listings and geographical errors.

Still, true to his word, Apple CEO Tim Cook has stuck by the software and appears to have made good on his promise to improve it, just in time to make its debut on OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

A lot of the functionality featured in the iOS version is being carried over, but probably the best thing is that Mac users will be able to plan a route on their computer, send it to an iPhone and use voice navigation to help them find their way.

Safari browser updates

The release of OS X 10.9 will see several new features included in Apple's flagship web browser Safari, such as a sidebar that will showcase bookmarks and links shared by users' Twitter and LinkedIn contacts.

Apple claims the reworked browser will outperform its competitors, in terms of energy and memory efficiency, having used the keynote to talk up its improved power saving, shared memory resource cache and JavaScript capabilities.

More support across multi-displays

In answer to the prayers of anyone who has ever struggled with using Mac apps across multiple displays, Apple has confirmed a few tweaks in this area too.

Users will be able to run full-screen and windowed apps on the display of their choosing, and summon the menu bar and dock.

Power and consumption improvements

During the keynote, Apple talked up the refinements it has made to the operating system's power saving and consumption capabilities to prolong battery life.

The Timer Coalescing feature is particularly noteworthy, and works by grouping together less labour intensive operations so the device's CPU can spend more time in a low-power state.

Another useful inclusion is something Apple has termed "Compressed Memory". This feature allows inactive data to be automatically compressed as soon as the system's memory starts to fill up.

Overall, Apple claims the features will result in Mavericks using up to 72 per cent less CPU and will result in a 1.5x improvement in waking the system up out of standby mode.

This article was originally published on the 11 June and has been updated to include details about the last-minute updates to the software.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.