The all-in-one Baltic digital lifestyle

Apple Computer’s decision to release a new operating system in 2001, Mac OS X, represented a revolutionary departure from the traditional Mac OS with greater system stability (based on a secure UNIX architecture) and flexibility wrapped in an stunning new user interface. The latest upgrade gives Latvians something to smile about, too.

The recently released upgraded operating system, called OS X Panther or OS X 10.3, adds more than 150 new features. One of the lesser known features is the welcome addition of Baltic language support. Users now have the ability to write in Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian in just about any Macintosh application.

To activate a language, load “System Preferences.” From the “International” preference pane select the “Input Menu” tab and check the desired Baltic language.

A new “Formats” tab will also allow you to change the date, time and currency options for any of the three Baltic languages.

However I don’t recommend moving any of the Baltic languages to the top of the “Languages” pane just yet. You may disable your system. No system localisation for either of the three languages exists or is expected in the near future. The story is the same for Windows. Microsoft is yet to produce a Latvian version of its operating system, but we can remain hopeful.

The new Baltic language support in OS X Panther opens up a mountain of possibilities. Without purchasing any additional software you can now send a legible Latvian e-mail to your Windows colleagues and they won’t notice it came from a Macintosh. You can begin cataloging and labelling your photos with the most descriptive Latvian words using iPhoto, add Latvian titles to music tracks in iTunes or create snazzy titles and special effects for that next family home movie using iMovie and iDVD. You can even view your busy Latvian schedule and appointments in iCal. It will only be a matter of time before someone will publish a namesday or other Latvian events calendar.

Compatibility with Baltic Windows users also no longer seems to be an issue. With Apple’s TextEdit you can import basic Microsoft Word documents that were originally created on Windows. To share your work with others you can save your work as a Word document or an industry standard Adobe Acrobat PDF file. Apple’s Safari Web browser will beautifully render any of the popular Latvian Web sites, all without having to change settings while you’re casually surfing the Internet.

However, there’s a catch. This newfound flexibility will only work with Unicode-compliant applications. Examples of such applications are TextEdit, the iLife 04 suite (iMovie, iPhoto, iMovie and iTunes), InDesign CS, Photoshop CS, Stickies, Address Book, Mail, Keynote, Dreamweaver MX, OmniGraffle and many others.

Unfortunately the two most popular word processors for the Macintosh, Microsoft Word X and AppleWorks, are not Unicode compliant. In order to access the letters of the Baltic alphabets for these non-Unicode applications you will need to continue using Apple CE fonts. Similarly the popular database Filemaker Pro does not yet understand Unicode, but there is news that the next major version will. Users who are upgrading from an earlier Mac OS and have not been using the standard Apple CE fonts will be faced with converting their documents so that they are legible in OS X.

With Baltic language support now included as standard in Mac OS X we can expect some exciting new developments in the future. Software developers are now able to provide a Baltic language option in their new products and we may finally begin to see the much anticipated Baltic language proofing tools.

Now I must go and check out the latest iPods. I have a sneaking feeling that Apple Computer’s popular music playing devices have also become Baltic friendly.

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