There is no shortage of in-depth analysis of Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Every Mac and Apple site online has sliced, diced, and Julienned everything there is to know about Apple’s latest and greatest and least expensive new Mac OS, Snow Leopard.
There is plenty to like about SL, especially if you have a much newer Mac. SL is Intel-inside only. If you’re running an Intel-based Mac and have not upgraded even to Leopard, there is a way to save most of the $169 upgrade fee.
Snow Leopard is notably faster than Leopard on newer Macs. On older, earlier Intel models, the speed difference may be nominal. In fact, Macworld conducted speed tests are higher end Macs and found it to be a 50-50 proposition.
In half the tests Snow Leopard was faster, in the other half not. Your mileage may vary, of course. Notably, the tests were not conducted on the most popular Macs, the MacBook and Pro line which make up nearly 60-percent of Apple’s Mac sales.
We’ve noticed that Mac software developers are scurrying to update 3rd party software to be fully compatible with Snow Leopard. Apple threw everyone a curve ball by announcing that Snow Leopard would be released in September, which in Apple talk means a month later. Instead, we get SL in August. Go figure.
What you’re going to find is that your $29 investment in Snow Leopard will do a number of things for your Mac usage. The first is reduce the shock and awe that came with Tiger and Leopard, both loaded with new features.
Snow Leopard is an iceberg. 90-percent of what’s really good is hidden under the surface, and probably won’t matter much for another year as Mac software developers begin adopting the new technology on their products.
In the meantime, the other 10-percent is visible, if not a bit underwhelming. QuickTime X gets a face lift, inline editing, and Snow Leopard will let you record your Mac’s screen.
I’ve been using Snow Leopard off and on for about three months, and each stage had improvements, and fewer problems, though a few bugs exist they should not cause most users any major issues.
I had some problems setting up Exchange for Mail, iCal, and Address Book, as have a few other reviewers. Expose’ is a little quirky but more usable in SL, which also performs an extra check for Mac malware (which occurs when opening a downloaded or installed file).
My favorite changes are in the Dock and Finder, both more refined, much faster, easier to use and customize, yet still familiar. You will like Stacks in the Dock, which pop up to reveal files, folders, and more information. Watch out for those super large 512 pixel Finder icons.
Personally, I like OS X’s spell checker and dictionary, and use both with relish, thanks to a dyslexic habit. Snow Leopard will do word substitutions, changing misspellings into the correct word. Don’t look for it, because it doesn’t work in every Mac app. Yet.
Preview has been enhanced, too, loads faster and opens multiple PDFs and has a new Annotations Toolbar. Installing Snow Leopard is more pleasure than pain, with a few more options, some of which reduce file size by not including language translations and printer drivers. My installs were roughly half the time of Leopard installs.
Look for the Minimize Windows Into Application Icon checkbox. It’s hidden in the System Preferences (rearranged, remodeled) Dock pane. With Expose’, that feature makes it easier to line up and view all the minimized windows on a busy screen.
The Tip of the Day
This comes from both personal experience and from The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg. If your Mac already has Leopard running on it, whether purchased separately, or it came with your machine, the $29 upgrade of Snow Leopard is perfect for you.
Apple wants to charge Mac OS X Tiger users (those with Intel-based Macs) $169 for the boxed combo set, which features Snow Leopard, iLife ‘09, iWork ‘09. Why? Because Tiger users didn’t buy Leopard, so they should be charged more, right?
However, by all accounts, the $29 Snow Leopard upgrade will perform a clean installation on a Mac running Tiger. Snow Leopard’s license is specific and limits installation specifically to Mac’s running Leopard, not Tiger.
That’s another tip. Clean installation. Do not try to upgrade from Leopard to Snow Leopard the way Mac users in the past upgraded from Tiger to Leopard. A clean installation is the way to go, but make sure you completely back up your Mac’s hard drive.
This installation is different than Tiger and Leopard before it. SL asks for the customization information up front, then goes through the install while you have lunch or a cold beer. Or, both.
Yet another tip has to do with your iTunes account, and other software which may be tied specifically to your Mac, such as Adobe’s Creative Suite. It’s best to deactivate such software before erasing the hard drive and installing Snow Leopard.
Problems? Yes, and more than a few, though they’re typical of major upgrades. Some printer and scanner drivers may act funky on Snow Leopard, as will some software titles that have not been upgraded to handle SL’s architectural changes.
My formal installation of Snow Leopard on my prized MacBook Pro will be straightforward. First, clone the Mac’s hard drive, and update Time Machine so all files are secure. Test the back up to make sure.
Second, run Snow Leopard’s installation disk and erase the Mac’s hard drive for a clean install. Then test and configure and play around awhile. Then, one by one, I’ll add back both files and folders from my cloned backup, such as bookmarks, Mail, Documents, music, photos, and movies.
Finally, one by one, I’ll add my most used utilities and try out each one after installation to make sure all goes well. A little caution goes a long way, but if you’re running a recent Mac, Snow Leopard will feel faster, and has plenty of new touches.