To sell upgrades to an operating system, Apple knows it has to deliver impressive treats to all its users. Otherwise people stick with the OS they have, with its known flaws, predictability and price already paid. Well, Panther doesn't let anyone down when it comes to new and improved features. The app with the most long-term impact is iChat AV. The full version is included free. iChat introduces personal audio and video conferencing for the rest of us. This is full-screen video and/or full duplex audio (real-time, two-way voice communication) with a simple user interface. The video works with Apple's new iSight camera or any other Firewire-capable camera. What makes iChat special is its zero configuration demands, its high-quality results for very little bandwidth, its overall low cost, and the fact that people can now see who they are talking to. Add to this the fact that using iChat over a high bandwidth internet connection is cheaper and has better quality audio than the telephone, and it becomes a no-brainer. The only thing keeping it from completely taking over the telephone market is that it needs to be supported by some form of chat or instant messaging service. AOL has such a service, as does .Mac (dot Mac). Both parties need one of these accounts. And if both of you want to chat with video, you will also need DSL or a cable internet connection. The results are worth the effort. And since the application is so simple a novice can set it up, it is just a matter of time before iChat will be everywhere. Font Book, a font management utility for the rest of us, is the next treat for Panther owners. I wrote earlier that Font Book had a limit on the number of fonts it could handle, but I was misinformed. It handles an unlimited number of fonts. First, having lots of fonts turned on at the same time slows down your computer. And you run the risk of those fonts becoming corrupted. Font Book allows you to turn on only the fonts you need, protecting you from these circumstances. Second, it allows you to apply special effects to your fonts such as drop-shadows and double underlines - in any application. Finally, it enables you to apply advanced typography. This means control of kerning, spacing, fraction-rendering, swashes, letter case and other font style enhancements - again, in any application. Apple computers have been the publishers' choice since the dawn of computing, so learning of Font Book was one of those 'it's about time' moments. And, as you would expect, it is Mac-straightforward to use. FileVault, Apple's advanced encryption application, is one treat I have personally been waiting for. If you keep confidential or proprietary data on your laptop, you run the risk of losing more than just your computer to a thief. So if you cannot afford to have data out of your control, you need FileVault. File Vault has two self-generated keys. One is relative to your login password and the other comes from the master password that administrators use. What makes FileVault special is the fact that it is uncrackable, very fast, and virtually automatic. Last week, Apple posted an update to OS 10.3 that fixed a number of flaws in Panther. Included was a fix for FileVault. So make sure you apply this update before using the application. This is just the tip of the iceberg of Panther's new features. It comes with updates to 22 applications and 23 utilities. It also advances 15 key Apple technologies. System-level PDF creation and faxing, and advanced automatic developers tools are now included. The list goes on. I will be discovering new Panther features for weeks to come. So, is Panther a worthwhile upgrade? If you are a power user, absolutely. The performance and stability improvements alone are worth the price. It is also a good deal for novices - just for the new communication tools, security, cross-platform connectivity and automated features. Oh, and don't forget the much more usable Mac Help. E-mail Dave Horrigan at firstname.lastname@example.org with your Mac queries.