The dust has settled and Mac OS X Leopard is entering the age of maturity. I hope. This adolescent operating system drives me nuts. Sometimes.
Other times I’m so proud you’d think I coached Steve Jobs on the feature set. Leopard is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of OS X versions.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not bashing Leopard. I love it. Sometimes. Apple’s monumental answer to Windows Everywhere raises the bar for Mac, iPod, and iPhone users. And raises ire, too.
Like most Mac users who upgraded their machines to OS X Leopard, I fell in love with new features, but did so in a totally adolescent way. Hate, then love.
Take Time Machine. It was a monumental effort for many Mac uses to get it running, as Apple’s discussion boards attest. Time Machine didn’t like some external Firewire drives. Time Machine needed very large hard drives. Time Machine burped often.
However, once I got mine stable and running on a large hard drive, and once Apple updated Leopard to repair some quirks, Time Machine is forgotten. Except when you need something. I needed some email I had deleted a couple of weeks ago. Time Machine found it.
Quick Look is a feature from the OS Heavens. Select a document and press the Space Bar. Voila! You get to see what’s inside.
Except on those files which Quick Look can’t read. Mac developers to the rescue. Now there are plugins available to see nearly anything, including what’s inside compressed files like .zip.
Hate and love. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Speaking of Quick Look, please take a look at the latest version of Default Folder which builds the Quick Look function right into the pop up dialog boxes on Leopard. That lets you see what’s inside a file while in the Save or Open dialog box but without opening a file. Cool.
Leopard has taught me something I have not had to deal with for years with Mac OS X. Patience. Panther was ultra stable, but missing many features. Tiger added features, but subtracted stability while adding a few bugs which didn’t disappear overnight.
For the first few weeks of Leopard use, I thought I bought a flawed version of OS X. Or, my Mac was having the mother of all motherboard fits. As my troubleshooting efforts continued I found many third party utilities which were not really fully compatible with Leopard. Once I dropped the offenders from use, or managed to get the latest update, Leopard began to sing pretty songs.
To this day I still do not like the Leopard firewall, opting instead for more control with OpenDoor’s DoorStop firewall. Skype finally works with Leopard but drove me nuts for a few weeks until I finally went with DoorStop. Now Skype works better with Leopard’s new application firewall.
I’ve never been a big fan of Spotlight, OS X’s built-in file librarian search utility. Let me report that Spotlight is fun now. It’s tied to Mac OS X’s dictionary so even misspellings get altered to help find lost files. Spotlight is even a built-in calculator, or, so says David Pogue in his Missing Manual sneak preview. If it works, it doesn’t work on my version of Leopard.
Other surprises in Leopard include the inability to play a dozen QuickTime movies at one time. I could do that in Panther.
Leopard’s Screen Sharing function is a bright spot as it makes it very easy for any Leopard user to manage another Mac’s screen remotely. However, has anyone been able to get the .Mac Back to Your Mac feature to work?
Tips and tricks are a dime a dozen these days, but many are really worthwhile. Finder can be set to show the file path (directory path of a file) at the bottom of the screen. This trick lets you put the same full file path at the top of the Finder.
Beyond Leopard, Apple continues to pay attention to the customer base. The new Garageband lets you build your own custom ringtones and send them to your iPhone. AT&T can’t be happy about that.
We’ve beaten Stacks to death. They’re ugly and uninformative. Yet, the Grid view is usable. Even better are the hacks to improve it, some of which I depend on now. Maybe we should develop a Mac OS X site called MacOSXHacks.com.
By far, OS X Leopard has been a good experience, and certainly sets the bar higher for usable features, efficiency, productivity among mainstream operating systems (no flames from Ubuntu users, please). Leopard also sets the bar higher for frustration level.
Got a particular issue with OS X Leopard that you love, hate, loathe? Share your experience in the Comments section below.