History of the Mac OS X Design
Here is a quick overview of the evolution of Mac OS X/macOS since its first version, Kodiak and how the logo and package branding has changed over time.
OS X Public Beta (Kodiak)
10 Beta Developer Release 2 Current
The history of macOS started with the code name of a bear rather than a cat. It was in September of 2000 that Apple presented Kodiak. For 30$ people could purchase the firts public Beta of Mac OS X.
OS X Cheetah
10.0 10.0.4 Current
6 months later the official OS 10.0 (Cheetah) was released. If featured the brand new user interface called Aqua and new versiosn of apps such as TextEdit, Preview, Mail, and QuickTime.
The specs required for this new OS X (at the time were epic!)... 128 MB of RAM and 800 MB of disk space.
OS X Puma
10.1 10.1.5 Current
Just half a year later, Puma was released. Instead of delivering many new features, it focused on improving the system's performance.
With Mac OS 10.1.2, Apple also started shipping OS X by default with new computers - and replaced OS 9 for good.
OS X Jaguar
10.2 10.2.8 Current
Jaguar featured new applications like iChat and Address Book. It also introduced Universal Access, a component that made OS X more usable for people with visual and hearing impairment or physical disability.
Besides that, OS 10.2 showed a new startup screen: it replaced the Happy Mac logo with the new, fruity Apple icon.
OS X Panther (Pinot)
10.3 10.3.9 Current
Microsoft must have had mixed feelings with Panther: on the one hand, Internet Explorer for Mac was superseded by the new Safari as the default web browser. On the other hand, 10.3 brought many interoperability improvements with Microsoft Windows (including out-of-the-box support for Active Directory).
Additionally, Apple presented Exposé to improve working with multiple open applications.
OS X Tiger (Merlot)
10.4 10.4.11 Current
Tiger brought the invaluable Spotlight search to Mac OS. It was also the first version to present Widgets (like a calculator, a calendar, or a clock) on the new Dashboard.
Besides that, Mac OS 10.4 inaugurated new hardware: it was installed both on the first Macs with Intel processors and on the first Apple TV devices (that were yet to come out later, in 2007).
OS X Leopard (Chablis)
10.5 10.5.8 Current
No other Mac OS had been such a long time in the coming. However, Apple had been busy developing and releasing iOS and the iPhone in the meantime...
The new Leopard, anyhow, introduced a built-in backup system called Time Machine. It also brought full support for 64-bit applications.
Moreover, Mac computers could now run other operating systems like Microsoft Windows - thanks to Boot Camp.
It's also in this version that support for running the classic Mac OS 9 environment was dropped.
OS X Snow Leopard
10.6 10.6.8 Current
Like the name suggests, Snow Leopard built mainly on top of its predecessor, Leopard. However, it introduced the new Mac App Store that was inspired by its successful companion on iOS.
Mac OS 10.6 also marked the end of the PowerPC architecture. Only Intel-based Macs were supported from this point on.
OS X Lion (Barolo)
10.7 10.7.5 Current
The king of all cats, Lion, was the first version of Mac OS that wasn't available on CDs or DVDs anymore. The exclusively downloadable OS picked up many ideas from iOS: Gestures, Launchpad, window restoring, ...
Apple's newest part of infrastructure, iCloud, also debuted in Mac OS 10.7.
OS X Mountain Lion (Zinfandel)
10.8 10.8.5 Current
Mountain Lion brought even more successful concepts from iOS to the Mac: a new Messages app to replace iChat, the Reminders app, and the Notification Center.
Even before presenting OS 10.8, Apple made a big announcement: it committed to a yearly release cycle for new versions of Mac OS.
OS X Mavericks (Cabernet)
10.9 10.9.5 Current
With Mavericks, Apple didn't only introduce a new naming scheme for its operating system. It also made OS 10.9 a free upgrade and promised to keep future updates free, too.
New applications like Maps and iBooks were also presented with Mavericks.
OS X Yosemite (Syrah)
10.10 10.10.5 Current
The biggest design change in years, Mac OS 10.10 follows its little brother iOS - with a flatter appearance and blurred transparency effects.
With the new Handoff functionality, users are able to move seamlessly between devices, even during individual tasks. Apple also emphasizes its Full Screen Mode feature: it's now triggered through the traditional green button in the window title bar.
OS X El Capitan (Gala)
10.11 10.11.6 Current
El Capitan, named after a rock formation in Yosemite National Park, concentrates on performance & stability improvements.
Besides some smaller enhancements to Safari, Spotlight, Mail, and Notes, the introduction of Split Views is probably the biggest novelty: a way to conveniently arrange two applications' windows side-by-side.
macOS Sierra (Fuji)
10.12 10.12.6 Current
Goodbye OS X, hello macOS: once more, Apple's desktop operating system moves closer to its iOS sibling. And it's not only the name: Siri, also originally introduced on the iPhone, is now on macOS, too.
Also in Sierra, Safari officially introduces Apple Pay and Apple Watch can now unlock your Mac.
macOS High Sierra (Lobo)
10.13 10.13.6 Current
Much like El Capitan two years before, High Sierra concentrates mostly on "under the hood" improvements. The Apple File System, for example, brings faster file operations and better security. With HEVC, Apple now supports a new video standard - with up to 40% better compression than previously.
As far as applications are concerned, especially Safari and Photos get a new coat of whitewash (and some new features).
macOS Mojave (Liberty)
10.14 10.14.6 Current
Mojave is a very visual update. Partly due to Dynamic Desktop (which delivers time-shifting desktop pictures), but especially due to the new Dark Mode (which offers a dark appearance for all built-in and many third-party apps).
Apart from improvements to Finder and FaceTime, Apple brings over four new Mac apps from iOS: News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos.
macOS Catalina (Jazz)
10.15 10.15.5 Current
Catalina's primarily focuses on updates to built-in apps, such as replacing iTunes with separate Music, Podcasts, and TV apps, redesigned Reminders and Books apps, and a new Find My app. It also features Sidecar, which allows the user to use an iPad as a second screen for their computer, or even simulate a graphics tablet with an Apple Pencil. It is the first version of macOS not to support 32-bit applications.
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