Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard”

mac_os_x_10_5_leopard.jpg“Tiger, Tiger burning bright”. That is what Mac OS X 10.4 or “Tiger” users across the globe were chanting. I mean “Tiger” seemed perfect. You would wonder, “What more could you want from an operating system?” And your mind would enter the true realm of void. Just then Apple Inc. drops in a new line “Leopard burns brighter!!” Apple after nearly two and a half years of the release of Tiger came out with the Mac OS X 10.5 or “Leopard” in June this year. Leopard not only promises to be better than Tiger but also proves that Apple has the ultimate ability to come out with ground breaking stuff when the whole world can’t even think of anything new. Right from applications like ‘Time Machine’ and ‘Spotlight’ to ‘Spaces’ and ‘Quick Look’. From Parental Control all way to the Updated User Interface. From Mail and iChat, to the behind the scene changes, Apple has made an already solid OS into something more sophisticated and elegant.

First, let’s analyse the Updated User Interface. The Menu Bar on the top of the desktop is now translucent. The Apple icon on the top left corner and the Spotlight search icon on the top right corner of the screen have changed from blue to charcoal black. All these have given the menu bar a sleek and a more unified look.

The Dock, placed at the bottom of the desktop is no more a strip of icons on a scotch tape but, a set of icons sitting on a reflective glass shelf. The major improvement in the Dock is “Stacking”. Drop a folder onto the Dock and thereafter click on it. The contents of the folder will come out placed in an arc. If there are more than 10 items in the folder then the objects will be placed in a grid on a translucent window. For those who want to place the Dock vertically can now do so. Once it is vertical it is no longer a glass shelf but a set of icons over a dark, translucent background. Also the contents of a folder get displayed in a grid when it is vertical and not in an arc.

The Finder has got a whole new look and a new set of buttons. The Sidebar pane of the Finder Window has now got a Blue-Gray backdrop to it. This helps new users to realise that the Sidebar and the File Viewer of the Finder happen to be different areas of the finder and thus are for different functions. The Sidebar has been divided into various sections like, Devices (includes all the memory drives), Shared (includes the other shared Mac computers on your network), Places (includes the folders for Applications, Movies, Music, Pictures, Desktop, etc.)

The more interesting and new features of the Finder are the Quick Look “eye” button and the Coverflow. The Quick Look button is placed in the toolbar. It is a time saver. With this you can view any document, picture, movie, etc without launching any application, even in the case of office documents and PDFs. You think that is cool well then check out the biggest change in the Finder: Coverflow. It is already being used in the iPhone and the iPod Touch. It appears at the top of the finder window and offers an enlarged view of the folder or file. As you keep moving the scroll or the slider the files and folders move back and forth in a 3-dimensional fashion. Use Quick Look and Coverflow together and browsing through your file and folders will be bliss.

Icons through out the OS have been given a new modern look and a uniform colouring has been maintained through out. Apple has gone a long way to ensure that Leopard has a clean, modern and stylish look.

Secondly the biggies!! Yes, I’m talking about the Time Machine, the Spotlight and Spaces. I will turn the spotlights on Spotlight first. Spotlight, which can be activated using the charcoal coloured magnifying glass icon in the top right corner, will make Sherlock Holmes look primitive. It will find your lost files, folders, applications, etc. But with Spotlight it barely begins there. It is extremely good at rampaging through gigabytes of data on your computer. It breaks down the search results into various sections as per the file type, making it easier for the user to figure out which one is the required result. It has an in-built dictionary and can also perform math operations using the calculator application. It also searches your Web History and mail, in case you are searching for any lost website, or an important mail. You think all that is cool, well here is the best part is. It not only searches your computer but any Mac on your network with its sharing enabled.

Next the much talked about application Time Machine. It is an easy-to-use application allowing you to back up few or all of your files and easily retrieve them. It keeps hourly backups of files for the last 24 hours, daily backups for the past month and weekly backups until you run out of room. Assign your backup disk as an external hard drive that is plugged into the machine or any partition on your internal hard disk, launch Time Machine, tell it which files to back up, and let it go solo. After that, it will begin to delete your oldest backups as new ones are created, although it will warn you first before doing so. It starts a two-minute countdown before it gets to work. It runs in the background, doesn’t slow the system down and keeps only incremental backups, saving both time and space. File back up is one thing. What is really going to baffle you is the way it is done.

After your file back up is complete, click on the Time Machine icon in the Dock. Your desktop vanishes. A hypnotic new desktop takes over with a deep-space background image of a spiral galaxy that looks as if it were taken by the Hubble Telescope, complete with moving stars. In front of that “galaxy” is a series of Finder windows, each of which represents a backup. The most recent one is in front; earlier backups recede behind it into the spiral galaxy. On the right side of the screen is a timeline, which you can use to scroll back in time to get to the file you need. You can also use Spotlight to find the required date.

If “Time Machine”, was the most talked about application, before the release of Leopard, than “Spaces”, in my opinion has to be the most talked about application, after the release of the OS. Imagine your desktop where you have a word document, a pdf file, a web browser, an encyclopaedia and a number of other things opened at the same time. Your desktop will be one jammed up place. That is when you would wish that you had two monitors so that you could open different applications in each of them. Well Spaces may not give you two monitors, but it sure can give you not 2, not 3, but up to 4 different desktops. Yes, this yet another ground breaking application Apple has come up with. You can then rotate between these desktops using F8. You can also view all desktops in a minimised fashion on the screen. Then you can actually drag and drop applications between desktops. While you are on one desktop remember that the applications in the other desktops are still running, so don’t open too many applications thinking they are not running, unless you have a friend called RAM.

Next, we have the new and advanced Mail. Apple has touched up Mail by adding some “Stationery” or themes for the mail you would like to send. Besides the preloaded themes you can also design your new themes. It has a new reminder list which consists of “Notes” and the “To-Do List”. You can jot down the important things you would like to get reminded of next time you open mail and be rest assured you will be reminded of them. Mail has been integrated with iPhoto and Photo booth allowing you to have ready access to photos and pictures for your mails. Finally, Mail has Data Detectors which can detect URLs, e-mail ids, phone numbers, appointments, etc. the moment you move over them using the mouse.

Apple has also enhanced its iChat to a level beyond imagination. Of course the regular text, voice and video conversations are available on it. Thing is now you can actually record any of your conversations be it text, voice or video and it gets stored in the hard drive in the correct format. You can now log on to various accounts like, .Mac, AOL, Google Talk, etc. at once. The best part about this is that now you can share your desktop with your friend over the iChat and even he can have access to your computer. Imagine that you have a problem on your computer and your friend can solve it but he is some where else. By sharing your desktop with your friend you can give him access to your machine so that he can fix your problem.

Further applications and features like parental control, Safari, .Mac, Preview, etc. have simply mesmerised Mac OS X users across the globe with their user friendly interfaces and most importantly speed. With the behind the scene advancements in the core framework of the OS X, which the users will never have to encounter or worry about, Apple has been able to make Leopard graphically appealing and more. Further these changes will enable more graphically stunning applications and interfaces in the years to come.

Leopard sure seems like the kind to burn out a Tiger. Thumbs up to Apple for yet another master piece OS.

Vijay Krishna