A Day with Leopard

december 29, 2007

Leopard I got Leopard as a Christmas gift from my parents (aren't they wonderful?). I rsync'd all of my data from my Powerbook G4/1.67Ghz over to an external drive (around 60GB of pictures, music, documents and other digital nick-nacks) the night before. Yesterday morning, I woke up bright and early for the big Leopard install -- and boy did that flop on its face. The Leopard DVD was very flakey. I unplugged my USB2 drive before booting to avoid any accidental disk formatting. I also unplugged my network cable to avoid other misfortunes. First boot, I got stuck with spinning beach ball. Second boot, got all the way to the "Check Media" part, then the check failed and the system kicked me out. Third, fourth, fifth and six boots were all followed by a string of curse words. Then I unplugged the only thing left connected to my Powerbook -- my second LCD connected via DVI. The seventh boot was good. A few clicks and an hour later, Leopard was installed. Leopard doesn't have one big selling point -- it does have lots of smaller selling points. I have used all versions of Mac OS X starting from 10.0 and Leopard is still the best out of them all, but it has change some stuff for the worst. First, the good stuff. Time Machine is good. I like it a lot actually. I used to do rsync backups "when I remembered". But, still that was better than nothing. The rsync backups were good, but not versioned. What is nice about Time Machine is that it keeps versions of documents and databases (like Mail.app, Addressbook, Finder, etc) -- and getting files back is very easy through the Time Machine UI. Also, Time Machine keeps hourly, daily, weekly and monthly versions of everything. Very cool. Mail.app has been revised with Notes and To-Dos. And there are other assorted smaller changes, like the Mail Activity box. But, otherwise Mail.app is largely unchanged. I do wish that Apple had made the Notes in Mail.app synchronize with the Notes on the iPhone. That was a big missed opportunity. Safari, like Mail.app, has gotten some small changes, but nothing big. I will try to use both Safari and Mail.app on Leopard instead of the Firefox and Thunderbird combo that I used in Tiger. Having native widgets in both web and mail apps does make a lot of difference. Also the responsiveness of Safari/Mail.app is a lot better than Firefox/Thunderbird on Mac OS X. The update to iCal is what was really cool for me. Now iCal is a lot more usable than the Tiger version. No longer is there that crazy info bar, everything is done in the calendar window. The whole interface of iCal got a lot better with the Leopard upgrade. I am a big iCal fan because I just love how the calendaring works with iCal -- it sure as hell beats the crap out of Outlook and Sunfire. TextEdit in Leopard, the coolest features? It can read both Word 2007 and OpenOffice.org Text Document formats! Wordpad in Windows Vista can't even hand Word 2007 documents, but TextEdit in Leopard can? What the hell Microsoft? Actually, the odt support is very surprising for me and a very welcomed feature. I use OpenOffice.org on my Linux boxes for very basic word processing. Previously, I had to either save the docs in rtf or Word doc format so that I could open them with my Powerbook. Not anymore! odt support is awesome. Terminal.app finally gets tabs! Finally! Spaces is nice, but it's just a new take on something old, which I never really use (MacOS X or Linux or otherwise). Curved menus, very cool! The interface for Leopard is pretty much consistent now -- it all looks like iTunes, grayish windows, iTunes-like sidebar and even Coverflow. Quick Look is really nice, just select a document, movie, music, or something that Leopard understands, hit the space bar and you get a quick look at the document without launching the app that the doc is associated with. Nice! Now the bad. Broken apps include Toast 6 (old, but reliable on Tiger) and Photoshop Elements 2.0 (very, very old, but still reliable). There are some inexcusably bad UI changes in Leopard. The translucent menu bar and menus which cannot be made opaque. The menu bar is the worst offender, as it lets the desktop background picture through -- pick the wrong background picture and you won't be able to see the words on the menu! At least give users the options to change the opacity of the menu and menu bars! The dock has been changed to a 3D'ish glass-like shelf. Icons sit on the shelf. Which, at first looks cool. But, after a while it is just harder on the eyes than the previous docks -- and like the menu and menu bar, there's no way of changing this (unless you put your dock on the side of the screen). Also, the it is really hard to see which apps are running, the old way was very clear: A black carrot pointed to open apps. Now, Apple has changed this so that there is a tiny illumination beneath running apps. When I say "tiny", I mean you have to squint to see what is running. Not good. And lastly, Apple has changed the icons for the main folders (like Applications, Pictures, Documents, Library, etc). They are a lot harder to tell apart now because they are all blue, all the same shape and the differentiating icons are lightly embossed on the folders. What's up with the HUGE drop shadows? As good as Time Machine is, one annoyance is that it doesn't work with my nas. Boo! Coverflow, ah, Coverflow. I never really understood it for iTunes -- other than the "cool, look what we engineered" factor -- and I really don't understand it for Finder either. Stacks is terrible. I hate Stacks. Please, give me my folders in Dock back. If you use a folder in the Dock, it becomes a Stack. A Stack icon changes depending on what is the first thing in the Stack. So, my Documents icon in the Dock changes constantly. My Applications icon in the Dock changes. My Downloads icon changes. I wish I could just have a plain old folder in the Dock which I can click to open the folder -- like in Tiger. Also, the actual use of Stacks is questionable at best -- with a few items, it is workable, with a lot of items, it is just a cluttered mess. And the rest of the stuff: Spotlight works, Bootcamp doesn't (I have a PPC-based system), Front Row is cool, Preview actually works very nicely, improved security (boo-yah!), and iChat still only supports two protocols (where's Yahoo! Instant Messenger support?). All in all, Leopard was worth the price to upgrade -- for me, the improved iCal, Time Machine, odt support in TextEdit and improved Terminal.app made the upgrade worth it. There are some stuff that I hope Apple will change in future updates and releases -- most of them being the horrible changes to the UI.