Leopard - What We Know & What We Can Expect

by Aaron Wright Jan 04, 2007

When Steve Jobs showed off a list of features from Leopard last year, the Mac community began to stir with excitement whilst combining a hint of anxiety. The excitement came from the pretty cool new things we can expect to see, Spaces and Time Machine for example, however, the anxiety came from the fact that Apple hadn’t really shown off anything to actually justify upgrading to Leopard – although I don’t doubt that thousands of you will be upgrading regardless.

As many of you should now know, the Macworld Conference and Expo is taking place at the Moscone Centre in San Francisco next Monday, with Steve Jobs taking centre stage on Tuesday morning to deliver a keynote that will all hope hasn’t been marred by all the speculation of an iPod phone device. However, amongst the rumours there’s also the inevitable mention of Leopard and today I’m going to take a look at what we know is coming and, according to recent reports, what we can expect to be mentioned on Tuesday morning.

What we know

Time Machine is Apple’s answer to an automated backup solution that allows users to restore any file that has been deleted or misplaced in the past. It features a pretty UI to make things easier and seems to resemble a vortex in space, which if you take a look at recent pictures you’ll see I’m not too wrong. The one catch of this feature is that you will need an external hard-drive to make use of it (not much point in making a backup on the same hard-drive), but with so many old iPods lying around these days, maybe we’ll be allowed to make use of those instead?

Mail 3.0 is the hopeful update to the brilliantly simple Mail 2.0 that we see sitting on our install of Tiger at the moment. Some features Jobs mentioned last year included a built in RSS reader, To-Do list, Notes, and fancy pants e-mail templates – the latter of which I am actually impressed with, regardless of whether it has been done before on other e-mail applications or not.

iChat is a program that has the potential to be something great, but Apple are, for whatever reason, holding back on us. In this update we hope to see video backdrops to make it appear as though we are elsewhere (looks nice) in video conferences, effects brought in from Photo Booth, Remote Access to allow users to share your desktop and vice versa, the ability to show keynote slides to your friends and, a saving grace for many, tabbed chatting. Have you noticed that most of the stuff I’ve mentioned so far is just a novelty that will soon wear off?

Spaces is virtual desktops with a fancy name and a pretty UI, and it’s something I can see as being a huge hit. No longer do you have to clutter your desktop with window upon window when you can instead organise your OS X desktop just like your actual desk. Keep all your development programs open in one window, all your communication programs open in another and, let iTunes play its heart out in another – a great way to organise, don’t you think?

Dashboard hasn’t actually received an update that you’d notice right away, it’s the Widgets that’ll make it shine. The main updated feature is the ability to create your own widgets that update automatically. See a cartoon strip section on a website you like, create a widget with a simple one-two click and every day your widget will update with the latest cartoon. Crazy huh!?

A few of the other main updates apparently coming to Leopard include Spotlight, iCal, new Accessibility options, 64-bit support and Core Animation, something that I’m pretty sure was just thrown in there to add up the numbers – it’s pretty useless.


What we can expect?

According to a recent article by MacOSXRumors, there’s a few more features that Jobs is expected to announce come Tuesday. You’ll have to consider the source first though before deciding whether or not you want to take this seriously, but most of it seems pretty reasonable. I’d also like to add that I personally expect Jobs to announce a lot more than what is featured below, plus surprising us with a launch date sooner than that of what we expected.

Resolution Independence is something that will benefit all of you. Whenever you change your screen resolution, you’ll notice that things either become a lot bigger or too small, so small infact that you really have to squint to read it – this is taking aim mainly at notebook owners. Resolution Independence hopes to eliminate this problem but until Jobs announces it (if he does), I’m unsure how. This feature was hinted back in November 2005 and has been talked about quite a bit on the internet since then. It’s not until Apple recently filed a patent for this feature that made it one of the more likely rumours. TUAW.com wrote up an article a while back going a bit more in-depth with Resolution Independence.

ZFS Support - Please don’t get put off by the horrible looking acronym. ZFS is a 128-bit file system developed by Sun Microsystems and is supposed to be coming to Leopard. It was designed with storage servers in mind and because of this is incredibly reliable. However, MacOSXRumors say that support on OS X is limited as “it is not possible to use it for the boot partition”. Because of this I’m not so sure this will make a feature in OS 10.5.

