Apple has at last released its Mac OS X 10.3.3 update for desktop and server Macs.

This significant 58.8MB update has been in development since at least January, when a build circulated to Apple developers was withdrawn. The most recent beta-testing build was distributed late last week.

Mac OS X 10.3.3 offers enhancements for: networking and .Mac; DVD Player; Apple's tranche of OS X applications; Finder enhancements and more.

Apple has also added a feature to DVD Player. This now recognizes and plays DVD+R media. An extensive list of some of the improvements in the release is available from Apple. Some selected highlights follow:

Networking, wireless and Finder improvements

An enhancement to Network browsing that means Servers appear both on the desktop and in the Finder window Sidebars. You can also disconnect from a server using the Finder and by dropping the server's icon on the Trash.

Finder and applications that allow users to browse the file system will now refresh the contents of a remote network volume's folder or directory when the folder's contents change.

Synchronization between .Mac and your Mac has been improved, as has .Mac's treatment of wireless networks. The OS is also now more compatible with third-party wireless networking PC cards.

Applications refined

DVD Player won't quit if an unsupported PCI video card is aboard a Mac, and also supports more DVD video discs that are designed to play automatically.

A number of enhancements have been made for application support in the OS, for example: "Images retain their characteristics when you import them in iPhoto". Improvements have also been made in Address Book, Mail and Image Capture.

Security and more

Apple has improved system security by "requiring an administrator to authenticate for each Finder action that needs authentication". Previous OS iterations had sometimes worked in a way that left privileges enhanced for five minutes after authentication was made.

A host of other enhancements have also been made in this release. Fan controls in G5 Power Macs has been improved (a separate Fan software update is also available; Bluetooth has been enhanced; Apple has introduced support for mLAN, a Yamaha version of Apple's FireWire standard built for musical instrument networking.

The update also improves start up times – some Macs had seen this slow down once the OS X 10.3.2 update was installed.

Mac OS X 10.3.3 Server available

The Mac OS X 10.3.3 Server Update (69.9MB) improves: Open Directory implementation; Network services; offers general networking improvements (such as increasing the size of the Ethernet receive ring elements); File Services; System Imaging; Mail; Web services; QuickTime Streaming Server (fixing some potential vulnerabilities in this); Server Admin; printer and finder enhancements.

A full list of enhancements is available from Apple.

Have you installed 10.3.3 yet? How was the experience? What's changed? What's good and what's bad? Keep us informed on the forum.