How to Add the New “Mavericks” Features to Mountain Lion [Mac]

Every time Apple announces a new version of OS X, the Internet is usually filled with a little bit of love, a little more hatred, and a lot of criticism. The new OS X Mavericks is no different. When people aren’t complaining about the actual name of the new OS, they’re debating whether the upgrade is worth it for the new features.

Love it or hate it, OS X Mavericks is coming this fall. If you just can’t wait to try out some of its features, have no fear because you really don’t need the new OS to get these new features. Instead, I’m going to show you how to get all of Mavericks features and more by using third-party tools and applications that are already available to you (most for free).

iBooks is a reading application for Apple iOS devices that has been around since 2010. You can browse for books in the iBooks Store, purchase the books you like, and then download them to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. With the release of OS X Mavericks, you’ll also be able to access those books via the iBooks app on your Mac. However, this is really nothing new; you can easily do the same thing on your Mac with the Amazon Kindle app.

Use Amazon Kindle to read and sync books on you Mac and iOS devices.

The Amazon Kindle reading app is connected to the Kindle Store, which has over one million books for you to choose from. Just like iBooks, you can browse the store, purchase, and download books to your Mac. You can then use the iOS app to access your books on your mobile device and/or tablet. Just like the new iBooks app, your books are automatically synced in the cloud. Plus, the ability to download your books for offline access means you don’t need an Internet connection to read them.

Maps is another iOS app that is now being brought to the Mac. With all of the backlash Apple received for their iOS Maps app in 2012, I’m not sure if Mac OS X is even ready for it. Luckily, we have Google Maps and Bing Maps to the rescue. While there aren’t any desktop apps available for the Mac, you really don’t need one. Google Maps has a full window viewing option (just hide the left panel), and Bing has a fullscreen viewing option (click the fullscreen button).

Use Handoff to send maps from your Mac to your iOS device.

If you’re looking to get a map from your Mac to your iOS device, you can then couple Google/Bing Maps with Handoff. It’s an app that lets you push pages, maps, and more from your desktop (via a browser extension) to your mobile device (via a mobile app). When you have a map that you want to send to your phone or tablet, just click the Handoff browser button and in seconds the map will appear in the Handoff app on your device. Then you can use it however you’d like.

The new iCal will have a cleaner, leather-free look in OS X Mavericks. While there are plenty of calendar apps available with great features, you may already be attached to iCal. If so, you can use Mountain Tweaks to remove the leather from iCal and change it to aluminum. Mountain Tweaks is a cool tweaking tool for OS X Mountain Lion, and will help to remove many of its “annoying” features – including the leather from the Calendar and Contacts apps.

Blotter presents your iCal events and reminders right on your desktop.

If you’d rather just have a better desktop calendar, Blotter and Desktop Calendar Plus are two great choices. They’re both impressive and fairly unique. Blotter syncs with iCal and will display your events and reminders right on top of your desktop (pictured above). It will look as though it’s actually part of your desktop wallpaper. Desktop Calendar Plus is similar except for being a whole new calendar system of its own – though support for iCal and Google Calendar is coming in the future. With either of these, there will be no need for you to open iCal ever again.

Safari in OS X Mavericks will have a performance boost as well as a few additional features like Shared Links in the sidebar. Here, you will be able to see links posted by the people you follow on Twitter and LinkedIn. A simple extension like Yoono can easily add the same effect to Google Chrome and Firefox. With it you can see links and status updates from your friends on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and more.

Opera Next's speed dial gives Safari a run for its money.

The Top Sites (Speed Dial page) has also been revamped in Mavericks, but there are numerous extensions that can enhance the New Tab page in Google Chrome and Firefox as well. Additionally, you may also want to try a fast new browser altogether, and Opera’s new browser Opera Next is a great choice. It has an enhanced Speed Dial that is fast, customizable, searchable, and even supports groups (see screenshot above); you can group websites together into folders and name them as you’d like.

Now with iCloud support, your Keychain passwords will be synced across all Apple devices in OS X Mavericks. Since mobile Safari does not have a save password feature, this is sure to come in handy. iCloud Keychain will also include a password generator to help you create strong, unique passwords. Although this sounds helpful, it has already been possible for years with both 1Password and LastPass.

