Mac OS X Panther
Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther" is a version of Mac OS X. After the major fixes in 10.1 and 150 improvements and features brought to "Jaguar", which finally solidified OS X as a mature operating system platform recognized by reviewers and critics, Apple announced the fourth major release of Mac OS X, and yet again, boasted 150 new features. Codenamed "Panther", Mac OS X 10.3 vastly improved boot and launch times, and was the first release to support 64-bit machines, specifically the then newly-released Power Macintosh G5. It also included new and improved search APIs and integrated search in the Finder with local, per-folder, and remote search options that preceded the system-wide Spotlight framework that would be added later to 10.4 "Tiger". In addition to quicker searching, native PDF rendering and scrolling was also much faster, as demoed at a developer conference by Apple.
Out of all the new features that debuted in "Panther", one feature is worth highlighting, as it changed window management significantly. In Mac OS X "10.3", a revolutionary windowing feature dubbed Exposé was introduced, which for the first time, allowed Macintosh users to consolidate, move, and hide windows without having to manually minimize, hide, and flip through them traditionally. Exposé could be used in two ways -- the first was by using "screen corners", which could be assigned in the then-new Exposé pane or from the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane in System Preferences. The function keys also gained special actions for Exposé by default. F9 showed all applications, F10 showed windows for just the active application, and F11 hid or showed all windows to reveal the Desktop on demand.
Exposé was one of the top 10 most recognizable features of OS X in the last decade, and has influenced other user interface designs, including the Gnome UI team and the Flip 3D feature in Aero. Despite being in three more official OS X releases following Panther (four in total), it was eventually replaced by Mission Control in 10.7 "Lion".
The second major new feature, demanded by companies for better security on their mobile hard drives, such as in the PowerBook G3 and G4 as examples, was "FileVault". While per-file encryption had been supported in Mac OS 9, and file security had been supported overall in Mac OS, a real solution for protecting data was needed. FileVault allowed the entire home folder to be easily encrypted with a password on logout or upon setup, then decrypted on login. Along with the new security features, an improved system firewall and Secure Empty Trash were added to 10.3.
The third notable feature in "Panther" was a completely redesigned Finder, whose brushed metal appearance caused controversy amongst users until the universal unirfied design introduced in Leopard. It also did something very important -- the Finder from the very first OS X release focused primarily on the devices and computers, whether local or on a network, inherent from the design the new Finder gained from the Next file browser. The design in Panther focused on the home folder and user folders such as Pictures and Music, though other folders could easily be added and removed, similar to the Dock. It also added a large, easily-navigable sidebar, which was short-lived, only lasting into Tiger. Panther also, for the first time since 9.2.2, had labels in the Finder--but these, despite the internal metadata on HFS filesystems for detecting the presence of labels being the same, appeared as rounded highlighting on the folder labels themselves, and did not colorize the folder, as System 7 to Mac OS 9.2 had done. While this was a significant improvement that many Mac users were thankful for, some reviewers at the time noted the dot and file highlight inconsistencies labels caused in list and column views, and complained over the bug. The new Finder also included a new Action menu, meaning that most (but not all) functions that could be completed with a contextual menu and previously required it or going to the Menubar now could be done directly from the Finder. Other minor improvements taken advantage of in the Finder today, such as DVD burn support for Windows machines, a easily customizable command toolbar, and the ability to compress folders were added in 10.3.
Font Book was added to OS X for easy access and installation of fonts on the system, and several fonts - Hoefler, Skia, and others were added along with improved effect and new shadow controls in system font boxes. iChat gained a new video conferencing feature, and "AV" was added to denote audio/video in the application name. Similarly to Microsoft's Windows XP, which already had introduced such a feature, Panther introduced Fast User Switching on the Mac, meaning that users on OS X no longer had to log out to allow someone to log into his/her separate account. It also took advantage of the Quartz Extreme stack and allowed cube rotation animations of different desktops if the GPU on that system supported it. Major improvements to Mail and iDisk service were also added to the Mac OS X line, such as better junk filtering, starting with Panther. HFS (the default OS X filesystem) also continued to receive several major improvements, such as better journaling support and automatic optimization upon installation or when handling large files that improved usage of all Mac OS Extended filesystems attached to that Mac.
Other minor tidbits were gracefully added to this major release, such as the ability to customize all system keyboard shortcuts, or to assign menu items intelligently to a shortcut when added manually. The new "Vicki" speech voice, the next-generation daughter of the aging MacInTalk Victoria voice was also introduced as the system default in Panther. The Aqua UI also received notable subtle improvements the Mac community had sent feedback on, such as refined transparency in menus and sheets, smoother antialiasing, animation and scroll handling, and reduced striping details begun in Jaguar (the previous release) complemented by the new milky-striped Menubar and refined Apple logo.
Panther, for the first time, began to look at the world maturely in terms of its support, and included yet more print and scan drivers and extensions, improved SMB and Windows networking support, Word format support in TextEdit, and yet more international support from the previous release. UNIX tools, the BSD subsystem, and CUPS also received several improvements, as well as a new XCode release that introduced smarter garbage collection and cleanup, along with new compilation mechanisms and an easier UI.
Overall, Panther was a large and significant improvement to Mac OS X that cannot be undermined, and set the trend for releasing large amounts of improvements and features to the Mac OS X line that would continue into future releases until Mavericks.