First Look At Leopard

contentfooter_osxserver20071016.pngI’ve had Leopard up and running on four Macs for 24 hours now and I think I’ve seen enough to talk a little about it.
I installed the shrink wrapped version (10.5 build 9A581) on a brand new iMac, an original MacBook, and a nine-month old MacBook Pro using the upgrade method. In all three cases the upgrade took around 90 minutes and went perfectly. (The installer checks the install DVD before installing and this took an additional half-hour or so on my iMac, but once the disc was verified I skipped that process on subsequent installs.)

Apple told me in my briefing Thursday that the default upgrade install should work fine, and it did. Leopard disabled the now incompatible Mail extensions (Spam Sieve, GPG, Mail Act-On) and left everything else intact. I had to re-enter my .Mac settings and resynch my data, but all my installed apps seem to work fine, including Photoshop and Lightroom. Normally I recommend at least the “Archive and Install” option, but in this case Leopard seems to handle the upgrade smoothly.

I did an Archive and Install on my production machine, the Mac Pro, just in case, but I probably didn’t need to. My experience was very much the same. Despite the negative experiences some had had with the Betas, Leopard seems completely cooked. The install experience is flawless. The new look and feel is beautiful, and overall performance seems much snappier.

The New Dock

Now for a look at a few of the new features.

FinderThe new Finder is beautiful, fast, and functional. Coverflow makes a lot of sense for previewing your documents – I won’t be able to go back to the old column view – and I like the new 3D dock so much that I actually moved mine back to the bottom of the screen from the more sensible left-hand side. But it’s not just eye-candy. The Leaning-Tower-Of-Pisa Stacks folder display, as silly as it looks, make sense. Like the rest of Leopard the new finder feels very solid and polished with small changes that make a big difference in work flow.

SpacesI didn’t think I’d use Spaces, but Apple has done it better than other workspace implementations and I’m actually liking it a lot. For example, you can attach programs to specific spaces; Safari always loads in Space 3 for me, Mail in space 4. That little difference means you spend no time organizing your workspaces. They organize themselves. And that slight difference makes it useful. It even works with VMWare in Full Screen mode – so one of my Spaces is full screen Vista.

Similarly the implementation of notes and tasks in Mail is so logical and seamless that I’ve found myself relying on it almost instantly. Notes automatically migrate to your IMAP server by the way – they’re treated like message drafts – which is another nice touch.

Time Machine is a simplified backup for people who never backup. It’s turned off by default but it’s on the dock, and I suspect most people will want to turn it on. Keep in mind you’ll need a second drive that has enough free space to copy everything on your system. Leopard clearly wants to dedicate an external hard drive to Time Machine – it even changes the icon to a Time Machine icon. Configuration is very limited. You can tell Time Machine to leave out drives or folders, but there’s no wildcard ignore. Time Machine runs all the time in the background but it doesn’t seem to slow the system at all.

Time MachineDespite what Apple told me, Time Machine only seems to work on local disks. I couldn’t get it to recognize a mounted NAS drive. But if you’re at all sophisticated you’ll probably prefer the flexibility of something like ChronoSync anyway. I’m using Time Machine on the iMac but will continue to use ChronoSync to backup to my NAS on the Mac Pro. I won’t bother with Time Machine at all on the laptops. (Update: some commenters say it works if the NAS supports AFP – I’ve been using CIFS. I’ll give it a try.)

Spotlight works with Time Machine, and is much much faster. I turned off Spotlight on Tiger and turned to Quicksilver instead. On Leopard I’m turning off Quicksilver and using Spotlight. It’s that much better.

The Parental Controls offer per login site filtering, time limits, and controlled hours of use. I’ve already turned them on for my kids.

index_ichat_20071016.pngiChat looks amazing with high quality audio and video recording, plus desktop sharing, and playback of Keynote presentations. I think we’ll be able to use it to produce an amazing net@nite – I’m playing with it this weekend and I’ll keep you posted. I’m hoping it won’t require a prohibitive amount of bandwidth.

Overall I have a few strong impressions of Leopard.

