Leopard Rocks on the Apple Mac

apple-logoApple has released the new 10.5 version of Mac OS X, nicknamed “Leopard.” Many folks are wondering if it is worth the upgrade. I’m here to tell you it’s worth the time and effort. Here’s my top 10!

There are many debates on whether or not the upgrade is worth the time and money. I’d like to share some of the things I’ve discovered that make it even more usable and fun to use than ever.

  1. Speed: Both my PowerMac and my PowerBook have experienced a very noticeable jump in performance. Leopard performs much faster on both of my systems.
  2. Quick View: This is a huge timesaver! Highlight a file in the Finder and press the spacebar to be able to immediately examine the contents without having to open the application.
  3. Apple Mail: Small improvements in usability in addition to being able to use stationery, which will appeal to a large number of home users.Note: ToDo’s are not quite ready for primetime yet. The user interface is cumbersome and not very intuitive. It’s silly not to have a calendar popup for the notification dates and ofter you have to re-edit the entry over and over when changing different attributes such as Alarm, Due Date, etc.
  4. Finder: Overall, the changes to Finder are most welcome. The new interface provides improved customization and the handling of Windows file shares on the network is more reliable and easy to use.
  5. Time Machine: Finally, an easy to use backup program for the masses. While the geek community is criticizing the lack of configuration options, the average home user will applaud. Just connect an external USB drive and tell your Mac to use it for Time Machine in the System Preferences and it’s all done for you automagically. In my years as a consultant, getting people to back up was a really big issue. Most folks avoided it because they did not understand how to develop a backup strategy. Time Machine takes all the guesswork out of it. If you ever have to restore your machine from scratch, Mac OS X Install will give you the option of restoring from a Time Machine external disk. Sweet!
  6. Safari: Some really nice usability improvements, especially the Find command. Find highlights matching text on the page so there is no missing it. The page dims and the matching parts are highlighted in bright yellow. There are still some things that do not work as well as they do in Firefox. For example, I am writing this blog using Firefox because Safari will not display text formatting properly. When you highlight a word and click a Bold button, the text doesn’t visibily reflect the formatting change. Stick with Firefox for now for sites where you need formatting control, also known as What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG – pronounced “wizi-wig”.)
  7. Spaces: Imagine your one monitor being able to display multiple desktops! While there have been many 3rd party products out there (such as You Software’s YouControl:Desktops), this is now built-in to the Mac OS X, giving everyone an easy to use multiple desktop interface. Open your finance program in one desktop, your web browser in another, your word processor in a third. No long do you have to search through the clutter of having all of your applications open on one desktop. Nice.
  8. Cover Flow: Imagine being able to peruse your documents in the same way you do album covers in iTunes. Yes, it’s eyecandy, but many of us find using our eyes to recognize the “look” of a document in order to find it more useful than remembering what the heck we called it. When you spot it, hit the spacebar to quickly quick preview it before you open it in the application or print it.
  9. Parental Controls: This is a big one for parents everywhere. If you are not monitoring what your kids access, then it’s time to start! The new Mac OS X makes this painless. You decide what your children can access and when they can use the computer. Tell your Mac when your kids are allowed to use the computer and they will be sent off to bed the clock strikes “bedtime!” You’ll also be able to see where they went and who they talked to on chat. I’ll make use of this when my grandkids are old enough to want to use the computer in my house.
  10. Automator: If you are one of those folks whose head felt like it was going to explode figuring out how to use Automator, then you’ll appreciate the latest improvements. Automator can now record and save your keystrokes and mouse clicks in order to be able to play them back for you any time. Repetitive tasks are now easier than ever to define to make your even more efficient!

These are but a few of my favorites. No doubt you’ll have more of your own. Apple continues to raise the bar in usability, functionality and just plain fun! Not only can you get things done even easier than before on a Mac, but there more eyecandy to entertain to kid in all of us.

Microsoft continues to struggle to bring a new version of Windows to the market that can truly compete with Mac OS X. As anyone who has tried Vista knows, “close, but no cigar.”

Special Note: Whatever you do, don’t do an Upgrade of Tiger to Leopard. Not even Apple is perfect when it comes to upgrading an existing operating system. I found there were pieces of Tiger left around that caused Leopard to behave strangely and some applications to crash.

Be sure you perform an Archive & Install or a Clean Install of Leopard. As always, be sure you have a good backup of all of your files as well as your application options. Your application options are located in the Library folder of your home directory. Just drag and drop a copy to another disk or burn a DVD backup. You may need it.

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