A Couple of Days with Mac OS X Leopard

It says something that a new OS X release is an event to be celebrated in the Mac world, whereas even a Windows service pack is approached with trepidation and furious backup-taking. And while forums across the world are filled with moaning about recalcitrant Vista installs and pining for the good ol’ XP days (remember how much fun those were pre-SP2?), I’m enjoying Mac OS X 10.5.

Leopard isn’t without flaws though, and I suppose you have to give the benefit of the doubt to any new OS release to a certain extent. Here’s what I think so far. Mac geekery will follow.

The new Finder is a good improvement that’s been needed for a while. I like it and the only feature that I really want is a way to easily set the default window size and layout style so that I can set certain folders to open in Cover Flow (awesome way to navigate images and PDFs, incidentally), etc.

Quick Look is probably the thing that I’m going to use the most. I have a lot of similarly-titled Word documents that I rely on Spotlight to look through and this just adds another way to quickly navigate documents.

Spaces is quite useful when you’re doing something that involves a lot of different programs. I was doing some website work earlier and so had the play programs (Camino, Adium, iTunes) open in one, TextWrangler (text editor) and Transmit (FTP) open in the other, and Photoshop open in the third one. It definitely makes things less cluttered when you’re working with limited screen space and don’t want to keep minimising and hiding programs to keep them out of the way. Too bad that it can’t magically add more RAM though, eh?

I’ve not done more than fiddle with Time Machine but I don’t see myself using it. It’s nice as an ornate undelete program but for backup I prefer the SuperDuper way of doing things as it’d be a lot quicker to get up and running again from one of those backups than it would a Time Machine one. You can’t boot from a Time Machine backup, for one thing.

I don’t like Stacks in their current form and I hope that someone finds a way (or Apple provides one) to turn them off. They’re not very useful for anything with more than a few files inside and the functionality simply isn’t as good as the previous way you could put folders on the dock. There’s no way to browse nested folders so, for example, if you make a stack for your application folder there’s no way to launch Football Manager (installed in a subfolder) without going through the Finder.

The enhanced Spotlight is much faster. On Tiger I’d get a beachball for maybe a second when I entered a query but now it starts showing results instantly and has numerous usability tweaks like being able to press enter to run the first application match. Also being able to look up words in the dictionary or do simple calculations will come in handy.

Safari is far faster now, as is Mail. It’s fast to the point that I’m considering a switch to Safari as my main browser (I’m a Camino fan) as soon as I can find an ad-blocking solution that I like. In fact things generally feel snappier in Leopard, as I’ve noticed when using filters or scaling images in Photoshop. Intel Mac users in particular will really want to upgrade.

There are plenty of small usability tweaks that I’m still finding as well, including ones that you might not have noticed. Off the top of my head:

  • Clicking twice to rename a file now excludes the extension from the selected text by default.
  • You can send files (including multiples, which was impossible without extra software in Tiger) to a Bluetooth device from the right-click menu in Finder.
  • There’s now a shortcut to the wallpaper options if you right-click the desktop (finally!!).
  • It shows whether or not a wireless network is encrypted in the menu.
  • As well as the excellent help search functionality – the first searchable help that I’ve seen which actually works – searching for an option in System Preferences can show you it in the sub-menus rather than dumping you in the relevant pane and leaving you to find it.

And for fans of Easter eggs, Windows PCs show up in the network as old CRT monitors showing the BSOD. Those crazy Apple people…

It’s certainly worth the £58 higher education price (don’t tell them that I left uni) that I paid when you bear in mind that that’s only a couple of quid less than the RRP of the Windows Vista Home Basic Upgrade.

One thought on “A Couple of Days with Mac OS X Leopard”

  1. I’ve already upgraded my Macbook to Leopard and so far it’s working very well. The upgrade went easily and the tools are pretty cool. The ones I liked most are the new Finder that imports the Cover Flow function from iTunes and the new iChat which allows the insertion of images and films. If you haven’t upgraded yet, there are some interesting videos I’ve found that show Leopard’s new tools and effects:

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