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A lot of chatter is being heard in recent days about the latest operating system to emerge on the Windows platform, and while Windows XP Professional isn’t about to be replaced yet, lawyers should be aware that a new system, code-named Longhorn, is slated for release next year. Likewise, on the Mac front, a new version of the OS X operating system is now available to users. Apart from increased stability and security, both of these releases have some practical benefits for lawyers. Early reviews indicate that the look and feel of XP is present on the new Longhorn system, so users won’t have to worry about relearning those functions that are so ingrained in their heads. However, the system provides more detailed looks at a system’s resources, including bar charts, and can more easily locate files anywhere on the machine. The look of the new Windows Explorer program will resemble a Web browser, with back and forward buttons instead of the up arrow. One of the anticipated features of Longhorn for lawyers is the ability to create lists of files, or libraries, with files able to be in any number of lists. Basically, these are shortcuts to documents, but the process can help organize documents better. For example, lawyers who use standard forms for specific types of court filings can put links to those forms in a library of documents for any number of clients. One motivating concept behind Longhorn is to allow users to find information on their own PC as easily as they can on the Internet. Longhorn will also help prevent threats to a computer’s data, including an integrated security system, featuring both inbound and outbound firewalls. It will also incorporate advanced DVD-recordable features, allowing users to copy video directly from a camcorder to a DVD, which may be particularly helpful when preserving visual evidence. At this point, no specific hardware recommendations for running Longhorn have been issued from Microsoft, other than a minimum of 512 MB of RAM. Most current PCs either have that now or are capable of upgrading to that relatively easily. But because Longhorn is much more graphically intensive, the minimum RAM recommendations are not going to give the best results. And besides the actual operating system, the release of Longhorn will also see the release of new versions of Microsoft Office, which will no doubt also need more system resources. However Microsoft has promised to support existing software, including DOS-based programs, so current users of Office shouldn’t have to purchase an upgrade just to run Longhorn. But no doubt the upgrade will have features unavailable with Office 2003. So what should lawyers do now if they are expecting to purchase new equipment? Should they wait until 2006 when Longhorn comes out before making a purchase? At this point, no. Longhorn will not be available for retail sale until the end of 2006, although machines manufactured in the middle of next year will most likely have it pre-installed. It’s never good to jump on a new operating system immediately anyway, particularly with an older machine, unless there is a compelling reason to do so. So at this point, it’s still two years away before Longhorn will be a common element in the lawyer’s office. So if lawyers need a new machine now, or want to upgrade, there is no risk in doing so. In fact, as manufacturers start to gear-up in anticipation of Longhorn, good deals can be found on systems that will run just fine on today’s operating system and software. Lawyers who are Mac enthusiasts are probably aware that latest version of OS X, dubbed Tiger, is now available. And while Longhorn promises greater accessibility in finding documents on a computer, that is also one of Tiger’s main selling points. Also among the proclaimed 200 new features in Tiger is something called Dashboard, which provides quick access to mini-applications that perform common tasks such as flight tracking, stock tickers, restaurant profiles and real-time weather forecasts. Numerous other mini-applications, called widgets, can be added to the dashboard at any time. Tiger also features enhanced security upgrades, graphics and sound capabilities. The Mac OS X line is a much more stable platform than its predecessors, as it is based on the Unix operating system, and Tiger enhances this stability. System requirements for the new OS 10.4 are a PowerPC G3 processor with 256 MB ram. For lawyers in a Mac environment who have a souped-up G4, or a G5, it’s probably worth the $129 investment in the new system, if only to stay current. But lawyers still running a Mac G3 should think more seriously about upgrading their hardware than their software at this point. BRIAN R. HARRIS is the database administrator for the American Lawyer Media-Pennsylvania division and the former editor-in-chief ofThe Legal Intelligencer . Harris can be contacted at [email protected].

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