What is Mac OS – Versions, Pros & Cons

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What is Mac OS? Mac OS, the short form, is commonly used to refer to the Macintosh Operating System, which was in the beginning simply called a System Software.

This operating system was introduced by Apple in 1984. At that time, it was considered as the first commercial computer operating system that used the Graphical User Interface, or GUI.

This useful feature helped a great deal in making the operating system much easier to operate. Also, the navigation became much more accessible to all. This was a significant help especially to the non-technical people.

Over time, the manufacturers developed and upgraded the operating system and now there are many different versions of Mac operating systems found in the market.

Apart from the common and useful features like the calendars, spreadsheets, and word processor, the manufacturer has also included a few additional features in it. This has made the operating system even more useful and functional, especially for use in the offices.

The architecture of the Mac operating system includes POSIX at its core. The system is also built on the XNU kernel and all fundamental attributes and features of the Unix interface commands are included in its design.

The entire architecture of the Mac OS is, once again, based on the concept of GUI or Graphical User Interface.

Darwin is the open source of this operating system which was further liberated by Apple. This is made from several different components out of which the two most important ones are Finder and Aqua Interface.

With the launch of the original Mac operating system and its updated versions in the subsequent years, the users got a multitasking platform that helped them to perform different tasks concurrently.

The best part of this operating system is that it will not interfere or disturb the other tasks when a user performs a particular one.

The present coding system of Mac OS depends on the layered architecture which has made this system even better than before.

For the coding system, Apple uses the most advanced XCode Interface. This is a sophisticated interface that supports different programming languages such as:

  • C
  • Objective C
  • C++ and
  • Swift.

Another significant move made by Apple regarding the architecture of the Mac operating system is improvising Intel. This has helped the users in ways more than one such as:

  • This helped the programmers in building different applications and programs.
  • It facilitated in creating a perfect harmony between Intel and Macintosh, which ideally is based on PowerPC.
  • The programmers could also make the best use of Apple script Firework.

Most importantly, it helped the programmers to have a greater hold over the first party programs and third-party applications.

The programmers can now apply the Automator much easily and for that they need not have any previous knowledge of programming. Everything is pre-written in the operating system as one of its specific tasks.

What is Mac OS?

what is Mac OS

Mac OS was previously known as Mac OS X and later on people referred to it as OS X simply. This is a proprietary graphical operating system that is designed and marketed by Apple.

Considering the operating system market of desktop and laptop computers, this operating system ranks second to Microsoft Windows. It is also one of the most popular operating systems for web usage.

The first desktop version of the Mac OS series was released in 2001 and was named Mac OS X 10.0.

It was used as the primary operating system for the Macintosh line of computers designed and marketed by Apple. It was then updated in the same year and was named Mac OS 10.1.

The nomenclature of Mac OS series is very interesting. Mostly, these operating systems are named after the big cats.

For example, the last release with the name of big cats was OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. After that, Apple named its operating systems after different regions, mainly of different locations in California.

In 2012, Mac OS was shortened and was called simply OS X. Here, X denotes the Roman numeral, Ten. Later, in 2016, it was termed as ‘macOS.’ This is accordance to the taxonomy of other operating systems developed by the company such as:

  • iOS
  • tvOS and
  • watchOS.

The latest version of this series released in October 2019 is named macOS Catalina.

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The structure of this operating system is based on Unix as well as different other technical systems that were developed within the period of 1985 and 1997.

Till 2005, there were several versions of Mac OS X developed and released by Apple when they turned their focus on Intel CPU. In 2006, they came up with Intel based Mac in 32 bits and 64 bits.

As for the Apple TV, it uses the updated version of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. The features of the operating system include some of the most advanced ones such as:

  • Aqua User Interface – This was launched in 2000 and is the main difference in the traditional Mac OS and the current macOS.
  • Spatial anti-aliasing mechanism – The graphical user interface or GUI of Mac OS X also uses this mechanism which is found in Windows operating system as well. This produces the graphics and text on the screen.
  • Color sync mechanism – This was set up into the core of the drawing search engine of the operating system. This feature helps the OS to add colors to multimedia jobs and printing.

There are also several other features added to this operating system such as Sheets, Drop Shadows, and Dialogue Boxes.

There are different components in this operating system which enhances the performance of it.

