Apple has announced the ship date for its next-generation operating system, Mac OS X Tiger. The operating system, which the company says includes hundreds of enhancements, will be available to customers on 29 April at special events held at the company's retail locations and authorised retailers. Pre-orders for Tiger are being taken today at the online Apple Store. Tiger will cost £89.

In addition to the single license available for £89, Apple is also offering a Mac OS X Tiger Family Pack, a single-residence, five-user license that will be available for £140.

The Mac OS Up-To-Date upgrade package is available to all customers who purchase a qualifying new Mac system on or after 12 April. Tiger requires a minimum of 256MB of memory and is designed to run on any Macintosh computer with a PowerPC G5, G4 or G3 processor and built-in FireWire.

The most talked-about new feature of Mac OS X Tiger is, without a doubt, Apple's desktop search technology, Spotlight. The new search allows the user to search files, email, contacts, images, calendars and applications and any other file on the hard drive. Search results are displayed as you type and change dynamically as new documents are added to the hard drive.

Spotlight doesn't just search the file names, it also searches the meta-data including the kind of content, the author, edit history, format, size and other details. Most documents, images and emails already contain rich meta-data. Spotlight also indexes the content of a document, displaying results based on what appears inside a file or document, not just its title.

Using a separate Spotlight window, it is possible to sort results by date or category. Searching for a particular person in Spotlight will not only bring up their contact information, but also authored or edited documents, images they have emailed, messages they wrote and messages you sent to them.

Another new feature, Dashboard, contains miniapplications – widgets – that provide dedicated features and functions. These include currency conversion, yellow pages, eBay auction tracking and weather reports.

Other Widgets include flight information, tile game, stickies, a world clock, a translation tool, calculator, address book, iTunes controller, dictionary, stocks and iCal.

Apple is making it easy for users of its homegrown Safari web browser to track websites through RSS feeds. When you navigate to a site that contains an RSS feed, Safari will show a button in the address bar, that when clicked will show a summary of new items on that website’s page. The RSS feed can be bookmarked and configured to automatically check for updates at a specified interval.

Safari's new private browsing feature surfers ensure no information about where you visit on the web, personal information you enter or pages you visit are saved or cached.

Safari's built-in parental controls allow parents to specify exactly which websites children access by bookmarking only those sites on the Safari Bookmarks Bar. With Safari controls enabled, kids can browse only the sites in the Bookmarks Bar.

Apple's Mail application features many enhancements including the use of Spotlight's search technology to make Smart Mailboxes. These mailboxes dynamically fill themselves with email based on the criteria you enter.

Mail also includes a new twist on viewing images within emails. While Mail has been able to display inline images, Apple has added a slideshow capability, so inline images are shown in full-screen mode, complete with effects.

Synchronizing information from your computers to .Mac has become much more centralised in Tiger. Sync and .Mac information is now built-in to the Mac OS System preferences, making the sync process integrated with many of Apple's applications.

Apple applications that will sync include Safari, iCal, Address Book, Keychain and Mail -- including multiple Mail accounts, Mail rules, signatures and Smart Mailboxes. Developers can also incorporate syncing into their applications as Apple makes sync-services available system wide.