Leopard is GO!

I spent this morning installing Leopard on my MacBook Pro and thought I’d give you my early impressions. There’s lots of coverage going on all over the web so I’m not going into a feature by feature detail by more of a high-level overview.

Leopard is the fifth major release of OS X and while it doesn’t introduce any radically new consumer features it does add true polish on what is already a great operating system. And because there isn’t much that’s actually missing in Tiger (10.4) some users will spend time considering whether Leopard is worth the $158 upgrade.

But after having installed it this morning I can tell you it is. Firstly installing a brand new clean operating system always makes you feel like you’ve got a new computer and what better opportunity than to do it with a brand new OS. Installation proceeded smoothly for me – I chose to do a clean installation and selected ‘preserve users and settings’. The result is a fresh new system folder with all your user information and settings intact. The interface feels at least as good as Tiger if not better.

When the new system boots the first changes you’ll notice are the 3D dock and the semi-translucent menu-bar. When you open a Finder window you’ll notice the icons are different the side bar has been organised like iTunes and there is a new view called Cover Flow that lets you browse your icons visually. There’s also a new button in the Finder window toolbar called Quick View that lets you easily preview most kinds of documents you’ve got on your computer. If for example you work with lots of images Quick View and Cover Flow will almost be worth the upgrade price themselves.

New Finder Window – very clean and well organised

Next when you look in the System Preferences you’ll notice a new feature called Spaces. Spaces lets you create and use different work areas. So for example you might have your browser and email in one work space and Word in another. Spaces takes time to master but prolonged use will result in a better and more efficient work flow with less window clutter.

Spaces means less Windows clutter

You’ll also bump in to Time Machine probably the most hyped but useful feature in Leopard. It’s backup for dummies and really is simple to use. Time Machine pops up when it recognises an external drive and asks if you want to set it up for Backup. This automated step alone will no doubt benefit mums and dads who are just to scared to configure backup by themselves. Time Machine keeps hourly backups for the last 24 hours daily backups for the past month and weekly backups until your disk gets full. And no the disk you backup to doesn’t need to be dedicated to Time Machine alone – you can store other stuff on there. There’s also a neat option to exclude files or folders from backup. It’s simple and powerful and works whenever the backup drive is connected.

Of course it’s more useful to desktop Mac users than MacBook/Pro users because they don’t have to remember to plug in an external drive to back up.  In that sense alone  Microsoft’s technology built tinto Vista “Volume Shadow Copy ” which continually backs up to the same disk is superior — but it’s a pity no-one knows about it or how to use it.

Time Machine – Simple to configure simple to use

So far the $158 has got you a better more useful Finder Spaces and automated backup. In my book that’s pretty good and certainly worth money. But if that’s not enough for you then have a look at Mail. It’s always been a very good mail client (much better than Microsoft Outlook Express for example with its inbuilt instant search and streamlined interface) but it’s now a whole lot better.

With support for Notes and To-Dos built in it’s now your one-stop shop for organising your life. It’s also got RSS built-in so you can read your subscriptions. But for a bit of fun there’s also stationary. This isn’t the kind of crappy stuff built-in to Outlook but full featured HTML compliant templates that let you dress up your email. I know not for the power users but pretty cool for everybody else.

The new Mail – Now with Notes To-Do’s RSS and Stationary

Well that’s it for now. It’s been a successful morning and I’ll be sure to let you know what else I find over the weekend. If you’ve got anything you’re particularly interested in please let me know and I’ll try and help out.