  • One such special component is the Finder. This helps the OS in operating any instruction and find different files quickly without any interruption. This is a component found in the 10.5 version of Mac OS. It previews the videos and files as well as other pages. While doing that, it does not disturb any one of them by opening or interrupting.
  • Spotlight is another component which is a high-speed mechanism found in Finder. This component is used on and from the 10.4 version of the Mac operating system. This component helps in searching all the incoming and outgoing mails. In addition to that, it also helps in accessing photos and messages.
  • Another important component is Dock. This helps the users to access different stored files and folders in the hardware using a shortcut method. It also helps in minimizing the windows.
  • Apple also introduced Expose in its 10.3 version. This component can perform several crucial functions. It helps in gaining easy access to the apps and windows. You can also access the desktop by displaying Thumbnails in the open windows. It will help you to perform all the different tasks at the same time. When you perform a specific task, this component will hide the rest.

In the more recent versions, Apple has introduced several other useful components. The Automator is one such component that is introduced in the 10.4 version.

This automates different functions, justifying its name. Apple has also used its proprietary Apple Color Emoji font to support the emoji characters.

Apart from that, the Mac OS is connected with different social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Users can connect to these channels using the share buttons to access content including text and pictures.

The recent releases of Mac operating systems also have a lot of features and applications that originally debuted in the iOS, its mobile operating system.

One of these notable inclusions is Siri, the intelligent personal assistant. This was first introduced in the 10.12 version of the Mac operating system.

The latest versions of Mac OS also have a lot of similarity in its design with the first iMacs such as:

  • Soft edges
  • Pinstripes and
  • Translucent colors.

These new features made the user interface even better. If you compare the latest versions with Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X Server 1.0 Platinum, you will see the difference in user experience.

Apple has always tried to change the look and design of Mac OS. There are several tweaks made to the look of the menu bar and the windows.

This operating system and the APIs support all Mac models, especially those that come with high-resolution retina displays.

The Mac operating system is designed according to the guidelines published for the human interface. This provides the users with keyboard shortcuts and a more consistent interface. The features and new applications of the operating system include:

  • Color picker
  • Spelling and grammar checker
  • Font chooser
  • Special character palette and
  • A Dictionary.

The OpenGL graphics system included on version 10.2 helps in hardware augmented drawing and is called Quartz Extreme.

It is the inner imaging model of this technology that helps in correlating with the PDF or Portable Document Format imaging model. This helps in creating several PDF outputs to use in multiple devices.

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You will also get adequate system support from the Mac operating system when you deal with professional image and video formats.

Apart from that, the installed font library in this operating system features several designs of some of the most prominent brands that you may include in your task.

You will also get multilingual support when you use this operating system with its 39 pre-installed system languages.

This means that, irrespective of the system language, you will be able to choose different input methods from the dozens of scripts, including Chinese, while typing a text using this particular operating system.

Finally, the operating system comes with a useful feature that will help you to update the system.

There was a separate software for performing this task in the previous versions Mac OS but in the Mountain Lion version and then after, it was merged with an app.

This app is available exclusively in the Mac App Store. However, the basic mechanism for updating the operating system was unaltered but the download mechanism was fundamentally different as compared to those purchased apps, typically used in Windows operating systems.

For some unknown reason however, this updating function was once again moved to the Software Update Preference pane in Mac OS 10.14 Mojave by Apple.

Different Mac OS Versions

Over the years, Apple has come up with several different versions of Mac OS since its launch in the 1980s. Each of these new versions came with different internal code names.

The different versions released in the last two decades at different times are arranged chronologically in the following list and include:

  • OS X 10 beta code named Kodiak was released on 13th September, 2000
  • OS X 10.0 Cheetah was released on 24th March, 2001
  • OS X 10.1 Puma came in the market on 25th September, 2001
  • OS X 10.2 Jaguar was released by Apple on 24th August, 2002
  • OS X 10.3 Panther, also known as Pinot, was released on 24th October, 2003
  • OS X 10.4 Tiger or Merlot was launched on 29th April, 2005
  • OS X 10.5 Leopard or Chablis came into existence on 26th October, 2007
  • OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was released on 28th August, 2009
  • OS X 10.7 Lion or Barolo was released on 20th July 2011
  • OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or Zinfandel was released on 25th July, 2012
  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or Cabernet was launched on 22th October, 2013
  • OS X 10.10 Yosemite or Syrah came out on 16th October, 2014
  • OS X 10.11 El Capitan or Gala was released on 30th September, 2015
  • macOS 10.12 Sierra or Fuji was launched on 20th September, 2016
  • macOS 10.13 High Sierra or Lobo was released by Apple on 25th September, 2017
  • macOS 10.14 Mojave or Liberty came to the market on 24th September, 2018
  • macOS 10.15 Catalina or Jazz was released on 7th October, 2019 and
  • macOS 11 Big Sur released on 12 November 2020.
  • macOS 12.4 Monterey released on May 16, 2022.

