Leopard roars on new and older Macs
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
November 13-19, 2007; issue 942
High Tech Office column
October was peak season for new
releases of operating system alternatives to Microsoft Windows,
starting off with new versions of OpenSuSE and Ubuntu Linux and closing
with Apple’s long-awaited OS X 10.5 Leopard.
is going to be compared to Microsoft’s Windows Vista, released earlier
this year. Both bring new eye candy: transparency, 3D and more, to
their users’ desktops. And both leave users of older systems out
in the cold.
With Leopard, Mac owners need to have at least an
866 MHz G4 system with room on the hard drive: it required an
additional 5.6 GB to upgrade my Mac. And like users of Windows XP
version, Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) versions have been, all in all, pretty
happy with the older version.
But while Vista has left many
Windows users unimpressed, so far Leopard is getting a far warmer
welcome by Mac users. Some of it is because Mac owners are far more
likely to have bought into the cult of Mac, but Leopard is also an
easier sell than Vista. While Vista comes in a variety of versions,
Basic through Ultimate, at a range of prices, Leopard has a single
version: $129 in a single-installation package, $199 in a
five-installation “family pack.” Unlike Vista, there are no serial
numbers to enter and no online activation process.
installer happily updated my year-old iMac without problem; when it
restarted, my password, settings, desktop and more were all intact,
(with the relatively minor exceptions of connections to networked
printers and a few third-party utilities that will require new
versions). Startup is as quick as ever, and built-in applications like
the Mac’s Finder and Search functions and Apple’s Safari browser and
Mail feel quicker and more responsive.
Apple is advertising more
than 300 new or improved features. Along with the eye candy, a number
of them promise to make Mac owners more productive or secure.
Four of the 300:
Machine is a simple backup program. Backup may seem old hat, but this
one looks like a sci-fi movie and is easy to use. It’s more limited
than third-party backup utilities, backing up the entire system and
requiring an external hard drive, but if it gets home and
small-business users backing up regularly, it will be a great addition.
Look lets users view the contents of pretty much any standard document,
picture, movie and more without opening any applications. Just select a
file in Leopard’s Finder and press the spacebar. (Old-time Windows
users may remember Win95’s QuickView; it’s an old idea, but implemented
in a way that makes it more likely users will use it.)
will also seem old hat, as Unix and Linux systems have had multiple
desktops seemingly forever. I haven’t warmed up to it yet, but then, I
never use it in Linux either.
•Apple added a Dictionary (not
just a spell-checker) in the last version; now the Dictionary adds
online Wikipedia entries along with definitions.
business-friendly improvements include easier networking and remote
access. Home users will welcome parental controls (also found in Vista).
necessarily improved: previously, it was handy to drag a folder to the
OS X Dock; put the Applications folder there and it acted like a quick
and dirty version of the Windows start menu – a handy way to get to
your programs. Do that with Leopard and you get a stack, which looks
good in demos but is awkward if your folder has more than a few items
in it. And if you still rely on old Mac “classic” software, forget
Leopard. It no longer supports these old programs.
Windows Vista, there’s less sense that Apple made changes just for
change’s sake. Upgraders will be pleasantly surprised how easy the
transition to Leopard will be. •