Well, I've taken the plunge. Thursday evening around 9pm I finished final prep work on the Powerbook (backups, disk checkups, verifications) and clicked the install button of Panther (Mac OS X 10.3).
The install went mostly smoothly. The only problem I encountered after booting into Panther for the first time were all of the apps except for the Finder crashing seconds after launch, which freaked me out a bit, I must admit.
With help from the excellent $5 Take Control of Upgrading to Panther e-book by Joe Kissel, I suspected it was a startup item, and used the Shift key after login trick he suggested to shut them down and remove them. Turns out it was a favorite system add-on called Default Folder X, which makes navigation and file naming much nicer. I had the incompatible 1.8 version, so I simply updated to the new 1.9.2 release and all has been well since.
Faster, snappier, zippier. This was what I'd heard alot about, from readings on the net and my good friends Andy and Matt. It's subtle but nice -- things just feel like they're acting a bit more quickly. I can see how those seconds might add up in a day, week or month's time. It's not earth-shattering speed, but it makes my older TiBook more useable.
Exposé is quite nice. This was a feature I began having interest in after a few visits to the Apple Store in the past few weeks. Basically you can set F-Keys, hot spots or even mouse clicks to show windows of all apps, apps of the frontmost app or can hide all windows at the edge of the screen. I can see this being very useful.
Finder seems odd to me. Not sure what I think of this change yet, but at least I can revert Finder windows to the old Jaguar way. The new Finder windows all carry a selection of icons on the left edge and have a brushed metal look. Selections seem different as well, as selecting a file selects a bar of color across the entire window. This might take some getting used to, but is pretty minor. I should give the new Finder approach a shot, even though it's a little different than my normal work style.
I also found a little higher resolution for my 21" screen that's slightly nicer. It's an odd pixel count though: 1344 x 1008. That's a bit weird, but those extra pixels compared to 1280 x 960 do help.
System preferences have been rearranged now, and mostly for the better I think. Since I'm a relatively new OS X user, this might be less of a problem for me than a longer-term user. Generally speaking though, I found everything I needed to find with very little searching.
Finally, all of my apps running under Jaguar seem just fine under Panther. I suspect I'll run into a few that will need updating, but so far so good. So, after a few hours of use I'm pleased with the Panther update.
Now, you could argue that $130 for these updates is steep and in some ways I can agree. It would seem some of the things like performance increases ought to have been there before. Still, better response and speed, Exposé, Fast User Switching and the other tweaks seem well done and worth some price. Maybe $49 would have been better. But Apple is a software company, so this is how they pay for the work they do.
I'm pretty happy with Panther so far, and that's a good thing. :-)
Have a great weekend!