First, it’s rock solid. The extra time Apple took developing this shows. It works right right out of the box.

Second, there are lots of little changes everywhere – subtle changes that accumulate to make a big difference in usability. For example, Spotlight now automatically selects the Top Hit during a search, so instead of hitting Command then Return to launch an app you just hit return. The new Help menu features a search box as the top item. You can search for a command in a program and it will open that menu and point to it. It’s a small thing, but something you’ll appreciate.

Leopard is not a revolutionary release – I wouldn’t expect it to be, it’s a mature operating system – but it is easily the best OS X ever, the culmination of a decade of UI research and OS refinement. It’s elegant, fast, and eminently usable. Amazingly there are no showstoppers or major compatibility issues. I’ve only found a few tiny things I don’t like – where’s the Info Panel in iCal, for instance, and what happened to the nice transitions in Front Row – but I’ve been stumbling across dozens of little touches that just make me smile.

If you have an Intel Mac the Leopard upgrade is a must have.

(If you’d like to hear the new Leopard voice synthesizer reading this post press play here: Alex speaks.)

72 Replies to “First Look At Leopard”

  1. To John Collis — THANKS! That worked perfectly! Now just awaiting the Letterbox update and my Mail will once again be perfect (actually, more than perfect, what with the new To Do and calendar enhancements!)
    And to Leo — Spanning Sync is terrific. Thanks for making us aware of it on Macbreak Weekly.

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  2. Hearing everyone talk about Leopard makes me want to shoot my laptop out of a cannon right at the Microsoft HQ. Ill make sure to notify anyone if I decide to so they can join me, or come spectate.

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  3. Pretty painless install for me as well. 1st test was my pbook g4 1.25ghz. Did a erase and install. It seems faster than tiger on my pbook. about 1.5 hrs. I skipped the verify disk. 2nd install on mac mini 1st gen which uses a firewire as boot drive, no internal drive. Did upgrade install and so far, no problems. Next task is the iMac and macbook installs. Anyone know if Fusion and Parallels run after upgrade install?

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  4. I bought Leopard at the launch on Friday here in Singapore with the local DJs from Power98FM standing by and giving away free Apple bags… I didn’t get one of course :-(… such is life right?
    I’m pretty anxious when it comes to security so one of the first things I did when I installed Leopard on my MBP was to fiddle around with some of the settings.
    Having the Firewall section in the “Security” panel instead of “Sharing” in System Preferences seemed very logical, but the removal of NetInfo Manager really threw me off guard until I found out you can CTRL-click on a person’s username in “Accounts” and then do the nerdy BSD UNIX stuff like changing the default shell… come on, bash? We all prefer tcsh right? ;).
    They’ve also changed the default level of security for SSH which is a pleasant surprise, but the revamped Firewall seems too dumbed down for my tastes.
    I’ve posted most of my security findings about Leopard at http://rubenerdshow.com/blog/?p=996 if you’re interested or want to add anything. Normally I wouldn’t dare shamelessly plug on someone else’s site but I’m hoping in this rare case it might be useful to someone. Yes, normally I type crap 😉
    @Min I have VMware Fusion 1.0 Final running Windows 2000 and FreeBSD 6.2 without any troubles whatsoever :-). I’ve heard shaky things about running Parallels Desktop though, but I haven’t tried it yet.
    @Exarian I’m all the way in Singapore but if you paid for a ticket to get me over to Redmond I’d be glad to join in your spectacle!

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  5. Leo Laporte’s “First Look at Leopard”…
    Interesting to note that he likes the new Dock:
    I like the new 3D dock so much that I actually moved mine back to the bottom of the screen from the more sensible left-hand side.
    ……

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  6. Great review. Can’t wait till my PCs die… Spaces sounds much more thought out than I could imagine. Awesome…
    So, how’s Leopard going now?
    Here’s a burning question I’m dying to get clarity on.
    Time Machine sounds like the right thing for keeping a live backup for disk crash and accidental deletions but NOT as an archive…
    Sooooo….
    1) Can you get a second external drive to make semi-annual archive copies of the Time Machine drive???
    2) Does the time machine archive grow or does it just get more dense? (Does it take up the entire partition immediately?)
    3) Can Time Machine automatically generate an Archive volume that knows what it archived last time and can over the years make complete sets of your data?
    You did an MBW on this a while back. Maybe it’s time for a revisit?
    Great advice on the NAS and AFP. Sounds like it’s time to take that plunge…
    Regards!