QuickTime is set to be given an update, one that will hopefully cure the recently found bugs in it. The only major GUI difference in this version of QuickTime is apparently an improvement made to the AV controls.

Parental Controls finally get an update although to what extent I’m unsure. It seems so far that logs and reports can now be generated from when a restricted user was last on the computer – thus being able to keep an eye on what your kids are up to.

MacOSXRumors have also stated an update in File Recovery that apparently allows file recovery to take place through disk utility, searching a lost file by type. Whether this features is actually there and is part of Time Machine, or just a badly drawn rumour I cannot say – but then that’s why it’s called a rumour so we can all speculate a little.

These are some of the main rumours being listed at the minute, with an iChat answering machine being included somewhere down that list. As you can see there’s nothing to really warrant an upgrade at the minute so I do hope Apple are planning to show more than this on Tuesday. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and see. What do you expect or hope to see in Leopard?


  • I’m still a Panther user, so the upgrade to Leopard is more enticing considering I’ll be gaining all the benefits of Tiger as well.  However, I’ll be most looking for some basic improvements, as opposed to new features.  For example, the Finder really needs some work still (IMHO) - I have issues with the way it presents information, the unreliability of the Total/Used Space implementation and other minor niggles that don’t occur to me just now.  I’ll be looking for vast improvements to QT 7, which runs very poorly on my iBook G4 800MHz and occasioning a great deal more stuttering in playback with files that ran excellently in QT 6.5.2. 
    SIP support for iChat would be nice, as would the ability to use different protocols and “invisibility” - or maybe that’s just Adium?  It’s been a while…  I’m looking forward to the Application Launcher aspect of Spotlight, though I hope it works as simply and effectively as Quicksilver otherwise i won’t be using it.  I heard a native GTK+ implementation may come as standard, which would be excellent news to a GIMP user like myself.
    The ZFS support looks good for me, as it seems a simple way (if I’ve read this correctly) to set up RAIDs.  But all-in-all I just want my new Leopard install to rectify all the recurring bugs I’m noticing in my current Panther install: Open With… duplicates; broken >Console login method (despite a fresh install, hmmm).  And of course, I’d like some speed hikes.  I heard Tiger was a significant improvement in that regard over Panther - I hope Leopard proves to be similar.  Oh, and I’m looking forward to using the wealth of Tiger-only apps and utilities that are currently beyond my reach!

    44$rqs:XWEnQ had this to say on Jan 04, 2007 Posts: 13
  • Time Machine.  Nice idea with a big catch.  And I think it’s a stupifyingly UGLY design.  A starfield background?  It looks like something an amateur web-designer created in about five minutes in 1996.  It’s uncharacteristically un-Apple.

    iChat.  Bottom line - more support.  iChat needs to support ALL of the popular chat clients out there.

    Spaces.  I still don’t use expose and rarely use Dashboard.  I do, however, use Alt-Tab all the time.  I’m slow to adopt these sorts of things since I find they usually don’t speed things up for me.  But that’s just me.  I’ll give it shot and see if it’s something I can add to help organize.

    Dashboard.  Is there still a calculator?  Then we can stop there.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 04, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Beeblebrox: I think at best iChat should support a plug-in architecture allowing 3rd-party vendors to provide connectivity at minimal cost.  Let’s not forget that the more software Apple provides with the OS, the narrower the market for third-party vendors.  They want to increase the opportunities for the burgeoning OS X software industry, not reduce them.  Better theu don’t step on too many toes, but rather increase the opportunities for software companies to get their feet under the table.

    44$rqs:XWEnQ had this to say on Jan 04, 2007 Posts: 13
  • I thought the final rumour you leave out was that the finder was going to be rewritten in Cocoa. Multithread it so that if you’re connecting to a network drive it doesn’t lock up the entire finder - and perhaps add core-animation effects.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Jan 04, 2007 Posts: 228
  • Let’s not forget that the more software Apple provides with the OS, the narrower the market for third-party vendors.  They want to increase the opportunities for the burgeoning OS X software industry, not reduce them.

    Says who?  All evidence to the contrary.  Apple does what it wants when it wants to do it, and does so regardless of the market. 

