Apple Mac OS X Leopard

Apple Mac OS X Leopard
  • Apple Mac OS X Leopard
  • Apple Mac OS X Leopard
  • Apple Mac OS X Leopard
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Leopard Finder's new sidebar is better organised and more usable than its Tiger counterpart; Boot Camp for Windows-to-Mac switchers; Quick Look; which lets users preview the contents of documents without opening the program; Spotlight is faster and now supports Boolean operators

Cons

  • The areas of light and dark behind the menu bar can severely decrease the readability of menu items; in the Spaces feature sometimes windows would appear in spaces that we didn't expect

Bottom Line

So are 300-plus new features worth $158? That answer will vary, because no single user will ever take advantage of all -- or maybe even half -- of those 300 features. But given the impressive value of Time Machine and improvements to existing programs such as iCal, iChat, Mail, and the Finder, most active Mac users will find more than enough reasons to consider that upgrade cost money well spent. Despite a few interface missteps, particularly when it comes to the menu bar and the Dock, Leopard is an upgrade that roars.

Would you buy this?

Boot Camp

It's been 18 months since Boot Camp, Apple's method of allowing Intel-based Macs to boot into Windows, was released as a public beta. Boot Camp serves a useful purpose in that it provides basic Windows compatibility and the ability to run Windows programs at native speeds. However, most people who want to run Windows software on their Macs will opt for tools such as VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop, which allow Windows and Mac OS X to operate simultaneously.

Still, the importance of Boot Camp can't be understated. Its mere presence provides a basic level of Windows compatibility that many potential Windows-to-Mac switchers will find comforting.

Spaces

Multiple-workspace utilities, which let you switch between various collections of application windows in order to reduce clutter, have been around for years on numerous platforms, including Mac OS X. Leopard's new Spaces feature is an attempt to bring the concept of multiple workspaces to a much wider audience. While it's certainly promising, in the initial release of Leopard we found it to be a bit erratic.

Spaces has been integrated smartly into OS X's existing Expose feature, another tool for organising a large number of windows. The concept of Spaces is that the Mac's interface is actually a series of workspaces, located adjacent to one another on a grid. To drag a window out of a cluttered workspace and into a pristine one, you just drag the window to the edge of the screen and, after a momentary pause, the existing space will disappear and the window will appear by itself. Pressing the F8 key invokes an Expose-style zooming feature that reveals the contents of all the spaces and their spatial relationship to one another.

We're not convinced that multiple workspaces are ever going to be a mainstream feature, but they can be a huge productivity boost to busy power users. And Apple's implementation is quite nice, allowing you to assign individual applications to specific spaces or to every space (a feature we used to make sure that my DragThing dock and iChat windows followed us wherever we went).

However, Spaces does have some quirks. We found that sometimes windows would appear in spaces that we didn't expect, for reasons that we couldn't fathom. Some of our third-party applications became quite confused until we set them to appear in every space. Sometimes we would launch a program in one space and move to another space, only to find that program's windows appearing in our new space.

Still, Apple should be credited for bringing such a geeky feature to a broader group of users. While Spaces might never become a feature that takes the world by storm, it does have the potential to dramatically improve the productivity of many users who would never have downloaded a third-party workspace utility.

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