It's strange to have gone from years of uncertainty and vaporware to a steady annual supply of major new operating system releases from Apple. But some important questions quickly follow. Do I really want to pay $129 every year for the next version of Mac OS X? Worse, do I really want to deal with the inevitable upgrade hassles and 10.x.0 release bugs every single year? Just as the 10.2.x code base was finally settling down (the botched 10.2.8 release notwithstanding), the Mac community is asked to start all over again with 10.3.0.
I upgraded to Panther on my powerbook last weekend. I took the time to do a very through set of backups beforehand, which is always a good idea, but didn't appear to be necessary. It was a very smooth upgrade, and all my apps worked fine afterwards.
The new Finder is what people will like most, at first.. Expose however, is the real stand out feature in Panther. After installing Panther, I decided to give using Expose a shot as my primary (and only) method of managing all the windows on my desktop, and I stopped using virtual desktops. On average, I usually have about 15 - 20 windows open. Browser, IRC, IM, Mail, and at least 5 terminals connected to various machines.. (The number of terminals I have open gets out of control when I'm coding.. +20, on average.) In general, its been working out pretty good.. Better then virtual desktops in some ways, worse in others.
Using virtual desktops you can lay out your windows across more space, and navigate by sliding between them.. Expose on the other hand, just spreads out the windows cluttering your desktop allowing you to select and focus the one you need. When all the windows return to their normal size, the one you selected is on top, but the rest of the layers remain the way they were. You can have it display all apps, or just windows from the app you are currently using. You can also push all windows out of the way to get a clear view of the desktop for selecting files, opening finder, etc.
Expose is very simple and it seems to solve many of the window management and selection issues that I use virtual desktops for. Kudos to Apple on the feature.
That being said, you can still use virtual desktops with Panther. I just decided to plunge into Apple's new take on task switching head first.
Mac OS X 10.3 the definitive Panther review