Leopard, one year later

It’s been just over 1 year since I waited in line on October 27, 2007 for Leopard. Now that I’ve had 52 weeks to use and abuse the operating system, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve come to like, dislike and can’t live without.

The Good

QuickLook
This tiny little addition to the Finder has changed the way I open files. Having the ability to preview a movie, view a PDF and view inside a ZIP archive (with plugins) has made working much easier. Moving to a Mac still on Tiger is quite annoying now because any file I wish to preview must be opened in its original application. It also makes viewing slideshows of folders full of images exceptionally easy.

Time Machine
Fortunately, I haven’t had the need to restore my entire computer from a Time Machine backup. What I do use the utility for, however, is to restore revisions that have gone awry. Most files, programs or projects contain numerous versions that need to be organized, and when a version gets unusable for any reason, I can easily go back in time to restore the original copy. Having a constant update is always comforting, and this is truly one of the “set it and forget it” kind of applications. I’m sure it has saved many other people from having to start over from scratch, and that is precisely what it was meant to do in the first place.

New Finder Sidebar
Some people love it, some people hate it. I’ve found the network share part of the sidebar to be incredibly useful. Having one-click access to other computers or hard drives on the network has proven to be consistently fast and effective in most network setups. However, the other element of the new sidebar, Search for, is rather annoying, because it cannot be removed. Sure you can collapse it, but it doesn’t free the same space that erasing it completely would.

Preview
Preview is here because of a single addition: the change size tool. Writing blog posts, updating websites and general media work requires a lot of image resizing, and having the ability to resize images quickly, efficiently and with high quality results saves a lot of time over opening Photoshop.

The Bad

Spaces
I’ve yet to fully make use of Spaces. Right now I have 2 Spaces, with all my primary work being done on Space 1, and use full screen apps like Parallels or VNC on the second space to make things more organized. It works nicely, but that’s all I can see myself using Spaces for. What would help me adopt it more readily would be providing the option for disconnecting a specific application from all Spaces. What that could mean is choosing Finder in Space Y opens a new window instead of going to back to the Finer window in Space X. Some applications you want to open normally regardless of what is open around it.

Front Row
Recently I’ve gotten into the whole Network Area Storage media center thing by getting a 750GB drive connected to my Airport Extreme (more details on that to come in a later post). This is great for sharing all my media in a way that I can access it from anywhere in the house, and even view the shows on my TV by streaming on my MacBook. It’s like having an TV without having an TV. But after using Front Row more and more, I’ve found some rather basic things that could improve the app significantly.

First, TV shows that I have carefully labelled and organized inside iTunes don’t display the order you might expect. You’d think that the natural order to display TV shows is by Season, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In a TV show with 4 seasons, the links are displayed Season 4, 2, 3, 1 which is very weird. On top of that, you can’t tell you’ve entered the wrong season until clicking through because Front Row only displays the show name rather than the season. By adding the ability to sort by show, then season, navigating the system would be made a lot easier. Another annoyance is Front Row’s inability to use network shares or other storage medium with the Source menu. The only way to view media outside iTunes, iPhoto and the Movies folder is to use an alias (I’ll explain that later too). I hope Apple makes some of these changes for the upcoming versions, as these basic modifications could make using a Mac for a media center even more elegant.

iCal information
My final beef represents the largest step backwards from Tiger to Leopard. In iCal versions predating 10.5, editing activities and events was as easy as opening the drawer on the right side of the window. This meant that to edit a new event, you only needed to select the item on the calendar, and the drawer would update accordingly. That all changed with iCal 3, as changing an event now requires the Command+I keystroke, or for you to double click the event on the calendar. Not only is this an extra, unnecessary step, but it covers up space on the calendar that is likely needed to compare events. In terms of usability, it is definitely a step back.

I don’t know if Apple has any of these changes in store for Snow Leopard, but let’s hope that they keep the great stuff, and find a way to improve the features that aren’t quite as useful as they should be.

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