Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Review

leopard.jpgSo after using the new Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard for about one week now I feel I’ve gotten into most of the features that is new and that you may use everyday which I’ll start off by saying, is not near all the 300 new features, examples include the fact that there is a lot of features that are to do with improved functioning or networking such things I do not use more in-depth in my day to day work on my computer.

I’m basing this review on the functionality of the 10.5.0 release of Leopard since that is what I have running under a MacBook 2.0 GHz 80gb HDD, 1gb RAM with a LaCie 250gb external drive and it is from that I base on how smooth things are running.

My Favorite New Features

There are a lot of the new features that I absolutely just love and adore many of them are small but some of them are large as well. I’m really happy that the iCal dock icon is now showing the correct date even when turned off which I found absolutely great, since I don’t have my iCal on all the time (memory consuming) but only when I need it.
Of course I cannot skip the larger features, which I’ve fallen in love with!

quicklook.pngI love QuickLook it is just one of these amazing new features that makes your file browsing inside of finder so much easier! It works on almost all file types I have, including .psd files from Adobe Photoshop. Of course normal image files like jpeg files are supported as well as PDF, word and excel document and more. It is just one of those features I’m now using all the time and makes a real difference for me when previewing files, especially pdf’s.

Yes, spaces are really awesome and it makes a real difference when you are on a smaller laptop screen like on my MacBook without my external one. It is very useful being able to group your windows into different spaces and it really makes yspaces.pngou feel that you have a much larger desktop. Now I have a feature request regarding spaces and that is mainly that you can choose to only activate spaces on one monitor if you have two plugged in. So that you can have a permanent window on one screen like a browser and then have spaces activated on the other screen. That’s no big loss but it would be handy although as I said in the beginning, I find spaces the most awesome when I’m on a small screen and need to have a cleaner work area to use or be more organized (which I am, an organized person).
I really like the new mail as well especially the idea of the built in RSS reader. I am subscribed to a fair bit of RSS feeds and I’ve previously needed to use an external application for reading them and of course that means more memory usage. That means I’m very much in love with the fact that Mail can now read RSS feeds. The notes and to-dos are also great and I’m going to really like Stationery and the ability to create my own mail templates as well. Another mail feature that I haven’t had much use for yet is the date and time auto detector so you can put in a meeting or event directly from a mail into iCal!

I’m fully and totally in love with stacks. They just make putting files in the dock easier. Okay, I will admit that I miss the hierarchical browsing that you could do with a right click before but I really like the way stacks work. However it would be grstacks.pngeat to be able to control how big the grid mode stack would be, because when I open my applications stack, I’d rather it take up as much screen space as it could so I can see all my applications. Alternatively I could get a setting to choose how large my thumbnails should be. Of course as many others are wishing, the ability to control the preview icon that appears in the dock because it may be great in picture stacks, but when I have my applications in a stack, I’d rather not need to have the Address Book icon (which is my first application in the list) to be my preview icon for that stack nor do I like to put an empty folder at the top of my applications folder just to get it to show a normal icon in the dock (which is what I’m doing now). Stacks are a great and I like them, but those little things would make it more perfect!

My Not So Favorite Features

Of course I have a list of new features and changes that I don’t like as much at all and they all could mostly be controlled and fixed by a setting or two actually.

Translucent Menu Bar
My main concern is the translucent menu bar in the top. Sure it may look quite nice but it is absolutely a pain to read and you quickly notice why they decided to change their default desktop background in the videos etc. to the dark “aurora” instead of the grass. It is very hard to read text on a colorful background and the current hack to solve it is to open the background image in Photoshop (or similar) and then make a white or black bar up in the top where the menu bar is, to either get a white or grey solid menu bar. This could have easily been made to our preferences by a simple setting in the System Preferences panel under Appearance although it has not been made which is not as nice, so at the moment, it is into Photoshop with the backgrounds or just pick general dark backgrounds…

Open Application in Dock
I’m very bugged by the open application icon in the dock. In Tiger you had a little back arrow under the program icons bluedot.pngthat were opened and it was a clear way of seeing what programs you had open. Now in Leopard, Apple has replaced the black arrow with a blue, glowing dot. While I like the new dock, this is hard to see, especially if you have a window edge close to the dock and it is reflecting into it and especially with colorful backgrounds. I’m hoping that a third party application (or better yet official fix) comes out in near future that will allow you to change the color on that little dot.

What do not work under Leopard? How was the upgrade?

Out of all my programs, drivers and devices, I’m quite surprised that there are more things that do not work. Since I come from the background of upgrading the windows OS’s q few times, the policy for me have always been, a) wait until the first service pack, and b) wait until all programs come out with an upgrade for the new OS, which in the latter case usually takes about the time for Microsoft to come out with service pack one.

Now in this case the upgrade went very smooth using the Archive and Install option as well as having a complete hard drive backup on my external drive to rely on I am experiencing no problems with Leopard itself or any of my programs really. That is of course except the confirmed bugs in Lightroom and the other Creative Suite Applications that is announced by Adobe as needing upgrades to work properly (Acrobat 8 Professional, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Soundbooth, Encore). I’m also surprised to see that many of the applications I use were upgraded even before Leopard was released and that has made me really happy! As far as devices and drivers go, I have had to reinstall most of the drivers but that is not a major concern since I had expected that and besides, after the re-install of the drivers, all of my devices work like a charm (Mouse, Tablet, Printer etc.).

Time Machine

Time Machine is also one of my favorite new features, but since it is so big I thought it deserved a completely dedicated section! I have a partition on my external drive just for Time Machine where it backs my internal hard drive up according to the update scheme. Now I’m not the one that usually looses files and need to go back and find them, but I feel much timemachine.pngbetter knowing that my computer has a backup and is backed up so that I don’t loose any important client files if something would happen.

You might want to know however, that if you are thinking about backing up to a network disk, connected through a router, that this is not supported by Time Machine simply because it hogs up your entire network connection leaving you unable to do much other things, as well as eats up your bandwidth. This means that you’ll need to have an external drive connected to your computer (or partition an internal drive which is not that recommended since it quite looses the point on a backup outside your computer) the whole time which could be troublesome on laptops.

So for my own example, as long as my external drive is hooked up to my computer, it is taking backups but as soon as I disconnect or go and work someplace other than on my main workspace where I don’t have the external drive connected, Time Machine will not back up my files that I have on the computer which can be a bit troublesome indeed but for me, it works pretty well, since I don’t usually work much away from my external drive due to the size of my internal hard drive.

So in the end, Time Machine is an awesome new feature in Leopard that would be worth the price of the upgrade alone!

Some Final Thoughts

So as you may have realized by now, I’m digging Leopard a lot and I like most of the new features and I can live with the ones I dislike a bit since weleopard.jpg are not talking about a real hate.
Overall, my experience these two weeks have been very smooth and nice without any hiccoughs at all, programs playing up, data loss or anything. It runs like a charm even on my 1gig RAM laptop if not a bit faster than Tiger even.

I can only recommend this upgrade and I don’t see any speed bumps either even on low RAM memory as long as you take the correct preparations before you upgrade it can’t go that wrong when you do upgrade. Having a complete hard drive backup (using a program like SuperDuper!) is very recommended and I wouldn’t be doing an upgrade without it. Also checking that the programs you need every day is working under Leopard is a good thing!

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Erik is the owner of online media company Bernskiold Media that runs tutorial website Bernskiold learning and he is a Web Designer, Photographer and Software-Trainer.

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