Apple Mac OS X Leopard Arrives Tonight, A User’s First Thoughts and Unboxing

by Reads (10,789)

Apple Mac OS X Leopard will be available starting tonight at 6:00 p.m. in Apple stores around the world. Many people have been receiving their copies of OS X early though. Following are some unboxing pictures and first thoughts from our Apple forum member Eluzion and unboxing images are provided by member ShaggyRS6.

First, the packaging and unboxing by Lee Shand (ShaggyRS6):


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OS X Leopard First Thoughts from Eluzion

I’ve been primarily a Windows user with some Mac OS 9 experience back in high school computer courses as well as some time in Linux (mostly Ubuntu). A few months back I was looking into purchasing a notebook for my last year of college and to take with me after school. I will admit, I was a Windows fan boy to a certain extent, giving my friends who had Macs a hard time. After several visits to the Apple store, I decided the MacBook Pro was it, and I’m definitely happy with the decision I made. There’s nothing quite like it when you are comparing it from a hardware and design standpoint, but the OS was really what would make or break my Mac experience. OS X Tiger turned out to be a great experience and everything I’ve been hearing about Leopard had me excited. With that said, this review will be based on the changes made from Tiger to Leopard.

Performance

The first thing that I noticed is that there was definitely a performance increase over Tiger. Load times seemed to be improved across the board and everything feels a lot snappier. I’m not sure what all the changes were made under the hood, but there is no doubt an increase in overall performance which is always a plus.

Appearance

As we all know, everything shares the same unified appearance in Leopard now. I personally hated the brush metal look that some applications had in Tiger and love the solid-color unified look that Leopard now sports. The drop shadow under the active application was increased to make the active window a little easier to identify. The menu bar up top is less opaque, giving it that slightly transparent look. I would assume the idea behind this was to shift the focus more on the active window. The menus are also slightly transparent which some reviews have criticized as making it difficult to read the menus. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it looks great and have absolutely no problem reading the menus. Finally, the most obvious change was with the dock which I will discuss in the next paragraph.

While all of the cosmetic changes were great, it is still not very customizable. I’m sure there is, or will be, 3rd party applications out there to let you tweak the appearance/theme, but some basic control over the appearance would have been nice out-of-the-box. Here are a few things that would be nice to have control over:

  • Menu bar opacity control. With certain backgrounds, it can make the menu bar difficult to read. A simply option to adjust the opacity would be great.
  • Customizable window colors. By default, Leopard has the active window a darker shade of gray than inactive windows but it’s not always consistent either (when iTunes is inactive, it is still a darker shade of gray). Personally, I find a lighter shade of gray (or just a lighter color in general) to be the “dominant” color, or stands out more. I would rather have the active window a lighter/brighter shade of gray and the inactive windows a darker/dimmer shade of gray, with the ability to make them slightly opaque as well. This really comes down to personal taste so again, this is just my opinion.
  • New folder icons. The rest of Leopard is beautiful, but I find the default folder icons to be very plain (reminds me of some Linux distros). Again, some people will probably like them but I would have personally liked a little more eye catching icons. One thing I did like about Windows Vista was the icons. You could easily distinguish the music folder from the pictures, movies, and so forth.

Dock


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The new dock is outstanding, and not just because it looks cool. While the 3D appearance and reflection are cool, what I like the best is the blue glow indicator for which applications are open and the stacks. It’s a lot more obvious to see what applications are currently open and the stacks make it quick and easy to access certain files, folders, or applications. The grid view is especially useful for seeing all of the applications on your computer. There is only one small option I would have liked:

  • An option to delete all or empty folder when you right click on a stack that is a folder. I’m constantly downloading small files (photos, documents, spreadsheets, etc.) and that downloads folder/stack gets filled up quick. Since I generally don’t keep stuff I download to the downloads folder, a quick and simple “empty folder” option would have been nice.

