Should I Upgrade to Leopard?

leopard_box_125.jpgI’ve been asked this question so many times privately about Apple’s newest Mac operating system, that I figure it’s time I let it all hang out publicly.

I like Leopard. I like it a lot. It’s, quite simply, the most mature, refined, aesthetically pleasing and capable desktop computer operating system I’ve ever used.

And, yes (because I know this is what you’re wondering about — everybody else seems to, anyway), it mops the floor with Microsoft’s Windows Vista.

There’s simply no competition.

But the less said about Vista, the better. I don’t want to rub salt in Microsoft’s wounds.

Besides, I’d rather focus on the things that make Leopard truly great.

An important thing to understand about Leopard: it’s all about refinement.

Apple’s intention with Leopard is clearly not to revolutionize the desktop computer OS. Instead, the company seems intent on perfecting it.

With Leopard, it’s all about stability, performance, and the little details that can make a computer more intuitive and easier to use.

Leopard even has a sense of humour: networked Windows computers are represented by a monitor displaying the infamous Blue Screen of Death.

The best new utility in Leopard fills a glaring hole that exists in most computer systems to date: built-in data backup.  

Leopard could have just featured a standard backup utility that you have to spend your life configuring and managing.
But Leopard’s better than that. Instead, Time Machine is a stylish and intuitive data backup environment that is actually fun to use.

To start protecting your data with Leopard, just plug an external hard drive into your Mac. Time Machine will automatically start backing up your entire hard drive every day, with no further effort on your part.

If you ever need to get anything back, use Time Machine to browse through a series of windows that cascade off into space. These represent your files over time. It’s a visually enthralling way to examine a history of your computing use.

When you find the file or folder you want to restore from a particular point in time, Time Machine brings it back to the present in a snap.

In terms of day-to-day use, Leopard’s best feature is Quick Look.

Receive an attachment with an email and you need to know what’s inside? In the olden days, you’d double click it and then wait for Word or Excel or whatever to open and show it to you. Not in Leopard.

Quick Look lets you view and browse inside a file without needing any other application. It can show you anything: Word or Excel files, PDFs, videos, photos, music, whatever.

Quick Look is available in Apple Mail or just on your Mac desktop.

It’s instantaneous and works with the click of the the spacebar on your keyboard.

It sounds so simple, but Quick Look is the one feature that has most dramatically improved my work flow and saved me massive time.

Then there’s Leopard and the web.

Competitive since the day of its release, the new Safari web browser in Leopard is, without a doubt, the best web browser in existence.

It’s fast. Like, it starts up in barely more than a second.

It’s fast. Like, it renders and displays complex pages instantly.

From my experience with Safari over the past month, it makes Firefox feel more like Embermutt.

And Internet Explorer? Well, like I said, I’m going easy on Microsoft in this column. ‘Nuff said.

But, again, like Leopard in general, Safari is really all about refinement.

Managing your bookmarks library in Safari has become easier and more intuitive.

While you’re browsing multiple web pages, you can drag and drop tabs to reorder them.

If you’re filling out a form on a web page and run out of visible space in a field, Safari lets you resize it.

But, really, what’s truly best about Leopard? It made my old MacBook faster.

Seriously.

Whatever Apple did to the basic functionality of Leopard, it makes my old laptop feel like a new machine.

This surprised me. Major software updates usually send hardware into anaphylactic shock. Not Leopard. It actually made my old Mac as fast as, well, a Leopard.

Interestingly, even as it’s become easier to use, faster, and more capable, Apple’s new Mac OS X has also become geekier under the hood.

Leopard receive an elite UNIX 03 rating from The Open Group, essentially certifying the operating system as “real” UNIX. The only other companies to receive this certification are Sun, HP, and IBM, for their super-high-end server operating systems.

Why should you care? Boasting rights, of course. Not many people can claim to be carrying an industrial-strength UNIX operating system with them to the café.

More to the point though, Leopard is not a closed, proprietary environment. It shares a common base with many other operating systems which makes it easier and less expensive to support and operate.

Of course, that also make Leopard a bit more vulnerable to viruses, as I’ve previously written.

I’ve mentioned just three of my favourite new features in Leopard. Apple claims there are 300. I haven’t found them all yet. But, even now, a month into using Leopard, they reveal themselves like easter eggs every day.

To answer the question of this column: should you upgrade to Leopard? I’d say yes. Without question.

Leopard is the pinnacle of the modern computer operating system. It’s elegant, intuitive, stable, and powerful. It’s feature-packed.

And what’s more, it’ll make your old machine new again.

Go for it. Come run fast with the pack.

Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, November 30, 2007. 

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