Mac OS X Leopard: Beautiful

by Chris Howard Nov 07, 2007

Unable to resist being left in the dark ages any longer, I made the plunge and installed Leopard, and found it to be a beautiful product with nothing significant to complain about and well worth the money.

So you read my piece a couple of weeks ago where I thought I’d probably wait until 10.5.1 before getting Leopard. Well, it didn’t happen. With no bugs of any concern except the one affecting the Unsanity Application Enhancer versions prior to 2.0.3 released in March 2007, I scratched the funds together and plunged in.

Okay, I plunged slowly.

Rather than going all hoity-toity and trusting nothing could go wrong, particularly given the APE example, I’d take it easy and install Leopard on a separate and clean volume.

Over the last several days I’ve slowly migrated my apps across. However, I am going to (try to) commit to keeping this install clean and not bloat it. We’ll see how long that lasts! smile Plus no PPC apps!

On that point, I must digress, as my biggest disappointment in this process has had nothing to do with Leopard. In my quest to minimize applications on this install, I saw a golden opportunity to leave MS Office behind, given I have iWork ‘8 and it reads and writes Office files. Unfortunately, it doesn’t write them seamlessly, you have to export. So Apple, please change iWork to prompt to write files back to their originating format when saving them. That way I can work easily on a Word file at home or college without having to go through the export and duplicate process.

Now back to our main feature.

Leopard is a great upgrade that is of far more value than any OS X upgrade before it, and unlike any of those, makes you feel like you’re using a new computer. Not necessarily because of any performance gains (which I can’t objectively judge having done a clean install), but because of a noticeably different and unified look, and excellent new features and enhancements, many of which are not just eye candy or gimmicky.

Unlike many other reviewers, two bits of eye candy I do like are the 3D Dock and the translucent menu bar. I’ve got no problem with either of those and they help contribute to the overall experience of Leopard being a significant upgrade.

A lot of good
Apple said there are over 300 enhancements in Leopard, but that is being modest. I’d be surprised if that number is below 500. Everywhere there are little things that don’t crack a mention on that 300 list. So here’s a list of all the little things I’ve found (so far) that I like (some, of course, are on the 300 list).

    Networking, sharing and permissions
  • Much improved sharing and permissions, including folder sharing
  • Computers on the local network show in sidebar automatically
  • Automatically connected as Guest to local computers
  • Nicer browser of shared computers
  • Finder and Spotlight
  • Finder’s View Options are more logical and don’t automatically default to “Apply to All Windows”
  • Can adjust Grid spacing in Finder
  • Quick View and Coverflow are great, could play with them all day
  • Path bar option in Finder shows a breadcrumb trail of the path to the current file or folder. Yay! (Under Finder’s View menu)
  • Spotlight lets you easily limit searches to filenames
  • Windows automatically resize (if necessary) when changing screens on a dual-screen setup! Yay!
  • There’s now an icon view in open and save dialogs
  • Mail
  • Mail has an activity window, showing status if sending and receiving!!!! Yay!! (Though not always accurate, saying there is outgoing message activity when just saving while editing)
  • Mail now shows BCC recipients in sent mail!!
  • RSS in Mail is great, prefer it there
  • Can flag RSS items in Mail!
  • Photo browser in Mail makes attaching photos and videos much easier
  • Much better mail server management in Mail. Actually, this was non-existent in Tiger’s Mail
  • Printing
  • Printer setup now has the option to print a test page!!! Another big yay
  • Printer setup finally shows the installable options for my printer
  • Printer supply levels built in to printer dialog! Yay!
  • Print preview in print dialog! This is probably my number one new minor feature. The number of times I had to click Preview to see how many pages a web page or email or other unpaginated document would use was zillions
  • Dock and Spaces
  • Exposé has its own launcher which you can drop in the Dock
  • Nicer app name display in the Dock
  • Spaces are nice and do help keep your workspace tidy
  • Click app icon in the Dock to switch Space is very cool and is what makes Spaces really usable
  • Spring-loaded Dock items! Hold the spacebar down while dragging a file over Dock icons to automatically open that Dock item. See tips below for how to turn it on by default Others
  • Automator has variables and other wow
  • Wikipedia in dictionary is cool
  • FrontRow has a launcher application rather than relying on the remote. So remote-less Macs will be able to use it
  • Software Update doesn’t force a restart. Now has a “Not now” button
  • Clock widget rewind on Dashboard is amusing
  • Alex, the new voice, is good, much less metallic, but still overspeaking. Might be quite useful
  • And here’s a late-breaking one I just discovered when making the image for this article. When you press command-shift-4 to take a sectional screenshot, the cross hairs show the x-y screen co-ordinates of the pointer, and once you start selecting the area of the screen to capture, it shows the x-y dimensions of the selection! Nice!

