Review of Leopard

by Gary Rosenzweig

Let me start by saying that I was very unimpressed by Tiger (Mac OS 10.4). As an OS, it was great, but it didn’t offer me anything I needed that wasn’t already in Jaguar (10.3). Maybe a little more stable. Maybe a little faster. But for $129 I wanted more.
But Leopard is a different story. I feel there are significant new features here. I love it and won’t be wasting any time upgrading all my machines to it.

The Finder
The new look is very clean and functional. I like how the Devices, Places and Search for sections on the left can be toggled. The column view is my favorite way of viewing a Finder window and it seems very snappy in Leopard.
There is a new coverflow view that looks like how you flip through albums in iTunes. This is pretty useless unless you have a folder full of pictures.
There is also a new Quick Look feature in the finder. If you select a folder and press the Quick Look button at the top of the finder window, you just get some basic info about the folder. But if you select a file, such as a picture or a text file, you get a preview of the contents of that file. In fact, you can expand it to full screen. You can also leave this semi-transparent Quick Look window open and select other files and it will instantly change to show a preview of that file. So you can use it as a quick slideshow, not only of pictures by other documents.

Spaces

This is my favorite feature of Leopard. I really need this. Spaces allows you to have multiple desktops and easily switch between them. You can put windows on any desktop and move them around. You can view all of the desktops and choose one, or switch between them easily.
This will make my workflow a lot better. I can have one space for Mail and regular browser stuff, like news and information. Another space will probably be where I work with development apps. Then I can have one for server work like FTP or Dreamweaver. Then maybe a fourth for quick miscellaneous work. I’ll probably figure out the best way to use it as I get used to it.

Mail
For me, the simple addition of Notes to Mail is huge. Notes are little documents in Mail that aren’t messages — they don’t get sent to anyone. So it will allow me to keep track of phone calls and meetings alongside my mail messages. All my communication in one place.
Mail also has some improved archiving features. I like to archive my mail often, so this will save some time and effort.
Including the To Do list in Mail as well as iCal means that I’ll probably use it more. Hopefully this To Do list will sync with an iPhone app at some point as well.

Stacks
A lot of attention has been given to this little feature, but it really isn’t anything special. You could already put folders into the Dock and expand them to select an item. This is kinda the same thing, just prettier and a little faster.
That said, the little but of speed might make the difference. I may end up using Stacks more than I did Dock folders in Tiger.

Time Machine
When I first read about Time Machine, I though: “Nice idea, but I won’t be using it.” The reasons were that I have too many big media files, and that I like more control over my backups. But Time Machine may have won me over with its ease of use.
To get it working, all you need is an external hard drive to totally dedicate to backups. Then plug it in, turn on Time Machine, and you’re set. Now everything will be backed up in hourly archives for the last day and daily archives for the last month.
And it just works. This means instead of my three-times-per-week manual backup, I’ll have a very comprehensive backup system, and I don’t have to do anything. I’m in.

Web Clip Dashboard Widgets
This is a really cool new feature. You can create your own Dashboard widgets from sections of Web pages. So you can visit your favorite sites and create news, weather, sports and other information widgets. I was even able to create a Twitter widget by just selecting the “What are you doing?” form in the page. Now I can update Twitter from my Dashboard.
There are probably a million uses for this.

Dictionary
Yes, Dictionary. I love dictionaries. Did you ever check out the front of your dictionary? the printed one, I mean. It usually has all sorts of cool information about language and such. Well, if you haven’t you can now since that front matter is part of the Leopard Dictionary app.
It also has Wikipedia, a Japanese dictionary, and a special Apple dictionary. I can see them adding more in the future too. Maybe even third-party dictionaries.

The DVD Player
Some great new features here. You can zoom in on the video, save bookmarks and clips. The clips function is pretty advanced. Not sure how I will use it yet, but it works well.

Front Row
A lot of people have opted for a Mac Mini over an Apple TV to run their home entertainment system. After all, you can theoretically do everything on a Mini that you can on an Apple TV, plus play DVDs and surf the Web.
Well, it looks like Apple doesn’t mind that configuration at all, as the new Front Row in Leopard is basically Apple TV on your Mac. You get everything you get with Apple TV, plus the whole computer part. It even looks the same and works with the remote control.

Photo Booth
I know a lot of people love this little app. If you do, then you will really love the virtual green screen feature. It takes a picture of the background and then uses it to cut out the background behind you and put anything else — like an aquarium or ski slope. Lots of fun.

Spotlight
This seems more useful than before. I’m not sure if it is faster, or that it simply has a few new options. One of the things I always hated about Spotlight is that it didn’t easily let you search for just file names. It still doesn’t, but it has a new “what” category that makes it more obvious how to search by name.

Boot Camp
So, technically, Boot Camp is part of Leopard. However, most Tiger users that want Boot Camp have been using it for a while.
Boot Camp is fantastic, of course. Not because I want to run Windows. But simply because I want to play games. My MacBook Pro makes a great game machine if I boot into Windows and use a two-button scrollwheel mouse. Dell has lost a sale, as I didn’t update my “PC game machine” this year with a new model, instead just using my Mac and Boot Camp.

There are lots of other improvements as well. the Font Book utility is better, iChat has a bunch of new features, Preview also has better handling of PDF files, and even TextEdit now has grammar checking.
Best of all, nothing seems to have taken a step backward. This happens so often on both Apple and Microsoft OS releases. It took us a long time to get back some of the cool functionality in OS 9, for instance. Heck, Stacks could be considered a replacement for the spring-loaded folders that OS 9 had.
But all-in-all I’m pretty happy with the OS and look forward to using it on all my machines within days.

Comments: One Response to “Review of Leopard”

    JaCe
    12/5/07 @ 7:39 pm

    Excellent write-up. A quick one page summary of everything I needed to know about Leopard! Cheers.

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