Leopard: Worth the upgrade?

Leopard box shotI’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!

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7 Responses to “Leopard: Worth the upgrade?”

  1. Si Says:

    I did it. I upgraded, adhering to my usual routine of waiting for the first bugfix.

    The bad: The dock’s a pain. Because the apps protrude, “fullscreen” windows just make everything look ragged, and the tinted menubar sucks ass too. Stacks are fun but because they take on the icon of the first thing in the stack, you never know what you’re looking at. Luckily all this can be solved with this thing called Palette, though I should add I haven’t installed that –


    On the plus side, Time machine is great – I’m a thickie. Quicklook goes like the proverbial s*** off a shovel. It’s way fast, don’t worry about that. for me, with a lot of graphics files to preview, Quicklook is probably worth £80 all on its own. The Finder sidebar is also good, though the way it handles server shares takes a bit of getting used to.

    I guess we’ll see about iChat!

    I think for me, the upgrade was finally worth it because I know that at some point I’ll have to because I want to get a feature of some small app I’m addicted to. I’m thinking this for instance:


    Plus it’s new. And a bit of a grin.

    lastly, the hologram box and “space” desktop are something rare for an Apple product – tacky.

    si xx

  2. Greg Says:

    Having got my Imac with leopard included in the box, Tiger never really saw the light of day, so i can’t compare.

    I can that i’m enjoying using it, spaces is getting a lot of use. That alone would make it worth while upgrading from my point of view. It almost eliminates the need for expose.

  3. Matt Says:

    @Si: That sounds relatively encouraging! Out of interest, did you do an Upgrade, an Erase & Install, or an Archive & Install (I think that’s what the options are called?) I’ve heard horror stories where people upgraded or erased & installed and it wiped everything and crashed horribly, so I’m guessing Archive & Install is the safest bet?

    @Greg: I really miss multiple workspaces from my Linux days, so I’m really looking forward to this feature in Leopard I must admit!

  4. Greg Says:

    i appreciate this isn’t the place buy i can’t find your email.

    Any one had problems with divx player? just tried to play a tv show through it and got what sounded like feed back. way too loud. can only assume it’s the program, the file is fine . . .

    and i’m still loving spaces! take the plunge . . .


  5. Matt Says:

    Well you have me stumped there Greg! Never used divx player, or Leopard. Do you still get the problem when listening through headphones?

    I’m working myself up to buy Leopard – maybe it will be in my Xmas stocking!

  6. Greg Says:

    dont, only a couple of weeks to go . . . still quite unorganized to be honest!

    I havn’t tried playing anything through Divx since, it was quite disturbing. The ensuing questions of “what the **** was that? have you broken it?” didn’t help much, either!

  7. Si Says:

    I did a simple upgrade, and that seems to have worked just fine. One oddity: In Photoshop, my erasers now always have a hard edge. No idea if this is general issue or just me!