Product review: Mac OS X Leopard

13 Nov 2007

I am always suspicious of upgrades. I was when Vista came out and equally so with the Leopard OS X.

While a software upgrade is one thing, an operating system upgrade can throw you for a loop. All those features that you spent so long getting used to are now gone, replaced by ‘new’ and ‘improved’ whatsits that leave you unable to find your old files and navigate around.

Thankfully, Apple’s new Mac OS X upgrade Leopard is pretty much the same as its predecessor – Tiger, but with some fancy new bells and whistles that gives it an overall smarter, shinier appearance.

One feature that was much touted was Spaces. This essentially lets you organise your applications into different workspaces that you can switch between.

If, like me, you use your laptop for a million different things that you have trouble separating, then Spaces may well prove a welcome addition.

I liked the idea of keeping all my multimedia applications such as iTunes, my DVD player, Photo Booth and folder of pictures in one workspace while I put my word processing applications, blogging software and web browser in another.

One thing I like about the most recent incarnation of iTunes and the browsing interface on the iPod Touch is Coverflow: a graphical way of flicking through your various digital media.

Leopard’s Finder gives you the option of doing this for all your files and folders, so when you are hunting out a particular document or photo, they whisk past you on a shiny reflective surface, with an option to preview files before opening: useful and pretty.

One thing that did annoy me about some of the new features was where things were changed (presumably for aesthetic reasons) and this ended up taking from functionality slightly.

Usually, when an application is open, its corresponding icon in the docking station at the bottom of the screen has a little black arrow to indicate this.

This arrow has now been replaced by a slightly futuristic glow and I kept missing it, clicking on the icon and thinking I had not yet opened it.

Another feature that niggled was Stacks, the way that files are displayed on the desktop: when you click on a folder its contents splay outwards into an eye-pleasing arc.

This is not good when your folder had fifty-plus files — the file icons are squished in size and it takes a while to render and load.

Although Leopard boasts over 300 new changes, most of them are small and made at the back-end.

I like Leopard, but I had to ask myself: “could I live without it and sadly, as a Mac fan, I have to say yes”.

By Marie Boran

Pros Highly visual, great design, spaces feature
Cons Stacks feature works badly with loaded folders
Price €129 for single user licence