SAN FRANCISCO – There isn't one thing that jumps out with Apple's new Mac operating system, known as Mavericks – and that's a good thing.
Mavericks has plenty of modest refinements that add up to a system well worth the upgrade — even if Apple weren't giving it away for free.
Many years ago, Web surfing changed dramatically when the Opera browser offered a way to open multiple Web pages in tabs instead of separate windows that cluttered the computer desktop. Most browsers soon followed.
That concept now comes to file management as part of Mavericks, which Apple released Tuesday for new Macs and older ones running Snow Leopard, Lion or Mountain Lion. You can now use tabs rather than separate windows for various folders, disks and networked servers.
The change may seem cosmetic, but it saves time. As I opened a file here and move a file there in previous versions of the Mac OS, I could easily have a half-dozen or more windows open. If I closed them, I'd have to go through the trouble of finding those folders and drives again later. Instead, I resigned to the clutter and the inefficiencies that came with it.
Tabs mean I no longer have to accept that clutter. All the tabs are neatly organized at the top of a single window. I can access files and move them around more easily.
To further assist with file management, Mavericks lets you assign one or more tags to files. It's similar to the approach Google's Gmail uses to organize email.
I've been trying to go paperless by scanning or requesting bills and receipts electronically, but they've been scattered in more than 100 folders and subfolders.
The problem is that an individual file might belong in a number of folders. A receipt for a museum membership might go under “receipts,” “museum,” “charity,” “taxes” or in a folder for the credit card I used. With tags, I can label the file with all five and find it more easily come tax time.
It doesn't matter anymore what folder I put it in. Searching by the tag will automatically pull the relevant file up.
Mavericks also has features that reflect a world in which people use multiple devices.
You can access your tags when you use another Mavericks computer, though not iOS devices such as iPhones and iPads yet. If you're sending a document using an Apple app, tags get stripped to preserve privacy.
Through Apple's iCloud storage service, the company's Safari browser already syncs bookmarks across Mac and iOS devices such as iPhones and iPads.
Stored passwords are now shared, along with credit card information. If you enter a credit card to buy a CD on a Mavericks Mac, you don't need to re-enter that information to buy earplugs from a different vendor, even when using an iPad. Apple says passwords and credit card information are encrypted for security. And because you don't need to remember passwords, Safari can recommend hard-to-guess ones to thwart hackers.
Apple e-books also sync. Mavericks introduces an iBooks app for the Mac, so you're no longer limited to iPhones and iPads. You can start a book on an iPhone and pick up where you left off on the Mac. Any highlights and notes transfer over. Bonus: Copy a passage into any app, and Mavericks automatically adds a citation.
Apple's much-maligned Maps app comes to the Mac. Last year, that app deposed Google Maps as the primary mapping app on iPhones, only to lead people astray with mismarked landmarks and faulty directions.
The mobile app has gotten better, and the Mac version shares many of its attributes. You don't get turn-by-turn voice guidance on the Mac, but you can send results to your iPhone with two clicks.
One peeve: Voice assistance on the phone seems to work only if you send just the destination. If you look up full directions with your planned starting point and send that, you'll have to flip through screens of directions manually.
Apple's mapping service also doesn't work on regular browsers, so you need an app on an Apple product. And it lacks transit directions.
Mavericks offers much more you won't see, but might feel. That includes better power and memory management. There are also improvements when working with multiple monitors.