Finally, two whole months after it came out (and about a month after most people finished blogging about it) I took the plunge and upgraded to Mac OSX Leopard. With issue of incompatible software floating around, I was a bit hesitant (especially since Tiger was doing just fine). However, I hate being left behind (reminds me of when I was the only one left at the dinner table because I had to finish my soup and didn’t really want to). When I finally put the installation DVD into my precious iMac, I was kind of nervous about messing with a working OS (a result of a Windows upbringing, no doubt), which was only made worse by the fact that my DVD was corrupt (kudos to Apple for adding that disc validation step, though). We had to bring it back to the Apple Store for an exchange. Now I’ve been Leopardized and I am pretty happy about it. After about 3 weeks with it, there are still many of the upgraded features that I haven’t done much with. I don’t use iChat, Safari, Boot Camp, or Mail (though the new email templates are really tempting) so I can’t really comment on improvements there. I tried the new speedier Safari, but I didn’t feel the difference. I guess there’s just too many factors that impact web browsing speeds. Let me walk through my impressions of some of the other Leopard enhancements.
The change to a 3D Dock is no big a deal. It looks slicker to have the icons appear to sit on a shiny glass surface, but I don’t understand all the hubbub about it. There’s a little spotlight now instead of the triangle pointing to open applications — again, subtle touches, but no big. Stacks is a relatively big change, though. Now my folders that are on the Dock show little pictures of the files in them like a stack of images. I don’t really like that because it’s confusing (especially the image reflects whatever’s the first file on the list, so the icon will change). Many people are annoyed by the way clicking the folder displays icons in a fan formation or a grid, but what bothers me is the fact that when I click the folder icon, I still have to click a second arrow icon to open the folder in Finder. I guess I just like working with Finder (again, Windows upbringing) and want to get right to the folder I want.
One of the general improvements regarding icons, though, is that the graphical resolution is higher. One of my old pet peeves was seeing the icon for Preview in the dock because it’s a picture of a little boy and for some reason, because of the way the pixels appeared, his eyes always looked creepy — kind of glowy like in Village of the Damned. Now that I can clearly see his eyes and his cute rosy cheeks, all is well.
The biggest improvement in Finder seems to be Cover Flow. Now I can see and browse all my files as graphical previews (much like album art in iTunes). Actually, I’m not sold on this one. When I see a window with Cover Flow, I feel like iTunes is open and I always do a double-take (“When did I open iTunes?” I ask myself, “And where is my Finder window?”). I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually. Nevertheless, I still haven’t found it super-useful. When I am browsing files, I’m going to have to interact with them so I would rather use big icons (since most document icons now also display miniature previews) than Cover Flow. Quick Look is very slick, and probably a handier feature than Cover Flow. By clicking on the space bar, a window flies out showing a full size preview of the file (including graphics, documents, and even plays video). The best part about all these browsing conveniences is that they don’t slow down my system. Cover Flow seems even smoother in Finder than it does in iTunes.
I think Spaces is a great feature. It allows you to basically have separate virtual desktops for your applications and can switch between them easily. It’s very easy to use and I love that when you click the application icon in the Dock, you are automatically switched to the virtual desktop that the application is in. However, I can’t say that I’ve gotten into the groove of using Spaces. I don’t exactly run a ton of applications at the same time, so there’s not that much clutter on my desktop. Nevertheless, I’m glad that it’s there for when I need it.
I’m told that Leopard’s Front Row is more like the AppleTV interface (which I can’t confirm, since I don’t have one, but from what I’ve seen in the Apple store, that seems accurate). It’s less flashy, using more lists and less animation of graphics whirling around (if you use or remember Front Row in Tiger, you probably know what I mean). For me, the best thing about the new Front Row is that it doesn’t have to process all my movie files before bringing up a list of what it can play for me. In the old Front Row, it took so long that I moved most of my movie files to a separate folder and used an alias to connect the two because Front Row would work for hours just to show me what was in my Movies folder. Now I put them all back because it takes almost no time for me to see all the folders and find whatever I want to watch.
Unfortunately I have not been able to use Leopard’s fancy backup solution, Time Machine (which I was really looking forward to doing), because my external hard drive is already half-used by other files. Time Machine demanded the entire drive, but it’s not worthwhile for me to reformat or repartition the drive to allow Time Machine to go at it, so I’ll have to find some other less-pretty backup solution. Also, I was kind of keen to try Back To My Mac (to access my computer remotely) but I don’t have a .mac account, so that’s moot.
As for application compatibilities, I have upgraded a few things to be compatible with Leopard (including system maintenance application Onyx), but I haven’t had any problems with my applications so far (including the Adobe CS3 collection — I don’t have any of the Adobe video apps, though, which I have read about compatibility issues with). All in all, I am really happy that I upgraded, but none of the features have dramatically changed my computer life. Experts keep saying that a lot of the upgrades are invisible and that when people start developing software to take advantage of the under-the-hood improvements, things will really start to feel different. If you’re on the fence about Leopard, you could probably wait until something comes along that forces you to upgrade. However, unlike some of the horrific Windows Vista stories that are out there, the change is also relatively painless if you want to get on board now.