Apple's Leopard leaps to new heights

A refined look, revamped apps and new options build on an already solid OS foundation

It's been two years, five months and 26 days since Apple last released a new operating system -- the longest gap between releases since the company first released Mac OS X six years ago. Mac OS X 10.5, better known as "Leopard," hits store shelves six months after it was initially expected -- and more than a year and a half after Apple CEO Steve Jobs first showed it off in mid-2006.

So, is it worth the wait? And, more important, is it worth the US$129 price tag? For Mac users, the answer to that question depends on whether they're happy with the current OS, Version 10.4 "Tiger," whether they're using hardware that can run Leopard, and whether they're brave enough to install a .0 version of any operating system. (Just ask Windows Vista users about that.)

What's new in Leopard? A lot. From the unified interface (goodbye, brushed aluminum) to major under-the-hood changes, to wholly new apps, Leopard is a substantial, albeit evolutionary, advance for Mac OS X that builds on a solid foundation and adds a modicum of eye candy to reinforce the notion that this is something new and improved. It's also fast -- especially impressive given the new graphics sprinkled throughout the OS.

While Apple lists more than 300 changes for the OS, most users will be focused on the biggies: Time Machine, Spotlight, Quick Look, Spaces, Parental Controls, a revamped Finder and Dock, an updated user interface, much-needed tweaks to programs like Mail and iChat, and behind-the-scenes changes that should make it easier for developers to improve their own third-party applications.

As with all new operating systems, Leopard is also likely to bring some unwelcome changes that could prompt some would-be buyers to hold off on the upgrade, at least for now. Although Leopard is designed to work just fine right out of the box on all of Apple's Intel-based hardware and on Power PC G5 machines, owners of older G4 laptops and desktops -- those running at speeds of less than 867 MHz -- are out of luck. Leopard also requires at least 512MB of RAM and a DVD drive.

If your computer doesn't meet those specs, it's time to upgrade your hardware or stick with Tiger for now. And if you're still running Mac "Classic" OS apps, forget it. Leopard drops support for what was once Mac OS 9.

For enterprises, a new operating system almost always means compatibility issues with at least some mission-critical apps. The Leopard client OS and Leopard Server, which offers its own set of much-needed improvements, is likely to be no different -- no matter how hard Apple works at backward compatibility.

IT departments will want to do extensive testing before rolling out Leopard, because it's almost certain that some software -- especially third-party applications -- won't work right away. (For example, FileMaker is recommending that people hold off on using its software with Leopard until the company releases compatibility updates. And Mozilla reports that some Firefox Add-ons don't yet work right in Leopard, although the browser itself does.) Even so, most major applications and software drivers appear to work as they should, based on testing of the OS by Computerworld and reports from those who worked with builds when it was under development.

Given the hype surrounding Leopard -- and Apple's recent success in bringing new users into the Mac fold with its popular iPhone and iPod Touch -- millions of users will likely ignore any cautionary notes, rip the plastic wrap off the box and have Leopard installed on their machines as quickly as possible.

For those not sure what the big deal is or whether they should make the leap to Leopard, we offer this in-depth overview of the major changes and new features in Mac OS X 10.5.

Over the next week or so, we'll publish extensive, hands-on reviews of Time Machine, Apple's take on backup software; Spotlight, its supercharged search app; Leopard's user interface changes; additions and tweaks to Mail, iCal and .Mac; and not-so-obvious changes aimed at developers; along with hits and misses, and, perhaps inevitably in the IT world, a comparison with Microsoft's Windows Vista.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?