If you look at the list carefully you will notice that all versions of Mac OS, apart from the first OS X beta, are named after big cats and names of regions.

However, internally, all these versions were named after wines, apart from OS X 10.6 and macOS 10.13. Both these versions of Mac OS did not have any codenames.

Later on, Apple decided to change the names of the different versions from wines to different types of apples since 2015. Originality, folks!

Also note that the terms macOS and OX X, normally pronounced as O S Ten, can be used interchangeably. This is because the key functions of the operating systems are similar.

The Pros

1. Productivity apps

The operating system comes with several useful apps that will increase productivity.

These apps are either preinstalled in the operating system by Apple or are available for free download from the Mac App Store.

You can choose apps like Pages, Keynote and Numbers to increase office productivity.

All these apps are free unlike those Microsoft Office Suite apps which you need to purchase separately.

2. User Interface

The operating system comes with a simpler and cleaner interface as compared to Windows operating systems.

This upfront UI will be familiar to those who use iOS mobile operating systems that are used in iPads and iPhones.

3. Multitasking

The Mac OS helps in multitasking because it has dedicated features for it. You can even use these features to open and run multiple workplaces.

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You can switch between these workspaces as easily as the apps with the use of specific hardware inputs and devoted keys.

4. Better integration

The OS comes with a better integration that allows the users to optimize the hardware and software available and used in the computer.

Even the third-party apps and services are selected on the established criteria and undergo strict verifications and rigorous tests.

This ensures higher compatibility, productivity, security and functionality.

5. Less susceptible

The max operating system is much less susceptible to security issues and malware problems as compared to other available operating systems.

This is because there are actually very few malwares developed for the Mac OS.

Moreover, Apple ensures that the security for its apps and operating system is updated on a regular basis to make it more reliable.

6. Safe to use

The fact that you will need to download the apps you want to use from the dedicated Mac App Store when you use the Mac operating system, will reduce the risks of installing any malicious product into your computer that are created by any suspicious developer.

7. Compatibility

With the features and user interface that are almost the same as iOS, the operating system and other devices of Apple have similar workflow logic.

This means that these are compatible with each other and you will have files and data perfectly synchronized irrespective of the device you use.

This is due to the cloud services from Apple that are offered free to the users.

8. BootCamp

There is a built-in program in Mac OS called BootCamp. This program allows you to install Linux, Windows or any other operating system.

9. No Bloatware

Most of the Windows computers have a pe-installed software like Bloatware. This actually reduces the speed of the system.

Mac does not have any such Bloatware and therefore, your computer will not slow down while operating.

The Cons

10. Limited apps

Since you will be able to use apps that are available at the Mac App Store only, you will have a limited number of apps to choose from and use.

11. Upgrades and customization

This operating system is not flexible for customization and updating the hardware.

When you use Mac devices the CPU or RAM cannot be easily replaced.

12. Cost factor

You will need to use a Mac device to use the Mac operating system. These devices are very costly.

This means that using the Mac operating system may not be cost-effective for all.

13. Gaming

The fact that this operating system and Mac devices have limitations in terms of hardware upgrades and customization makes it unsuitable for gamers.

You will only find a few usual games pre installed in it.

14. Accessories and Mac community

There are fewer accessories available for this operating system because it is not as popular as Windows OS.

This means that there is far too small a community for Mac products as compared to other operating systems like Linux and Windows.

This also means that you may not get the same kind of support when you need it as you would have got if you were using Windows operating systems.


What is the purpose of Mac OS?

This operating system is dedicated to the Apple devices. Therefore, the main purpose of it is to make the Apple computers faster and perform well.

It monitors and manages the need of the software of the computer according to the capability of the hardware components installed in the computers.

How does the Mac OS work?

When you run any app, the operating system allocates different tasks to different hardware in the device. It acts as the application interface of the hardware components.

It uses the API or Application Program Interface for functioning. The firmware executes the stored programs when you run the computer.

Is the Mac operating system free?

No, it is not. However, the cost of it is far too less than the cost of a hardware.


Irrespective of the downsides, Mac OS is the best operating system to use for the workstations and personal computers designed and manufactured by Apple. There are many different versions of it available in the market, each with its significant characteristics.

About Taylor Swift

Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift, a UOPEOPLE graduate is a freelance technology writer with in-depth knowledge about computers. She loves to play video games and watch movies when she has no writing assignments. Follow Her at Linkedin