OSX Leopard Initial Impressions

by Mike Shea on 27 October 2007

Apple released Leopard yesterday, their latest Mac OSX operating system. After work I thought I'd drop by the Tyson's Apple store and pick up a copy. I never expected a return to iPhone day, but that's what I got. Hundreds of people lined up from the front of the store to the back of the mall. All the Apple nerds shared stories, talked about the feature they wanted the most, and laughed at themselves for spending an hour and a half in line to buy an operating system.

The Apple Store clearly knew what they were doing. The atmosphere was one of a big party. They poured over people with belt driven devices to sell their wares without ever having to go to a counter. They were excited and entertaining. They built a wonderful atmosphere of a release party that we were all in on. I got there around 4:45 and I was in my car by 6:15 with a new copy of Leopard.

I never heard of anyone who looked forward to Vista the same way those Apple folks looked forward to Leopard. They made a lot of money at that store yesterday and they did it by building an OS that people wanted, even if it didn't jump way ahead of what OSX could do before. Apple learned that people need to like their computers, not just use them. This is why few people give a damn about Vista or even hate it while Apple fanboys will line up for blocks to buy Leopard.

When I got home, I went straight to the installation. Here are some of the things I learned and loved about this new operating system.

It Just Worked

I popped in the DVD, rebooted the machine, went away for an hour and came back to Leopard. I ran the "archive old version and install fresh with user settings saved". That saved all my apps and data. When I got back to the machine I had to be sure anything had happened until I saw the new dock and knew it had all worked out.

Preview has Image Resizing

I couldn't believe how hard it was to find a program on the Mac that compared to Irfanview. Finally Preview has just about everything I need for basic image manipulation.

All my Apps Just Worked

Pages, Textmate, Quicksilver, iTunes; everything worked right out of the gate. So far it has been extremely easy to operate new and old features and programs alike.

Safari is Fast

Really fast. Both in page loading, navigation, and on the initial program load - Safari is really really fast.

Quick Look is Cool

It's nice to open a file quickly without launching a whole application. Sometimes we just want a quick glance. It doesn't work perfectly with files like multi-columned Pages files, but it does a good job.

I Could Get Rid Of a Bunch of Older Apps

Since Leopard includes a lot of features that I used to seek from third parties, I can uninstall all of those apps for a much more streamlined default system. I had two different image editors, two backup programs, another web browser, and some other junk that I could safely remove now that Leopard includes Time Machine, a better Preview, a faster Safari, and other such things.

Things I Don't Like

Yes, OSX isn't perfect. Here are a few things I didn't like about the operating system.

The dock doesn't seem very snappy. My Macbook Pro is less than a year old but the dock animation seems a little slow. I found a tip on Engadget that can turn the dock into a much simpler less 3d glassy device by typing the following into the terminal window:

defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES

and then

killall Dock

To return it to the default dock, type in:

defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean NO

and then

killall Dock

I can't decide which dock I prefer.

The New Shine Wears Off Fast

Once you've read over Leopard's 300 new features and tried them out for yourself, it's business as usual. It's an operating system. It isn't really that exciting.

I Can Do Without Spaces

There are a lot of features in Leopard that people may simply avoid. Spaces is one of those for me. I got used to multiple desktops back in the Unix days and on recent Linux builds but I never really felt they helped me out. I have a two-monitor system on my desk now and I rarely use the second screen. Four spaces with two monitors each seems like a lot of screen real estate that I shouldn't really need. Spaces goes against the simplicity I cherish with my Mac. Anyway, its off by default and though I've played with it, I'd rather keep it off.

Final Initial Impressions

Installing Leopard was the easiest system upgrade I ever did. It let me get rid of a lot of third party apps I don't really need, it includes a lot of baseline features, like a really good backup program that Windows always seems to forget and charge you more for, and it worked easily and quickly out of the box. Though it won't revolutionize the way humans and machines interact, I'm very happy with my purchase and my upgrade to Leopard.