If you’re a Mac user, you’ve likely heard a significant amount about Leopard, the new OS X version 10.5. From newspapers, blogs or magazines, there is a lot of information on this newest cat. You’re likely wondering what Leopard brings that makes it worthy of an upgrade and $129 (that’s right, Canada has the same price as the US), so I’ll try to show what makes Leopard more agile than previous versions of OS X.

First off, Leopard appears to be an upgrade that is evolutionary, instead of revolutionary. Apple packed a large number of small changes, in addition to some larger ones, to create an operating system that is much more polished than its predecessors. That’s not to say that there aren’t any big ticket items, but the refinements make a much bigger difference in usage than any of the major overhauls.

So, what is different? Most noticeable immediately is the change in the dock and the transparent menubar. Some people love them, some people hate them, so your mileage may vary. It is slightly more difficult to determine which applications in the dock are running thanks to the light blue orbs, but I have found the dock to be a pleasant change. With the menubar, the picture you choose makes a big impact on the legibility of the menus. If you stick with a basic photo like the ones supplied, the menus are fine.

The application that is generating the most buzz for Leopard is Time Machine. Time Machine makes backing up your data easier, and less of a hassle. When you connect an external hard drive and set up Time Machine, it will automatically back up your files every hour, then every day, and then every week until your disk if full. If you need to retrieve a file, folder or even photo, Time Machine transforms your desktop into a space ship, and allows you to travel back in time to retrieve your lost file and bring it back to the present. It works in the background, and will always be available to help if disaster strikes. This is, of course, assuming that the hard drive is connected.

Quicklook is a feature that I have found to be worth the price of Leopard in itself. Instead of opening an application to view a Word file, a photo, or PDF, hitting spacebar brings up a miniature of the file that I can zoom in on, and even go fullscreen. Looking at a folder of images no longer requires that all the photos be opened in Preview; they can be viewed right in the Finder window.

Stacks is a handy way of viewing the contents of a folder that is in your dock, but it offers limited functionality when compared to the hierarchal folders of systems past. Regardless, I have found Stacks to be an excellent way of keeping track of files downloaded from the internet, as Leopard automatically adds a download stack to the dock upon installation.

There are many of other things that make Leopard a worthy upgrade. Data Detectors is a little-known feature of Mail that can automatically add events to an iCal calendar or Address Book entry. When an email arrives that contains address data or a date reference, Data Detectors offers to add the information to its respective application, and it works brilliantly. Another feature that has made using Leopard more enjoyable is the ability for the Finder to disconnect from network connections when they become unavailable. Basically it means that if a share is opened on another computer and that computer shuts off, the first connection is removed quietly and without the “beachball of death”.

In conclusion, Leopard is a worthy upgrade from Tiger, and even more so from Panther and the earlier versions of OS X. There are many features that make using a computer more enjoyable, but as always, you should make sure you demo the software before you go out to buy.
[tags]Leopard, Apple, QuickLook, Time Machine, Coverflow[/tags]

5 comments on “Leopard
  1. mvdhoef says:

    As much as leopards look has been changed, there doesn’t seem to be very many internal system changes. The only evidence of this is the growing number of applications that no longer work, or partially work on the upgrade. What did they change in the system that would make so many applications stop working? A list can be found here…


  2. wesg says:


    If you check the Apple website – http://www.apple.com/macosx – you’ll see that they list 300 new features to Leopard. Going down the list, many of them are not often visible to the end-user, making them mostly under-the-hood enhancements to improve the system overall.

  3. mvdhoef says:

    @ wesg

    What good are under-the-hood “invisible” system enhancements if they are VISIBLY rendering everyday applications useless. Sure, maybe the system works better now, but what good are they if you can no longer run your applications.

  4. wesg says:


    You have a point.

  5. Silvia says:

    The annoying thing about the dock, as Siracusa noted in his Ars Technica Leopard rveeiw, is that it is the only place certain important UI things happen.For example, program alerts (when adium bounces the dock icon to tell you someone wrote you a message). I can’t remember the other things, but Siracusa notes that there is no open API to get these alerts and such into another program, so killing the dock removes some functionality from the OS this needs to be fixed before you can dump the dock (which I wish would happen sooner rather than later).