Leopard review part 2: Look and feel

After finally upgrading both the Tiger iMacs in our house to Leopard last week, I can now see what I’m getting for my AUD $250. I’ll start with initial impressions of the new Mac OS X, then move onto specific apps and features in later parts.

The look

Leopard desktop background

Steve must have been watching a lot of Star Trek over the last couple of years. Leopard has a distinctly space-age feel, with its starry desktop background, glowing lights in the Dock, and Doctor Who-style Time Machine. Personally I’m not ecstatic about the look, but it’s inoffensive enough (though Time Machine’s animated swirly stuff is overkill and distracting).

Menu bar and Dock

The Dock in Mac OS X Leopard

I actually really like the much-maligned translucent menu bar and shiny 3-D Dock. The translucent menu isn’t as distracting as I’d imagined, and I like the “solidity” of the Dock’s shelf. I particularly like the way application windows are reflected in the shelf. Utterly pointless, but beautiful. I’m not convinced by the glowing dots used to show active apps; sure, they fit in with the space-age theme, but they’re hard to notice. I keep thinking they’re part of the starry desktop background (which I know I could change, of course). I preferred the way Tiger used a black triangle to indicate an active program.

New-look windows and icons

Finder window look in Leopard

Application windows have been unified into a consistent, reassuring dark grey shaded look. It’s a definite improvement on the mish-mash of window styles in Tiger (even amongst Apple’s own software). Leopard’s Close/Minimize/Zoom window buttons are slightly more saturated and “boiled sweet” looking than Tiger’s, and the pull-down menus in the menu bar now have rounded bottom corners – small details, but I like them.

I’m not a big fan of the Finder’s new staid blue folder icons, though they are elegant in their own way I suppose. I find the “special” folders (Desktop, Documents, Music, etc) a little hard to distinguish when they’re in the Dock.

The feel

Leopard’s user interface is definitely quicker and more responsive than Tiger’s. Menus appear with less lag; window dragging seems smoother; windows open and close instantly. Finder, in particular, seems noticeably faster compared with the one in Tiger. User switching is instant – with Tiger there was an annoying delay after you typed your password – and login/logout seems faster too.

I think the more responsive interface definitely contributes to making Leopard feel “faster” overall; whether it actually is faster under the hood is hard to tell!Stacks in Leopard’s Dock

The Stacks feature in the Dock is a very quick way to access a few files or applications in a folder. It’s much snappier than the equivalent in Tiger, where you had to click a folder in the Dock to open it in a new Finder window, or right-click it to display its contents as a list (both of which caused a good 1-second delay on large folders such as Applications). I don’t like the way a stack’s icon shows the first couple of items in the folder by default – it’s messy and hard to see – but you can change this easily by right-clicking the icon and choosing Folder instead of Stack.


Overall, in terms of looks and day-to-day use, I’d say Leopard’s a definite improvement over Tiger. The new interface looks more polished and unified – Star Trek overtones aside – and is more responsive. Add in faster ways to do things such as Stacks, and I find that I can get stuff done more quickly with Leopard than with its stripy predecessor.

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3 Responses to “Leopard review part 2: Look and feel”

  1. Greg Says:

    Ah, you’ve finally done it! The little blue dots thing, well, you’ll get used to it. It’s not as clear as Tiger – but at the moment you’re still looking for the Tiger triangles I expect.

    I have yet to have a problem with Leopard, it’s great.

  2. Matt Says:

    Yes, I finally took the plunge with Leopard! I must say, on the whole, I’m happy I did. There are quite a few niggles and annoyances – more of which later! – but nothing broke in any major way on either of our iMacs, which is a relief. 🙂 And yes, I am getting used to the dots.

  3. Cat Says:

    I freely admit to being a Trekkie, but I hate the default space theme in Leopard. It’s like some horrific retro computer stuck in the last century 🙂