Mac OS X Tiger

Emphasis: Special Education
Grade level: 4-12
Platform: Mac OS X
System Requirements: G3, G4, or G5 processor; built-in FireWire; 256 MB RAM; 3GB hard-disk space; DVD drive
Price: 1-9, $69 each; 10-99, $59 each; volume licensing available; Lab packs and site licenses are available.
Publisher: Apple Computer, (800) 800-2775;

Tiger boasts more than 200 new features, but the four elements that are the most noteworthy for K-12 education are Spotlight, Dashboard, Safari RSS, and Smart Folders.

With Spotlight, you can quickly find files, presentations, email, images, movies, contacts, and more. Click on the blue magnifying glass on the Menu bar and type in a search word or phrase. Matches display even before you finish typing. Spotlight alone makes a Tiger upgrade worthwhile.

Dashboard gives you one-click access to Widgets, customizable, single-function applications. Pressing the F12 key or clicking on the Dashboard icon on the Tiger dock displays a translucent layer featuring four applets include a calculator, a calendar, a clock, and weather summary with real-time temperature readings and forecasts.

Other Widgets include a mini version of the iCal calendar, a dictionary/ thesaurus, Systran’s Language Translation, and a unit converter.

For Web surfing, the updated version of Safari offers more than just browsing capabilities. It retrieves RSS feeds from Internet sites and displays them as headlines with summary descriptions and links to more information.

Tiger also has Smart Folders that automatically display in the Finder’s Sidebar window. Save Spotlight “hits†in a Smart Folder and they will always be within point and click reach.

In addition, Slideshow previews images full screen in the Finder, iChat offers multi-way video conferencing capabilities, and Automator reduces multi-step repetitive tasks to a couple of mouse clicks. That said, Tiger does suffer from some drawbacks. CD versions of the software can be obtained only by trading in the DVD version, and Widget installation could be problematic for K-12 settings. Budget-strapped schools will find the upgrade from 10.3.9 to 10.4 costly.

Carol S. Holzberg, Ph.D., is an educational technology specialist.