Monday, November 12, 2007

One Week of Leopard

Having purchased Leopard a few days after launch, I waited a few days before installation ensuring my existing Tiger setup was completely backed up as I wanted to do a fresh install of Leopard on Monday morning. Once installed, I immediately took a dislike of the 3D dock and the translucent menubar. The dock has been replaced with the 2D one using the standard solution (found in my links) and I've used LeoColorBar to update my background image with a color at the top to simulate a non translucent menubar - whilst a horrible solution, the menu looks better now!! Hopefully Apple will introduce an option to toggle this in a future update.

Initially I found coverflow in the finder to be gimmicky, I haven't really used it that much and when I have it's been more out of curiousity. Although recently I did use it do browse through some documents I had - which I found much quicker than by reading the names or a text search.

I've found the quick look facility to be really useful. I nice touch I discovered is playing a movie file in coverflow, when you move to quick look it seamlessly transfers to the enlarged window without skipping playback and if you've decided that is the file you want to watch - just hit fullscreen and it seamlessly zooms to full screen! Very, very cool. Quick look even supports the new Office XML files - to my surprise Excel spreadsheets are displayed in coverflow and quick look - a very useful facility!

I like the new iCal application, not that there is much difference in terms of my usage of it, it is just more visually appealing. Similarly the todo functionality in mail is great to grab a piece of text in an email and mark it as a todo! This all syncs using the sync services so mobile phones and PDAs will all get updated. With Tiger I synced my Palm Treo 680, but I didn't want to upgrade my Missing Sync application as they hadn't updated the software for Leopard. My Vodafone upgrade is due, so I went for a Nokia E65 which is supported under Leopard directly by Nokia. So I get my calendar, todos and addresses synced to my phone over bluetooth.

There are a couple of hidden features which I never noticed before, if you option-click the wireless menu item, you get detailed information about the wireless you are connected to such as the channel and other radio information which could be quite useful if you have a number of Wifi points around you.

Another is in iTunes when you play a video, rather than playing in a small window, it takes over the "list" view playing in the iTunes window - again offering fullscreen options as usual. Also in Quicktime whilst watching South Park the ability to "stretch" the 4:3 video to fill the widescreen monitor by stretching the sides of the image so as not to distort the centre of the video - my TV does this and so now does my computer!! A feature the old faithful VLCs and MPlayers do not! I haven't confirmed if this is simply an update to iTunes and Quicktime or a unique Leopard thing.

I finally got around to installing Time Machine by clearing out a drive and using that as a dedicated backup. It would be much cooler if I could use the network drive I have upstairs, but I need to install Leopard (currently Tiger) on the attached host to work. The drive I'm using is quite a small 40GB WD passport drive, but my drive is only 25GB full so this should be plenty. Time machine is clever enough to delete older backups when the drive gets full so it should keep me going until I get a larger drive or Apple fixes the bugs in (non Leopard) networked Time Machine. Time machine doesn't work with iCal which seems a bit of an oversight - although you can obviously get an earlier version of the ical database and replace it manually - you just can't recover individual events or tasks using the Time Machine interface. Most of the other applications work using the new interface and I'm sure as more people move to 10.5, more apps will support it. Since I'm using a macbook pro, I was a bit worried about having to carry around the hard drive and leave it plugged in at all times. This isn't the case; Time Machine incrementally backs up your drive every hour and when your backup drive is reconnected again, it updates the backup drive with the incremental backups it made whilst disconnected. A bit of an annoyance was the fact that Spotlight starting indexing my Time Machine drive, I had to manually disable this in the Spotlight Privacy settings - such a function should be automatic as I don't see the point in indexing a backup drive; unless of course they integrate spotlight and say "4 files found in Time Machine" so you can go back and see them...

Spaces was quite fun to use, but now disabled. When you click the application icons in the dock, if the app is in another space, the desktop zooms to that space with a little arrow showing the direction it's going - a nice touch, but not for me. I couldn't find a decent enough use for virtual desktops in all the years of using Linux, however from the look of it, Apple's implementation is great - if you like that sort of thing. Personally, I like a nice clean desktop and Exposé when things get a bit cluttered.

I've tested out iChat and Photobooth and they have a cool feature which allows you to replace the background - so you can video iChat to someone and pretend you're in Paris... Quite useful if you've got a cluttered background and want to screen it out! I tend to use Skype for everything (including Video) so there is no real benefit to me here.

I really like Stacks, but not for storing documents or pictures as Apple would like you to. I'm quite tidy with my desktop, I hate stuff on it and with Leopard I can now remove all the icons from the desktop and use it purely as a workspace, deleting all files once finished doing a specific task. Downloads from Skype, Safari and Firefox all go to the "Downloads" folder which has a default stack and I find that great as I'm quite happy to leave downloads there and out the way. I can install applications and view documents directly from the download stack when I want and I can now delete them much later on than usual because it isn't taken up any of my precious desktop space!!

I've taken a real shine to Safari 3. It's very nice to use, integrated well with Mac OS X. I miss my and stumpleupon toolbars from Firefox, but I've gotten around that with the "Inquisitor" plugin for Safari and delimport which integrates my bookmarks with Spotlight - probably a superior feature. Using Safari and delimport allows me to search my browsing history and bookmarks with a single spotlight lookup!! Posting a link is replaced with a bookmarklet and my favourites has been replaced with a custom google homepage with a gadget viewing my bookmarks tagged "favourite". StumbleUpon has been left as I can't find bookmarklets for it... A shame really, but I now use Digg more! This was a hard decision for me to make as I've been a very long user of Firefox (since it was called Phoenix) and have donated to the Mozilla foundations for their NYT article and merchandise - I have a Firefox mug! Firefox is installed though, as there is the occasional site which doesn't work properly with Safari 3.

I never found a killer "upgrade for this" function since I had backups using Chronosync before and everything else is about the same. However, Leopard feels smoother, faster and above all looks and feels nicer than Tiger. It appears to start up much faster than Tiger did. 100s of minor features have been glued together and Apple seems to have made everything much more integrated than previous versions of Mac OS X. I really like the new Finder, it has a much more optimal use of window space than in Tiger. I also like being able to control remote macs through the Finder. You could do this before in Tiger, but needed "Chicken of the VNC".

I haven't had a need for Time Machine just yet, but it is pretty cool searching through deleted emails and files - it's backing up my gmail (now accessed through imap) - so even if I delete an email on Gmail's web interface, next time I sync Time Machine that message is backed up and searchable!!

Oh and finally, the iCal icon displays the correct date in the dock regardless of whether it is running or not!

In conclusion, I'm now in a situation where I simply wouldn't go back to using Tiger.

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