1Password works just as well, if not better than, iCloud Keychain.

1Password is not free, but it’s a popular choice among Mac users. It keeps your passwords safe and secure along with account logins, credit card information, and more. 1Password also has an iOS app with a built-in browser, so you can easily access your passwords from wherever you are. In a similar manner, LastPass is a free password manager that can do the same thing. It works with all major browsers and has its own mobile browser, which integrates with your LastPass account so that you can use your saved passwords.

The new multiple displays enhancements for OS X Mavericks seem to take a page out of Multimon’s book. Multimon is a retina-ready, multiple monitor management app that will also help you to manage your windows more efficiently. A few features include adding customizable menu bars to each monitor, remembering and restoring window locations, automatic resizing windows, and integrated hotkeys.

Multimon - Multiple monitor and window management app for Mac.

Multimon even supports Spaces and the Mac’s multiple desktop feature. As you can see, there’s no need to wait until Mavericks to fix the multiple displays issues currently in OS X Mountain Lion. Just download Multimon; it’s now on sale for just $1.99 (from $9.99), so you’ll want to catch it while you can.

Before there was the Notification Center, there was Growl. Growl is an advanced notification system for Mac OS X that is still loved by many. Again, it seems as though Apple took a page out of someone else’s book (namely Growl), when it came up with the Notification Center. There won’t be a huge difference, but with OS X Mavericks, you’ll be able to interact with your notifications and get things done – without having to open the Notification Center.

Prowl is the Growl client for iOS. Push to your iOS device notifications from your Mac.

You may not be able to interact with Growl in the same way, but you can do many other things like change the style/theme of your notifications, see what you’ve missed when you’re away (something else that will be added in Mavericks), enable/disable the apps that you want to use Growl with, and more. Plus, Growl even has a mobile app called Prowl. With Prowl you can view your Mac’s notifications on your mobile device, and you can push your iOS device notifications to your Mac.

It’s funny that Apple has finally decided to add tabs to Finder, especially since so many third-party applications have already been doing this for a while now – and quite well, I’ll add. I’m sure you’re already familiar with Path Finder and TotalFinder, but my personal favorite tool for adding tabs to Finder is XtraFinder. All three of these work perfectly and add many other amazing features to Finder as well.

Get tabs in Mac OS X Finder for free with XtraFinder.

Although Apple’s tabs will be styled a little differently (Safari-style as opposed to Chrome-style), they’ll still function in the same manner as with the above-mentioned tools. Unlike Path Finder and TotalFinder, XtraFinder is free and comes with a great set of useful features.

Finder will get another upgrade in OS X Mavericks: file tags. You’ll be able to organize your documents, images, and videos better by adding tags to them. Again, it’s a handy feature that should have been added years ago. Luckily, we have tools like Tagit, Punakea, and again Path Finder that all add file tagging abilities to OS X.

Not only does Path Finder add tabs to Finder, but it also adds tags.

Of the three mentioned, Tagit is best if you’re looking for a free option; it’s a standalone app that is easy to use. Just drag your files to the dock icon and you’ll be able to add tags to them. It also includes a search feature so that you can later find your files by tag. You can also search within Finder for tagged items (e.g. search for items with the important tag using (tag:important).

If you want to kill two birds with one stone, then Path Finder is definitely the way to go. It offers tabs, tags, and many other features that really should be included with OS X. Just know that Path Finder is a standalone app. This means that it does not add these actual features to Finder; it’s a separate app that can be used in place of Finder and has added functionalities.

Now that I’ve shown you how to get all of the cool new Mavericks features in Mountain Lion, you have two options. You can choose to use these until OS X 10.9 arrives this fall and then upgrade, or you can keep using them in your beloved OS X 10.8 and choose not to upgrade.

With that being said, let us know in the comments – will you be upgrading to OS X Mavericks? Are the new features enough to make you pay for a new upgrade? Or will you simply use the tools that are already available to you to add Mavericks features and more?