OS X Tiger: WhatÕs new for prepress
A review of AppleÕs new operating system and what it means for prepress professionals
By Ron Ellis
Apple released another upgrade to the Macintosh operating system last month. Every Macintosh upgrade is a big deal — partly because every upgrade costs another $129, and partly because some things get fixed, and a few others broken.
For example do QuarkXPress and other applications work properly with this new upgrade? Yes it appears to work with QuarkXPress 6.5, but not with some other applications I have. This upgrade is called Tiger (or 10.4 for us nerds) and there are more than 200 new features in this upgrade. Not all of them are exciting, but one would assume there would be at least a few big ones in here.
Some of the new features do make the Mac much easier to use. Spotlight is a find utility that helps users find objects on the computer. This includes searching for files, emails, address book entries, calendar entries and almost anything else you can think of. It can look for strings of text in files, fonts and more. Instead of thinking of it as a find utility, think of it as an easier way to get to files. Folders can be tagged to match certain content criteria so that everything in them triggers a match to the searched item. When I searched for some missing color profiles the other day Spotlight found them based on internal data (rather than the file name), so it can be very helpful. Currently it works in Apple software, with text files, and some other software such as Word and Excel, but not Microsoft Entourage. Hopefully these programs will be added to the list.
Another new feature is called dashboard. It contains a bunch of small utility programs dubbed widgets. Examples of these are a stock ticker, weather forecasts, flight trackers, yellow pages and other utilities. Most users I talk to canÕt decide if dashboard is a good thing or not. I have played with it and canÕt decide as well, but you do not have to use it — will not appear unless you set it to appear with a selected key.
Tiger also includes parental (or ÒemployeeÓ?) controls that can be set to control who is allowed to email whom, and which web sites are accessible for viewing. There are other new security features added. The firewall makes the computer ÒinvisibleÓ to hackers trying to ping it. The firewall logs will now also be easily accessible, and unsafe or unsolicited downloads will be flagged. The operating system scans and asks you if you would like to continue to download items that contain executables.
Other new features include iChatAV, which allows you to make free audio and video phone calls over the Internet. You can set it up to allow up to 10 people to join an audio conference call, or four people with a video chat. The fax feature now keeps log files. The mouse pointer can be set to a ÒbigÓ enlarged mode.
One neat and handy new feature that Windows has had for a while and the Mac has been missing is the ability to drag a bunch of images onto Preview and run them in a slide show mode (without having to log them into iPhoto). Preview will now support RAW camera format, as well as PDF 1.5 features.
The OS also will now support creation of password-protected PDF documents. Preview also now supports assign profile functions so that you can assign a profile to an image. It also supports a feature called match to profile, which is like PhotoshopÕs convert to profile feature. This means you can now convert colors in preview, and also that you can automate color conversions.
The Automator is another new feature that helps you perform repetitive tasks. Billed as easier that Applescript, and marketed as using a robot named ÒOttoÓ it comes with a library of hundreds of actions that can do things that could be helpful in prepress. These are things such as renaming multiple files to a common stem, or batch scaling or resizing images (check and fluff this after seeing real app).
The built-in workflows include a collection of scripts for Photoshop, Indesign, Photographers. (There are also a bunch of new Applescript features included as well in this upgrade.)
Printing has changed somewhat. Instead of output options, there is a new PDF dropdown menu. This contains Automator PDF workflows that include the following:
á Save as PDF creates a digital master PDF file. All graphics are at full resolution, and the file includes each font character it uses.
á Compress PDF compresses some images in the file, and produces a PDF file that may be smaller than a digital master PDF. It's especially useful if you need to email the file or if you don't plan to print the file but is not suitable for print.
á Encrypt PDF will prompt you for a password. Anyone who wants to open the PDF file will need to enter that password.
á PDF-X is a subset of PDF that's used in the printing industry and contains the minimum information needed to print the document.
You can also use the automator to create additional PDF workflows.
Once requiring a download and install (including searching for it on the Internet first) the GIMP printer drivers are now included and installed by default. The Apple OS drivers were mainly a few select Epson and HP drivers. With GIMP drivers you can drive almost anything out there right out of the box. Share printers also can be set up to have secure authentication so that you can control who can print to them.
The finder supports Òburnable foldersÓ in which you can directly burn a CD from (instead of having to insert a CD or DVD and then select burn).
Potentially big for us prepress users is the Font Book upgrades. Font Book now is scriptable based on actions. When fonts are loaded into Font Book it will now check and the font for problems and incompatibilities (this would be huge if it works). Fonts can also be exported as a ÔpackageÕ of fonts, which may be a good way for customers to give us fonts in the future, or for us to manage collections of our customerÕs fonts. As mentioned previously, Spotlight will be able to search for fonts by attribute.
Mapping of Unicode characters is also supported, and a new collection of fonts is included. Font Book continues to become more and more like Suitcase as the operating system matures.
Networking now has self-diagnosing troubleshooters installed under the hood. Wireless networks can be prioritized so that your Mac knows which wireless networks you prefer automatically. Better support for video cards is supported.
Safari has new enhancements, such as the ability to export bookmarks, in-line PDF viewing, private browsing (keeps cookies and history private), and RSS feeds.
System profiler will now provide more than twice as many reports. Target disk mode (where you make another Mac act like a slave hard drive) will be easier to set via a preference panel.
There are a lot of new features and enhancements in Tiger. It is always safe to wait a while for the applications to catch up, but OS X continues to improve, and Tiger is a welcome step in the evolution of the Macintosh operating system. A complete list of new features can be found at http://www.apple.com/macosx/newfeatures/over200.html.
About the author: Ron Ellis is a prepress consultant specializing in workflow training and integration. He worked in the commercial printing industry for 18 years and brings a strong background to all aspects of prepress. He has consulted on numerous CTP installations and he provides color management, integration, training, workflow development, and troubleshooting solutions to the graphic arts community. He can be contacted at 603-498-4553 or through his web site at www.ronellisconsulting.com.