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  7. This is all great information, as I am seriously looking into getting my first Mac (yay!). Leo, sounds like you are running Vmware Fusion – how you like it (anyone can answer). I would like to hear what people think of Aperature as well.

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  8. Thanks for the review. I plan on getting a new iMac soon and look forward to getting back into Mac. I’m an ibook user from way back and now back on the PC. Mac is the best choice and I’m ready to experience apple again.
    Leo and Apple ROCKS!!

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  9. Something I do with everyone’s computer the second I see it: which apps do they use? Anybody know all the apps in Leo’s Dock? From left to right:- Finder
    – Dock
    – Mail
    – Unknown
    – Unknown
    – iCal
    – Acorn
    – Marsedit
    – Unknown
    – Unknown
    – Unknown
    – Prefs
    – Cocoalicious
    – Netnewswire (you’ve got some messages Leo!)

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  10. Leo:
    As someone over 50, I am surprised that you like Leopard. There are so many things about Leopard that make it difficult for people whose vision is starting to fail: the transparent menu bar and menus, Safari’s black text on a dark gray bookmarks bar is too low a contrast, the text and icons in the Finder sidebar are too small. These are dysfunctional changes.

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  11. Hey Leo,
    I’ve talked to you a few times on the radio and listen to TWIT all the time. I’ve been a Windows user for about 18 years now. Today I ordered an iMac, after all the bad reviews of Vista and the glowing press Apple has been getting including your own comments.
    It’s funny, I’m scared yet excited at the same time. If Apple doesn’t pay you some kind of retainer already, they really should! 🙂
    -Todd

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  12. Hey Leo, The iCal info panel is no longer needed!! Just double-click on an event all the info is there in the pop-up… its much better. Also, if you were used to clicking the little diamond logo in the calendar mini panel to bring you to Today, that has been replaced with a Today button in the top left of the main window… not so sure I like that. I love Leopard more every day I use it… Shared desktops are so cool, glad I hadn’t purchased Remote Desktop 3 ! – dj

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  13. It’s funny, I’m scared yet excited at the same time. If Apple doesn’t pay you some kind of retainer already, they really should! 🙂
    -Todd
    Aint that the truth Todd

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  14. I suppose it should be said every once in a while. I am an independent journalist and accept no money or goods from companies I cover. No do I own any stock in technology companies (I had 10 shares of Google which I sold to avoid conflict of interest.)
    I bought every Mac I use and my iPhone at retail. Apple did give me a copy of Leopard for review, but I purchased iWork and iLife and pay for most other software.
    When I express an opinion about a product it’s because I’ve used it. I speak for users and their needs, not the tech industry.
    I constantly rexamine my opinions and try always to be honest and accurate in my reviews. My opinion is my own – and not influenced by others. I stand by every word.

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  15. Leo, I believe your words are by choice, and not influenced. I am in Canada and get G4 just for your show, but often I find as a user it has way more content towards Mac Users at times. Most of us, by choice or not , use PCs and I dont think that should be disregarded in the portion of the show dedicated to each system.
    As a full time user of both systems, i disagree a lot with your view of vista, and your non-stop Mac Promotions seem a bit biased, but under no circumstances do I think you would be biased by money or a company. You do have a full right to your opinions, but your opinions are taken by many as the gospel, and I hope you take time to spend on both systems. On the Lab, it seems quite often to be a constant push for Macs, thanks to Andy for being helpful with Vista. I wish you would do more Vista tips on your shows.
    Nevertheless, I respect your rights and believe in your honesty. Its nothing personal and I dont question your honesty. Thank you for the response
    John Buffam

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