I’ve been on holiday the past seven weeks (I know, lucky me!), so the Leopard launch has somewhat passed me by. The reviews seem generally positive, but is it worth forking out the AUD $158 for the upgrade?
Here’s what I think of the major new features in Leopard – bearing in mind I’ve never actually used it :
New Finder: I actually like Finder in Tiger, though I know a lot of folks complain about it. The new Finder features do sound like they’d help me find things quicker. I love the idea of browsing files in Cover Flow mode, though I’d like to see how well it performs in practice. The new sidebar looks like a big improvement, as does the new Spotlight – finally, boolean searches, and, from what I’ve read, it’s a lot faster too. Tempting to upgrade just to get a decent Spotlight frankly.
Quick Look: Decent previews of files without having to open them sounds like a great time-saver, though again I’d like to see how “quick” it is in the reality of a cluttered hard drive like mine. Though Apple naturally shows off this feature with movies and photos for the wow factor, I reckon it’ll be most useful for previewing PDFs for me. Would upgrade for this feature if it turns out to be genuinely useful.
Time Machine: Great to see a decent backup feature finally built-in to a desktop OS, but it’s nothing you couldn’t already do with rdiff-backup if you’re technically minded (though TM is of course much prettier and works on a per-app basis too). I already use rsync to do my own backups and am perfectly happy with that, so I wouldn’t upgrade to get TM.
New Mail: Stationery – meh. I use plaintext email, thank you very much. Notes could be a useful feature, especially if they sync with my Palm notes through Missing Sync, but I feel they’d be better in iCal. I like the ability to access them via IMAP though. To-dos in Mail seem a bit frivolous too, but then again, iCal’s RSI-inducing interface sucks so badly that any other way of entering to-dos would be a blessing. Faster searches and RSS are nice improvements, but again, not sure they’re worth forking out for.
New iChat: There are many new features in iChat. Some – such as video backdrops and special effects – may have a wow factor but I’ll never use them, so they’re pointless for me. Others – such as screen sharing and recording chats – could be genuinely useful when I’m having meetings over iChat. Also it’s wonderful that you can finally hide the local picture-in-picture video as it’s so distracting. But the one thing Apple should have sorted in the new iChat is just making the damn thing actually work through firewalls out of the box (like Skype has done for years). Or maybe Apple has sorted that? In which case I’m there with my upgrade dollars.
Spaces: Should have been there years ago, like in every other UNIX-based OS. What more can I say?
Safari 3: I’ve been playing with this on Tiger the last couple of days and, like Leopard itself, it’s an evolutionary improvement rather than revolutionary. Seems a bit snappier than Safari 2, and fixes the two major annoyances that made me switch to Firefox: no type-ahead find, and not asking for confirmation when accidentally closing a browser window with 20 fricking tabs in. (Still has no option to prevent you accidentally closing a background tab though, and you can’t use the type-ahead find to follow links via the keyboard like you can with Firefox.) So I might end up switching back to Safari.
New-look desktop: This has been getting a lot of stick, with the 3D dock viewed as pointless by many and the translucent menu bar seen as an annoyance. Certainly nothing here to tempt me to upgrade.
Leopard also has some quite tempting minor improvements, such as being able to scroll non-active windows with the scroll wheel (something I’ve always missed since moving from Linux), tabbed windows in Terminal (yes!!!), and finally being able to easily edit property lists (.plist files). (Here’s a list of all the new features.) However I’d really like to have seen bigger improvements in iCal, iChat and Front Row, amongst others.
So overall, will I be rushing out to buy my copy of Leopard? Actually I’m not convinced I’ll be upgrading that soon. As Mossberg says, Leopard is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and I’m quite happy with Tiger for now. But hey, I’m hard to please. Maybe when I see Leopard in action, I’ll change my tune!