AOL UK today launched AOL for Mac OS X, following months of product development, testing and localization.

The release offers numerous enhancements to AOL's most popular features, and is based on feedback from UK-based Mac-using AOL subscribers. As expected, Netscape's Gecko Web browser is used, rather than the Internet Explorer browser previously employed.

The company's UK chief executive Karen Thomson said: "We've rebuilt the software from the ground up and our members have helped us at every step. As a result, Mac owners can benefit fully from AOL's services."

AOL's November release of the software is historically ironic. The company raised havoc last November when it declared it would not produce AOL for X in the UK.

Fortunately for AOL-subscribing Mac users, the company changed its mind last May, as it watched the swift migration among Mac users to Mac OS X.

Apple's Aqua user interface guidelines have been fully applied in this release - users can expect luminous and semi-transparent buttons, scroll bars and windows. The release also introduces a message counter in the Dock that displays the number of new emails and Instant Messages received.

The company has enhanced the email, Instant Messages, Buddy Lists, and search features. Email now supports HTML-rich pages and can Auto-Complete from Address Books. A useful online presence indicator shows when email recipients are online and offers shortcuts to send messages or email, or add that contact to a Buddy list or Address Book.

Buddy icons have been introduced in the Instant Messaging feature. This is also compatible with Apple's iChat, so AOL members, .Mac members and AOL Instant Messaging (AIM) users can communicate.

A redesigned Welcome screen provides users with single-click access to email and hosts a changing roster of programming. The search feature now integrates Google results with those from within the AOL community.

The release is compatible with QuickTime, which is the default media player for streaming video and audio content for Macs. As in the US, AOL for Mac OS X offers built in AirPort compatibility.

AOL for Mac OS X users benefit from an additional new feature, likely to reach other platforms soon - a portable version of AOL's Favourite Places feature. This means members can access their bookmarks from any computer. Additionally, users can access Buddy Lists, email and Address Book from any computer.

AOL offers free telephone support to members and offers parental controls. The release is available for download; existing AOL members will be sent an upgrade CD automatically. AOL members can also download the software using AOL Keyword Upgrade.

The software requires Mac OS X 10.1, a 300MHz G3 processor and 128MB RAM.