Some things to tweak
There’s not the feeling with Leopard that any major improvements are required. Sure, there are probably still some bigger features we’d all like, but these can wait until 10.6. The good thing is that Leopard only needs a few things tweaked here and there and those can all appear in dot upgrades.

  • Stacks needs some options to control icon size and the opacity of its bevel
  • I like the translucent menu bar, but I can see why some folks wouldn’t, as it can turn some rather unappealing colors depending on the desktop background. It also needs an option to control its opacity
  • Time Machine does not backup iPods
  • Time Machine needs a status icon in the menu bar (Apple could commandeer the Sync menu bar item)
  • Stacks would be even better if you could navigate through folders while staying in the Stacks view
  • Finder still doesn’t have reliable auto refresh
  • ”Add ports” to the firewall has disappeared
  • Some aliases aren’t generating icons
  • Spaces needs the ability to name each space
  • Spaces would be even better if there was an option to “Open all other apps in Space number x”
  • Connected network shares are no longer shown in sidebar
  • Preview’s slideshow only opens onto the primary screen, even if the document was on the secondary screen
  • Mail’s smartboxes need an item count indicator beside them
  • Parental controls for administrator accounts would be useful because Parental Controls logs activity—so you could see how much time you were spending on various apps and sites, etc. And you could see if someone had accessed your admin login when you weren’t there
  • It’d be nice if Dashboard’s webclips were saved after you close them so you could reopen them later rather than having to re-create them

Some comments

  • Databased applications, such as DEVONThink, can use a lot of Time Machine destination drive space, especially if they change regularly. However, Time Machine only keeps hourly backups for the previous 24 hours, so it’s not going to blow out of control if you have enough space on your destination drive. DEVON Technologies has also advised me they are working on a new data system for DEVONThink that will store files individually in Finder and so negate that issue.
  • SuperDuper! (or similar) is still a necessity in your backup arsenal because it gives you a bootable clone and can do specific backups

Some tips

  • As Time Machine doesn’t have a status indicator (although the first couple of backups did have a dialog. Hmm?), add the TimeMachine preference pane to your Dock
  • If you press the Option key in Finder, the Quicklook button becomes a slideshow button
  • Dock items can be selected by keyboard using their first letter or couple of letters (see this tip at MacOSXHints)
  • This tip on MacOSXHints shows you how to drag a file over an icon in the Dock and have it automatically bring that item to the front (after a second or two). This was one of my most missed features of Windows. Previously you had to click&drag, then command-tab (while still holding the mouse button) to the application you required. This is even better though, because it will work for any item in the Dock and launch it if necessary.
  • And the best tip of of all? Keep an eye on MacOSXHints’ tips for Leopard

And some requests to readers

  • Can someone please write a script to change the Time Machine backup destination so I can put it in iCal to automatically change the destination each day?
  • Can someone tell me where the firewall ports editor has gone? You know, when you want to add a new port to the Firewall. It’s not under the Sharing system preferences (that I can see) where it used to be, nor is it under Firewall (which has been moved from Sharing to Security)
  • Has anyone found a hack to enable Time Machine to backup iPods?
  • Is it possible to change the language of the spellchecker? We don’t all speak Americanese

Leopard is a pleasure to use. A lot of Mac users claim Macs are more enjoyable to use than other OSes, and in Leopard, that claim gains further credibility.

