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Apple's Snow Leopard to sport Cocoa Finder and ImageBoot

Apple next-generation Snow Leopard operating system will introduce a massive re-write of the Mac OS X Finder and debut a new feature called ImageBoot, AppleInsider has learned.

Cocoa-based Finder

People familiar with matter say the Finder, which currently stands as one of the oldest Carbon-based applications in the Mac OS portfolio, has been completely re-written in the company's native object-oriented application program environment called Cocoa.

Apple has reportedly tapped select members of its developer community to begin testing the updated graphical file system manager as part of a new pre-release copy of Snow Leopard belonging to the build train 10Axxx. In addition, many of the Apple-authored applications accompany the new build are also said to have been wrapped completely in Cocoa.

Microsoft Exchange Support

Other advances are also present in the new test software, such as broader support for Microsoft Exchange 2007 in Snow Leopard's versions of iCal, Address Book and Mail. The implementation of Exchange support remains a work in progress, according to those familiar with the matter. As such, Apple has reportedly asked that developers focus their testing efforts on a subset of Exchange capabilities, such as scheduling events in iCal, adding contacts to Address Book 5.0, and automated account configuration in Mail.

ImageBoot

When it makes its debut, likely at WWDC 2009, Snow Leopard will also introduce a new, third option for disc image-based installation called ImageBoot. Based on Apple's existing NetBoot technology, which allows Macs to boot from a remote disk over the network, ImageBoot will allow users to set up any number of disk images on a secondary partition or external drive, and then selectively boot their system from any one of those disk images at startup.

This new feature will allow users to set up a series of test environments or uniquely configured Mac OS X systems, store the bootable systems as discrete disk images, and subsequently store multiple boot targets on the same disk or partition. Currently, only one bootable Mac OS X installation can be stored on a given disk partition.

With ImageBoot, multiple NetBoot sets can be maintained locally on the same storage partition, and the user can select any one of the disk images available to boot from without having to restore or mount the disk image first. The result is a system that works similar to virtualization software such as Parallels, which can create disk images for different PC operating systems and selectively boot from any of them. The difference is that Mac OS X isn't booting up in a virtual environment; it actually boots a fully native Mac OS X system.

Broader Availability Expected

A little over two weeks ago, AppleInsider noted that Apple was preparing to broaden evaluation of Snow Leopard through software seeds to a limited number of developers. It's now expected that the company's vast developer community, or members of the Apple Developer Connection network, could be added to the mix as early as this weekend.

In June, ArsTechnica's Jacqui Cheng cited sources who suggested that Apple might "eventually wrap everything in Cocoa" with the release of Snow Leopard.