Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mac OS X Leopard - the Rees view - for Mac geeks only!!!

As I only just bought my new Mac I was eligible for a £5.95 upgrade to Leopard when it was released (last Friday). It was delivered to me on Monday and I installed it on Monday night. So I've had it on the machine for the last few days and thought I'd post some brief comments about how I'm finding it.

Apple claim that this is their biggest operating system upgrade yet with over 300 new features (compared with Tiger). Here's my initial thoughts:

Time Machine : this has got to be one of the key new features. Having recently paid a heavy price for not backing up my data (see earlier blog entry) this is a great feature. You assign an external drive (I have a USB 160GB portable drive) as your Time Machine drive and the computer automatically mirrors your entire hard drive updating the mirror every hour. There's now a Time Machine icon in the dock and when you click on it it opens up a dazzling Star-Wars-esque (the beginning bit where the writing scrolls upwards through space) screen. This is where you can see all the back ups of your drive (most recent at the front going back into the distance with previous back ups behind it). You can then scroll through 'back in time' to previous dates and times to see your system as it was then.

This is a great feature although I'm not sure how much I will use it except for the security of backing up my system in case of hard drive failure. Apple seem to think that random files might just go missing for no reason and that you can then go back in time to retrieve them (searching for them 'through time' via Spotlight) - but in reality how often does that happen? I will still be using Time Machine to back up my system though.

Spaces : This is a clever new feature that allows you to organise what you're doing on your computer in up to 16 separate spaces - so you can group together certain applications in clusters according to different things you are doing and then just switch from one space to another (with useful keyboard shortcuts) as you complete different tasks.

This has the potential to be a great utility but I think Apple have really missed a trick here. Here's why: you can't open the same application in more than one space at a time. What I would really find useful is to set up, say, a work space and a leisure space. In the work space I would have my web browser open with various web-pages open that I was referencing for work stuff + any other apps I was using for work - my word processor etc. In the leisure space I would have my browser open with maybe some football news sites, for example, + maybe a game or whatever. But you can't do that with Spaces. You can only have the web browser (or any other app) in one space at a time.

It's a shame as I could see myself using this utility a lot of it had that functionality but as it is I probably won't use it much.

Stacks : the dock now has the ability to hold folders e.g. your downloads folder or recent documents and then, when you click on them they open out in a fan configuration. This is pretty neat and tidy but I haven't had much opportunity to use Stacks yet so can't really comment.

Finder with Cover-Flow and Quick-Look : this I really like. You now have the option in the Finder to browse your folders, documents, pictures etc. using Cover-Flow i.e. seeing a small version of the actual file not just an icon of it and you can even blow it up to readable size with Quick-Look. This is great if you're browsing through a folder of documents to find the right one - you don't need to keep opening Word (or Pages) to view the documents. Nice.

iCal and Mail : The new versions of iCal and Mail are really sweet - particularly Mail. It has smart data recognition so if someone sends you an e mail with details of a meeting/appointment you can hover the mouse over it and Mail will recognise it as a calendar event and instantly give you the option of making it an iCal entry. You can also now highlight any portion of text in an e mail and instantly turn it into a To-Do which will go straight into your iCal To-Do list (and then, in my case, get synched to my Blackberry). You can also now compose notes and To-Do's in Mail).

So there's my early take on Leopard. No doubt I will get into it more as time goes by. There are a few teething problems I'm already noticing - I use PocketMac to sync my Blackberry and it looks like it doesn't work that well with the new OS. And I've had a couple of issues getting on to Airport networks that are normally fine. It also did something really wierd when I upgraded and wouldn't let me empty my trash - I spent an hour and three quarters on the phone to Applecare sorting that one out! (I needed to as I had about 40GB of data in the trash due to accidentally importing three copies of my iTunes library).

All in all I would say to Mac users out there that it's well worth getting the new OS - it's probably worth it for Time Machine alone let alone the other stuff.

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