Apple will release the next version of Mac OS X - named Tiger - at the end of the month.

The operating system, which the company says includes hundreds of enhancements, will be available to customers on 29 April at various stores. Pre-orders are being taken from today at the online Apple Store, at $129.

In addition to the single licence, Apple also has the Mac OS X Tiger Family Pack, a single-residence, five-user license that will be available for $199. 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 its desktop search technology, Spotlight. The new search allows the user to search files, e-mail, 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 also searches the meta-data including the kind of content, author, edit history, format, size and other details. Most documents, giving it an edge over many of the search tools recently made available for the PC platform. Spotlight also indexes the content of a document, displaying results based on what appears inside a file or document, not just its title.

Another new feature - Dashboard - has been billed as "Exposé for Widgets". It contains mini-applications that provide dedicated features and functions such as 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 also improving its RSS approach in the Safari Web browser. When you navigate to 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 Web sites page. The RSS feed can be bookmarked and configured to automatically check for updates at a specified interval.

A new private browsing feature means no information about where you visit on the Web, personal information you enter or pages you visit are saved or cached. Built-in parental controls allow parents to specify exactly which websites children have access to. Safari can also display PDF documents inside a browser window.

There are also improvements in Apple's included Mail application features, including the use of Spotlight's search technology to make Smart Mailboxes which dynamically fill themselves with e-mail based on the criteria you enter.

iSync and Mail now work closely together as settings can now be synced to your .Mac account. New accounts, changing or new rules and accounts will all be synced and made available to other Macs listed in your account.