The Evolution and Growth of macOS

Your Mac has an identity. It’s called macOS and it changes a lot. Since 2001, when Cheetah was released as the first operating system, a Mac has undergone tons of modifications both on the level of design and functionality. We’ve analyzed the path of macOS and disclose the key highlights in this post.

Why do you need to dive into the past? First of all, Apple allows users to downgrade. So if you’re not satisfied with the darkness of Mojave, there’s an option to switch to something that works better for you. It’s a life-saver if you have to test specific programs in different operating systems. Or, maybe you’re just curious.

For sure, you need a good reason for installing an old version. While Apple operating systems get smarter year after year, the latest macOS is the one supporting the most innovative functionality. So before you decide to downgrade, let us walk you through the major concerns:

  • Check software compatibility. Some of the programs you use may be incompatible with the older versions of macOS. Don’t switch until you know that your workflow won’t be damaged by switching.
  • Ensure you have enough disk space. Some operating systems are heavy – prepare your Mac by cleaning your hard drive.
  • Backup the data you don’t want to lose. Use Apple’s native Time Machine or third-party software to create a full backup before downgrading.
  • Get an installer. If your Mac currently works on Mojave, you won’t be able to grab an older version from the Mac App Store – you should download an installer first.

The main thing to remember – don’t play if you don’t know the rules. Get acquainted with the key changes that marked the birth of the macOS version of your choice. This will help you analyze the pros and cons as well as explore your capabilities.

Apart from gradually adding default programs like Messages and Maps to the macOS, Apple introduced tons of changes that went unnoticed for a user. Jaguar was the first operating system to add Universal Access. With Panther, Mac users embraced Expose – a feature for managing open apps. And in High Sierra, Apple File System evolved. Each of these determines the value, functionality, and work behind Mac’s operating systems.

For more comprehensive insights into the evolution of OS X and macOS versions, check the infographic below. Spoiler alert: It has enormously cute cats inside.


The evolution of macOS : 2001 - Cheetah OS X 10.0 - March 24, 2001 - When you saw it, you wanted to lick it," said Steve Jobs about Aqua - the brand new UI born with the release of Cheetah. Preview, Mail, QuickTime, and TextEdit make debut at this point. Puma OS X 10.1 - September 25, 2001 - No big functionality updates, the focus is shifted to performance instead. From improved file management to CD and DVD burning, Puma just makes it work better. 2002 - Jaguar OS X 10.2 - August 23, 2002 - A large grey Apple logo appears for the first time, replacing Happy Mac at startup. Optimized search functionality of Finder and the first release of Accessibility API – Universal Access. App arrivals: iChat and Address Book. 2003 - Panther OS X 10.3 - October 24, 2003 - Panther release introduces Expose, a feature for seamless management of open applications. Safari officially becomes the default web browser. 2005 - Tiger OS X 10.4 - April 29, 2005 - A rich harvest for Mac, Tiger marks the launch of 200+ new features. Spotlight search and Dashboard are the top stars, with Apple TV, Automator, and VoiceOver joining the crowd. 2007 - Leopard OS X 10.5 - 
October 26, 2007 - Long-awaited and Mac-changing. Leopard gives a spectacular leap. Introducing Time Machine, Boot Camp, QuickLook, and full support for 64-bit software. 2009 - Snow Leopard OS X 10.6 - August 28, 2009 - While Leopard did a great job, Snow Leopard arrives to refine it even more. Mainly, it comes with apps rewritten in 64 bit and OpenCL. The 2009 OS X release is also known for Mac App Store launch. 2011 - Lion OS X 10.7 - July 20, 2011 - iCloud arrives. Apart from that, lots of iOS advancements find reflection in OS X Lion, covering Launchpad, multi-touch gestures, and more. 2012 - Mountain Lion OS X 10.8 - July 25, 2012 - Mountain Lion adds new integrations and further iOS perks like Reminders, Notes, and Messages. It gets easier to track app updates via the Notification Center. 2013 - Mavericks OS X 10.9 - October 22, 2013 - Maps, iBooks, and Tags debut in the first inanimate OS X - Mavericks. To enable secure password encryption and storage, iCloud Keychain in introduced. 2014 - Yosemite OS X 10.10 - October 16, 2014 - A completely new sleek design is what Yosemite is remembered for. Continuity and Handoff integrated into the new OS strengthen bonds between iOS and OS X devices. 2015 - El Capitan - OS X 10.11 - September 30, 2015 - El Capitan features Split Views - Dual window functionality for arranging and managing app windows. Plus, OS X 10.11 comes with improved Safari, Mail, and Spotlight. 2016 - Sierra macOS 10.12 - September 20, 2016 - With Sierra, OS X dies and macOS is born. The renamed system introduces even more iOS perks like Siri and unlocking Mac with Apple Watch. 2017 - High Sierra macOS 10.13 - September 25, 2017 - Major improvements go unnoticed for a user, but the overall performance skyrockets, due to embracing Apple File System and a new video standard, HEVC. 2018 - Mojave macOS 10.14 - September 24, 2018 - Visual refinements introduced via Dark Mode and Dynamic Desktop take central stage in Mojave. The new apps migrating from iOS include Stocks, News, Home, and Voice Memos.
The Evolution of macOS Versions | Infographic Source

Author Bio: James Dorian is a technical copywriter at Setapp. He is a tech geek who knows a lot about modern apps that will make your work more productive. James reads tons of online blogs on technology, business, and ways to become a real pro in our modern world of innovations.

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