Our guide to Mac operating systems
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to Mac operating systems

First published date November 14 2013 Amended date November 14 2013

Over the last 30 years, the products of Apple have become iconic parts of the modern world. From desktop and laptop computers through to music players and smartphones, Apple’s product family has become celebrated as an avant-garde antidote to the functionality of rival products. Apple’s proprietary operating system has been at the heart of everything this company does, making a Mac operating system course beneficial and instructive in equal measure.


Going all GUI

From the outset, Apple developed a visual control system for their computers, rather than the text-based DOS system of rival PCs. This was the first time a computer had been controlled using a desktop interface with pictorial representations of each object or program, rather than blank screens and a flashing cursor inscrutably demanding lines of coded instructions. The intuitive appeal of Apple’s windows and icons (controlled by a mouse, in another industry breakthrough) was so great that today, every computer and mobile device on sale is controlled using a variation on this graphical user interface theme, or GUI.


Down with the System

To begin with, the Mac operating system was simply titled System, before becoming Mac OS in 1996. The modern incarnation is OS X, praised for its stability and elegant GUI, not to mention a variety of user-friendly features and integrated abilities. Because it’s made by the same company who produce the surrounding hardware, OS X is relatively free from glitches, and it’s also far less prone to computer viruses than rival PCs.

With five per cent of UK computers estimated to be Apple products (and a proportionally greater market share among domestic consumers), it may be worthwhile taking an Apple Mac course alongside a Mac OS course, to learn more about Apple’s range of desktop, laptop and server-based computers. Meanwhile, Mac OS courses will provide students with various levels of education about the intricacies and nuances of OS X, from basic operations and navigation through to some of its more complex integrated abilities.


Keep it in the family

One of the ways in which Apple has sought to establish itself is by ensuring its various hardware devices synchronise and communicate effectively. Transferring music onto an iPod or sharing files with an iPad is simplicity itself when the connected device is also an Apple computer, whereas mixing Apple products with those of other manufacturers can be frustratingly difficult. This cross-platform support has been achieved because each peripheral device is designed to integrate seamlessly with Mac OS X.

As a result, a Mac operating system course will teach skills that pertain not just to computers, but to many of the world’s most popular peripherals and portable devices. The iOS software used on iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads is directly descended from OS X, with many shared similarities. Furthermore, because Apple evolves its operating systems (rather than embarking on the sort of wholesale revolution that saw Windows XP become Windows 7), a Mac operating system course will imbue students with skills and knowledge that should remain useful for many years to come.


Return of the Mac

Another way in which Apple has blazed a trail for its rivals has been in the endless revisions to OS X. While Windows has developed in fits and starts, through limited and often unsuccessful transitions, Apple has steadily refined and enhanced OS X. These updates have frequently targeted specific issues or new software conflicts, whereas Microsoft has been more likely to simply blame software developers for erratic or unreliable program behaviour, or release a service pack update with relatively little user support. Many people struggled to make the jump from DOS to Windows 95, while Millennium Edition and Vista were particularly unsuccessful attempts to revitalise the Windows brand. Even the success of Windows 7 and 8 has to be partly attributed to the obvious similarities with OS X, with its easy-to-use visual interface. A Mac operating system course will guide users through this GUI as part of its syllabus.


Six of the best OS X features 

1.      One-click software access. Unlike PCs, where programs are hidden away in menus off the Windows button, OS X places single-click icons all over the desktop screen.

2.      Use the computer without a mouse. There are numerous keyboard shortcuts enabling easy and fluid system operation without a functioning mouse – again unlike rival PCs.

3.      Access software through the Cloud. It’s now possible to access the latest versions of any apps installed onto a Mac on other Apple devices, like iPads or iPods.

4.      Remotely control other computers. Later versions of OS X allow one Mac to take control over another, so you can help to troubleshoot a friend’s Mac over the web.

5.      Catch burglars. Many Macs have integrated cameras, for Skype and webcam chats, which are also able to take photos if any unauthorised user tampers with the device.

6.      Make stop-motion footage. Play back video footage on a camcorder or phone, and tell the computer to take still shots at specified intervals, for effortless stop-motion action.


By Neil Cumins

Similar Subjects