updated 06:35 pm EST, Mon January 30, 2012
Apple Airport Utility 6 looks like iOS version
Apple took a surprise step Monday by completely reworking its desktop AirPort app. AirPort Utility 6.0 (14.1MB) is reworked to look like its iOS counterpart and starts off with a visual topography for the user's network including the active status and whether or not updates are waiting. Any router on the network, and the Internet connection itself, gets a pop-over that shows both common settings as well as an option to edit settings for that device.
In a quick test, we found that it wasn't significantly more advanced than the old utility, but it looks to be easier to understand for newcomers who might not be familiar with how a router relates to the network. We like that there are minor touches: if a light is blinking on a router, it blinks in the app, and firmware updates have an iOS-style progress bar.
The app requires Mac OS X Lion.
Along with the main desktop app, Apple has also posted a 7.6.1 firmware update for AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and Time Capsule routers (download). The fix touches on wireless speed issues as well as remote access to AirPort or Time Capsule drives using iCloud. Those using Lion but who don't want 6.0 can also update to AirPort Utility 5.6 (13.1MB) to resolve a problem with network passwords used in the Keychain as well as backwards support for 802.11g-maximum AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express routers.