What Is The Macintosh Operating System (macOS)?

What Is the Meaning of macOS?

The Macintosh Operating System (Mac OS) is an operating system (OS) developed by Apple Inc. for use on the Apple Macintosh computer series. It is a graphical user interface (GUI) based operating system that was first released in 1984 and has since been released in numerous different versions.

Initially, Mac OS was referred to as System Software.

The current version of macOS is macOS 12 Monterey, which was released in October 2021.

Versions of macOS

MacOS 12 Monterey is the 18th major OS release of the macOS operating system. The following is a list of every major macOS release since OS X, along with the most recent version:

  • Mac OS X 10.0.4 Cheetah
  • Mac OS X 10.1.5 Puma
  • Mac OS X 10.2.8 Jaguar
  • Mac OS X 10.3.9 Panther
  • Mac OS X 10.4.11 Tiger
  • Mac OS X 10.5.8 Leopard
  • Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard
  • OS X 10.7.5 Lion
  • OS X 10.8.5 Mountain Lion
  • OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks
  • OS X 10.10.5 Yosemite
  • OS X 10.11.6 El Capitan
  • macOS 10.12.6 Sierra
  • macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra
  • macOS 10.14.6 Mojave
  • macOS 10.15.7 Catalina
  • macOS 11.6.2 Big Sur
  • macOS 12.1 Monterey

Mac OS versions 1 through 9 were used to identify previous versions of macOS.

macOS-compatible devices

macOS is compatible with Apple’s desktop and laptop computers. However, not all Apple desktops and laptops are compatible with the most recent version of macOS. The following devices are compatible with macOS 12:

  • iMac 2015 or newer
  • iMac Pro 2017 or newer
  • MacBook 2016 or newer
  • MacBook Air 2015 or newer
  • MacBook Pro 2015 or newer
  • Mac Pro 2013 or newer
  • Mac mini 2014 or newer

macOS Features and Uses

macOS includes a plethora of features and applications that allow users to perform a variety of tasks. These are some examples:

Media Features

Users can watch, listen to, and read content through apps such as Music, TV, Podcasts, Books, and Photos.

Creativity-based Features

Users can view, edit, and create media with apps like Photos, GarageBand, and iMovie.

Productivity Features

Individuals can work with graphics tools using applications such as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.

Communication Features

Text, visual, and audio applications such as Mail, Messages, and FaceTime allow users to communicate with one another.

Organization Features

These assist users in locating notes and other content while using applications such as Notes, Reminders, Calendar, Voice Memos, and Contacts.


Users can access and share their content across multiple devices.

Accessibility Features

VoiceOver, Accessibility Keyboard and Text to Speech are some of the assistive tools available to users with disabilities.

Compatibility Features

Windows-based files and other data can be transferred from a Windows PC to a Mac. They can also use a Mac to run Microsoft Office or Windows.

Each application is included with macOS and runs natively on the operating system. Because the applications are specifically designed to run on macOS, resource allocation is extremely efficient.

Other recent additions to the OS include focus modes, which allow users to customize what notifications they receive and when they receive them, and Live Text, which allows users to copy text that appears in photos. Universal control, which allows users to use a single keyboard, mouse, or trackpad between Mac and iPad devices, is another feature. The Recording Indicator is a security feature that lets users know which apps have access to their Mac’s microphone.

macOS timeline

macOS was released in 1984 to power Apple’s Macintosh computers. The OS was designed as a graphical user interface (GUI), which meant that users could navigate using a mouse to select icons and folders rather than having to type commands and text prompts into directories, as Windows OS did at the time. Mac OS was designed with ease of use in mind, popularizing today’s more intuitive GUI-based operating systems. The first few versions of the operating system included basic features such as multiple folders. The operating systems were numbered 1 through 9. The ninth version of Mac OS, Mac OS 9, was notable for improved AirPort wireless networking support and improved USB drivers. It also included file encryption and provided developers with several features that would be included in the next major release.

The following major release was Mac OS X (the letter “X” referred to 10) in March 2001. This was the first of nine OS versions named after large cats, in this case, the Cheetah. Apple also included a new graphical user interface (GUI) called Aqua in this update. Aqua’s design theme was translucent with soft edges.

Other big cat OSes included 10.1 Puma, 10.2 Jaguar, 10.3 Panther, 10.4 Tiger, 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion, and 10.8 Mountain Lion under the OS X umbrella.

  • Puma was released by Apple in September 2001.
  • Jaguar introduced iChat and the Address Book in August 2002, along with over 150 user interface changes.
  • Panther introduced FileVault encryption and the Safari web browser in October 2003.
  • Tiger debuted up to 200 new features in April 2005, including Spotlight for file searches and Smart Folders.
  • Leopard, among other changes, introduced Time Machine, Apple’s backup app, in October 2007.
  • Snow Leopard was released in August 2009, and it improved the OS’s performance and introduced the Mac App Store.
  • Lion, the previous big cat OS, was released in July 2011, and it added features from iOS to the Mac OS.
  • Mountain Lion, released in July 2012, further integrated Mac and iOS features.

Following that, macOS versions were named after locations in California. These began at Mavericks and progressed to Yosemite, Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, and Monterey. These versions also included the transition from OS X to OS 11, as well as a name change from OS X to macOS.

  • Mavericks, released in October 2013, marked the beginning of free OS upgrades, introducing the Maps and Books applications.
  • Yosemite introduced Handoff in October 2014, allowing users to answer calls and send SMS messages on Macs. The interface was also redesigned to look more like iOS 7.
  • El Capitan was released in September 2015, and it included Apple’s Metal application program interface with additional user experience refinements.
  • Sierra’s title was changed to macOS in September 2016. It added Siri to Mac desktops and laptops, allowing for greater integration with other Apple devices like iPhones and Apple Watches.
  • High Sierra introduced the new Mac file system, the Apple File System, in September 2017. The file system in macOS High Sierra has been optimized for solid-state storage.
  • Mojave received Dark Mode and Apple News in September 2018.
  • Catalina replaced iTunes with the Music, TV, and Podcast apps in October 2019. It also included the Gatekeeper feature, which scans all apps for malware. This version also included Sidecar support, allowing an iPad to be used as an external monitor.
  • Big Sur will transition to macOS 11 in November 2020. One of the most significant changes in macOS Big Sur was the use of Apple silicon rather than Intel processors.
  • Focus modes, Live Text, SharePlay, and improved maps, notes, and other applications will be included in macOS Monterey in October 2021.

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