In a keynote speech on Tuesday in San Francisco, Apple announced the release of its latest operating system, OS X Mavericks. After a recap of some of the new features, apps and improved performance, Apple software chief Craig Federighi said that OS X Mavericks will be immediately available as a free download.

This move follows in the footsteps of Microsoft, which allowed Windows 8 users to upgrade to 8.1 for free. However, Microsoft still sells Windows 8 for $199. Apple said OS X Mavericks will work on computers as old as the 2007 iMacs and MacBook Pros, and all of these users will be allowed to upgrade for free. 

“Whether you’re on the latest release, or way back on Mountain Lion, you can upgrade to Mavericks,” Federighi said.

OS X Mavericks takes its name from a famous surfing location located near Apple’s hometown of Cupertino. Many of the new features in OS X Mavericks are targeted toward “power users,” such as tab functionality in the Finder menu and improved functionality for multiple displays. With the release of OS X Mavericks, Apple has merged windows into orderly tabs, with each tab fitted with its own custom-view setting.

Federighi also showed off the new tagging system in OS X Mavericks, which allows users to save their documents with as many tags as they want, either previously listed or created on the fly, which makes it exceedingly easy to search through one’s files later. And with full-screen apps optimized for multiple displays in OS X Mavericks, users can utilize Spaces to swipe back and forth between various applications, and even drag assets across the apps. Apple TV owners can also use that display as yet another screen to do work. 

Federighi demonstrated improvements to Safari in the OS X Mavericks release. Apple made Safari a much faster and more-effective browser for Mac users. Browsing through bookmarks, favorite sites and even links shared by others via social networks is extremely easy, and it’s all organized directly on the home page. And, of course, OS X Mavericks has iCloud Keychain so you’ll never have to blame your faulty memory for having the same password for every site, or never being able to remember your various passwords.

Mac OS X Mavericks also introduces much-improved battery life for OS X power users, thanks to features like Compressed Memory, which rapidly compresses inactive memory used by the computer to give free space to any application in use; Timer Coalescing, which reduces the level of CPU interruptions and transitions by up to 72 percent from OS X Mountain Lion; and App Nap, which puts unused apps to “sleep” automatically. Apple also brought over more iOS features to the Mac in OS X Mavericks, including the new Maps and iBooks applications finally optimized for the Mac; the refurbished Notifications Center that makes it much easier to reply directly to emails, texts and FaceTime requests; and the new iCloud keychain, which is always encrypted and memorizes all of your passwords, including credit-card information.

What do you think of OS X Mavericks? Are you happy Apple decided to release the Mac software for free this year? Sound off in the comments section below.