Finder/Quick look


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The finder has a few changes I really enjoy. The first is the left side has been organized more like iTunes, which I find to be a lot more organized. Secondly, the Finder now has a path bar at the bottom to let you know where you are in relation to the root directory and allows you to easily jump back to previous directories. Nothing new in terms of OS’s but it was a needed feature with the Finder. Cover flow is simply eye-candy to me and I don’t find any real benefit in using it. It might be useful for viewing pictures, but just give me a large thumbnail view and I can browse through pictures much quicker. The columns view is still, by far, my favorite way of navigating through the Finder. Quick look, on the other hand, is more than just eye candy. This is probably one of my favorite additions to Leopard as it makes it very convenient and easy to quickly (and I mean quickly) look over a document, video, etc. Again, a very neat and extremely useful feature that almost alone makes Leopard worth the upgrade. One feature I always thought would be useful:

  • Split view mode. The only time I really use the Finder is to copy a file from one location to another. Instead of opening two Finder windows, a split view in one Finder window. This way I could navigate to two separate directories and quickly drag-and-drop.

Spaces

This was nothing new to me since it’s been around in the Linux world for a while, but it’s nice to see it in OS X. There isn’t really much to say about it but I find this to be a very useful feature to have. Instead of having to Command-H to hide an application because it’s in the way then Command-Tab to open it back up, you can simply put different applications in different spaces. You can also setup hot corners to work with Spaces. For example, I have mine setup to where if I move the mouse to the bottom right corner of the screen, it displays all my Spaces (although I primarily use Ctrl-Arrow Keys to navigate through the various Spaces). There is one small option I would have liked to seen:

  • An option in the menu when you right click an icon in dock to “Send to Space > #”. Basically it sends the entire application that whichever Space you choose, retaining the current position and size.

Spotlight

It’s fast, like Quicksilver fast. It also supports the dictionary so you can easily look up the definitions to words. I’m always using the dictionary widget but now that it’s built into spotlight, even better! Also, each Help menu has it’s own mini-spotlight which makes finding a menu item or help topic extremely easy and quick. It’s funny because I almost never used the Search feature in Windows (even Vista) because it took too long and never really found what I wanted. Ever since I switched to OS X, I’ve been using Spotlight like crazy because it actually finds what I want and I don’t have to wait — it just works.

Time Machine


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I don’t use Time Machine but I can definitely see how this will be a very powerful tool. I worked at a computer repair job for about a year and I would say over half of the work I did was recovering data on bad hard drives. I might pick up another external hard drive to take advantage of this feature, but for now I just manually back up the files I need.

Miscellaneous Extra Features Worth Mentioning and Conclusion

  • One awesome feature is the ability to scroll through an inactive window. No more clicking to activate the application then scrolling. Simply place your cursor over the inactive application and scroll.
  • Preview allows you to resize images. No more having to open up your image editing software to simply resize a picture that you want to resize. It can all be done from within Preview, quick and easy.
  • You can display a clock in addition to the screen saver. A pretty small but very useful feature for me since I don’t have a clock in my room (I just use my iPhone as my alarm and clock).
  • Screen sharing is now possible with iChat. I haven’t used it yet, but I know this will be very useful for helping friends and family out with their Macs (kind of started a Mac movement after I made the switch, hehe).
  • There are a lot of new features but I only went over the ones that were immediately useful and apparent to me. Each person will enjoy Leopard for his or her own reasons, and fortunately there are a lot of different reasons to enjoy it.

Overall, I would highly recommend the upgrade to Leopard. There are a few features that almost alone make it worth the upgrade, but combine those features with everything else and it’s definitely a worthy upgrade. If you’re still not convinced, give it some time. I’m sure once developers start taking advantage of the under-the-hood improvements of Leopard, you’ll pick up a copy in no time. Core Animation especially should bring some jaw-dropping eye candy and interfaces.

 

Availability and Pricing

Leopard will come pre-installed on any Mac that you buy after today and for anyone that bought a Mac within the past month you can get the upgrade disks from Apple for free so long as you pay a nominal shipping fee charge. For those that need to purchase OS X Leopard it’ll cost around $129 in retail and is available starting today.

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