It is a veritable treasure trove of enhancements that, unlike its predecessors, will keep you discovering for some time. I’m yet to get, and don’t expect to get, the anti-climax feeling of the previous couple of OS Xes of “Is that all there is?”

Leopard doesn’t have any compelling features over Tiger to make me say you should upgrade, but what does make it compelling is the enjoyment it brings to using the Mac. There are no “top secret ”surprises, but there are so many other surprises that make Leopard a pleasure to use, it is well worth the money. It really is a beautiful OS.



  • Nice article Chris, thanks!
    I too appreciate the subtle changes in the new OS which make my working life easier.
    There are a few annoying issues which I’m sure will be addressed in the next update in the coming couple of weeks.
    For example… It’s great to be able to search for a word like ‘Howard’ in spotlight, click on a pdf and have the first occurence of Howard be highlighted—but Preview blows the text too big at the moment, and I have to press Zoom Out a few times to see the entire page.
    Your mention of DEVONthink reminds me that it was a previous article written by you about this software which encouraged me to check it out and buy it. What a great application! Thanks again!

    ChrisPayne had this to say on Nov 07, 2007 Posts: 1
  • ...including folder sharing

    FINALLY.  And while it would be fun to poke my head in the “What OS X Could Learn From Windows” thread at those fanboys trying to tell me why Apple would never and should never implement this feature and give them a Nelson guffaw, I shan’t because it’s beneath me to do so.  smile

    Suffice it to say that the networking improvements in Leopard are ridiculously good.  A huge improvement over Tiger and a direct kick to the nuts of Windows.

    Quick View and Coverflow are great, could play with them all day

    I find Cover Flow more useful than I thought I would.  I won’t use it often, but when I need it, it’s handy.

    No idea yet if Finder is any better under the hood.  Leopard is running on my wife’s machine, not on my main workstation since AE won’t run it.  I’m looking forward to giving it a good solid test run.  Right now, Finder in Tiger can’t even begin to handle what I throw at it, which can be extremely frustrating and productivity-killing.

    Software Update doesn’t force a restart. Now has a “Not now” button

    No pat on the back for this one when it should have been there all this time.

    Leopard doesn’t have any compelling features over Tiger to make me say you should upgrade

    I haven’t had a chance to enable TM yet, but I’m hoping and thinking that this is actually a killer app.  It’s basically the kind of backup I’ve been waiting for.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 08, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • TM is sensational, Beeb, and on its own makes Leopard good value (although you should fork out for two external hdds and rotate them, which suddenly bumps the price a bit).

    BTW I won’t tell if I hear a little “Ha ha!”.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 08, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • actually You CAN individually limit the time machine backup to, say, specific folders- the problem is just that You have to exclude the rest instead of including only the desired folder- but HEY You do it once, right?

    Nice article, very concise! thanks

    mat!-) had this to say on Nov 09, 2007 Posts: 13
  • Chris, is dual-booting Leopard simply a matter of installing to a separate firewire drive (or internal partition) and then choosing that drive to boot from in System Prefs?  I’m thinking of doing this to at least get TM running on days I’m not working on projects in After Effects.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 09, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Yep, dual booting is that easy Beeb. Install OS X to a different drive/partition, and hold option down while booting to select the drive/partition to start from.

    However, to make it even easier, I run an app called rEFIt

    On each startup, it detects bootable volumes and asks you which you want to boot into. Way cool. And wayyy easy to install.

    (But, if you ever tell OS X where to boot using sys prefs, or if you install OS X again - even on a different volume - then you do need to reinitialize rEFIt. Which is way easy.)

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 09, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Oh cool.  Thanks for the app recommendation.  That should make it easier.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 09, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment