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There’s been much chatter 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 releases have some practical benefits for lawyers. Early reviews indicate that the new Longhorn system has the look and feel of XP, 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 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 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 users 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 PCs as easily as they can on the Internet. Longhorn will also help prevent threats to a computer’s data by including an integrated security system that features 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 should be particularly helpful when preserving visual evidence. At this point, Microsoft has issued no specific hardware recommendations for running Longhorn, other than to suggest a minimum of 512 MB of RAM. Most current PCs either have that now or can upgrade to that relatively easily. But because Longhorn is much more graphically intensive, the minimum RAM recommendations are not going to give the best results. Accompanying the release of the Longhorn operating system will be new versions of Microsoft Office, which will no doubt need more system resources. Microsoft, however, has promised to support existing software, including DOS-based programs, so current Office users shouldn’t have to buy an upgrade just to run Longhorn. But the upgrade will likely 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 preinstalled. It’s never good to jump on a new operating system anyway, particularly with an older machine, unless there is a compelling reason. At this point, Longhorn won’t be in common use in law offices for at least two years. 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. TIGER TALE Mac enthusiasts are probably aware that the latest version of OS X, dubbed Tiger, is now available. One of Tiger’s main selling points is that, like Longhorn, it promises greater accessibility in finding documents on a computer. Also among the proclaimed 200 new features Tiger promises is something called Dashboard, which provides quick access to flight tracking, stock tickers, restaurant profiles, and real-time weather forecasts. Numerous mini-applications, called widgets, can be added to 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 users 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 at this point, Mac G3 users should think more seriously about upgrading their hardware than their software. Brian R. Harris is the database service manager at the Legal Intelligencer, an ALM newspaper published in Philadelphia.

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