    And this excuse is always a before-the-fact rationale for software/features Apple hasn’t made yet, but quickly forgotten as soon as Apple comes out with software that, for example, competes directly with Konfabulator or pushes Adobe Premiere off the platform.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 04, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Fellows,

    One major oversight (web-wide, nobody has grokked this) in what ZFS will really bring to Leopard users, is how it will tie in with Time Machine. Read the following, snagged from the Wikipedia entry on ZFS:


    The ZFS copy-on-write model has another powerful advantage: when ZFS writes new data, instead of releasing the blocks containing the old data, it can instead retain them, creating a snapshot version of the file system. ZFS snapshots are created very quickly, since all the data comprising the snapshot is already stored; they are also space efficient, since any unchanged data is shared among the file system and its snapshots. (empasis mine)

    Catch the drift?

    ZFS-formatted drives will provide excellent backup volumes for Time Machine, in the sense that instead of creating a backup of each and every file, which would rapidly become overwhelming in the case of large multimedia files, ZFS snapshots only retain incremental filesystem differences at the block level, greatly optimizing the space on the backup volume.

    ZFS support is a huge technology/feature in Leopard, no doubt about it!

    flyermoney had this to say on Jan 04, 2007 Posts: 9
  • Don’t neglect Core Animation. Here is what I found, written by a developer, on http://theocacao.com/document.page/397 :
    Core Animation is not just for fancy 3D effects. It’s just as useful for 2D drawing. It simplifies drawing code (some cases, drastically simplifies it), and can provide huge performance benefits. If nothing else, Core Animation rendering runs in its own thread, so the UI can stay responsive while the main thread is churning away on something else.

    Alex06 had this to say on Jan 04, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I’m with Beeb on Spaces. I’ve tried various virtual desktop apps and the only time I’ve ever found them useful was when running Windows full screen (via VPC. WTS, or Parallels)

    Spaces is actually an admission that the Windows Taskbar and windows management system is better than OS X’s.

    Why Apple has persisted with the “messy desktop” metaphor all these years, is beyond me.

    Who in the real world piles all their work on top of each other and pull things out of the pile as required?????? That’s the OS X approach.

    Windows, with its *full screen* maximize button, means the user only sees the window they are working in. Makes sense. Why do you need to have inactive windows creating visual clutter?

    There is only one exception and that’s when you’re transcribing information from one app or page to another. And how often do you do that anyway?

    People with super large displays (21inch and above) will argue they can comfortably display windows from a couple of apps at a time.

    But - besides when copying - what’s the advantage?  Speeds you up a little? Is a little quicker than Command-tab or clicking on the Dock??

    Expose was meant to be the saviour of application switching.But we’re still getting Spaces. Maybe Expose isn’t so great afterall.

    SJ is going to keep touting Spaces as great and going to change the way we work and save so much time, but the reality, as Beeb implies, is it’s not for everyone, and in fact will probably be one of the lesser used features.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 05, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Beeblebrox:  Semantic crossed-wires here!  I meant “they want” in the “they want to get their fat a** round the block a few times, lose some weight” sense, not the “I want to go shopping” sense.  I totally agree that Apple has already trodden on toes more than once - Konfabulator is an excellent example.  My point was rather that you, Beeblebrox, shouldn’t encourage them by asking for a fully-fledged multi-protocol chat client that competes with the likes of Adium, Proteus et al.

    44$rqs:XWEnQ had this to say on Jan 05, 2007 Posts: 13
  • ZFS: If I understand correctly, pooled storage can (will?) look like one volume. This holds the possibility of NAND storage for the operating system pooled with the hard drive storage that appears to the user as one volume.

    This approach would minimize the need for the more expensive flash storage and capitalizing on instant-on / resume strategies that NAND storage offers. The cost factor of NAND storage for OS / Cache could possibly make implimentation more feasible on an earlier timeline than replicating the entire hard drive / eliminating the conventional hard drive.

    Douglas Canton had this to say on Jan 05, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Windows, with its *full screen* maximize button, means the user only sees the window they are working in.

    Oh man, this is one of those niddling things about OS X that needs to copy Windows.  Why no maximize?  I’ve heard every apologist excuse for some of OS X’s lack of features, but never one for this one.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 05, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • My point was rather that you, Beeblebrox, shouldn’t encourage them by asking for a fully-fledged multi-protocol chat client that competes with the likes of Adium, Proteus et al.

    My point is that they’ve already let that ship sail by having a chat client in the first place.  They should either not have one or have a good one.  I see no justification for bothering to have a chat client but only a half-ass one so they don’t step on toes.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 05, 2007 Posts: 2220
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