Leaping Lately to Leopard

· by Steve · Read in about 4 min · (732 Words)

For a geek, I can exhibit luddite tendencies sometimes. I don’t run Vista yet on anything other than secondary test machines, because I really don’t like it very much  - I feel it’s burning additional machine resources in a way that adds little or no value to my productivity or user experience compared to XP, and I’ve had several usability / stability hassles with the test machines I’ve had. I also remain very skeptical about the relative importance of Dx10 given that the vast majority of users either don’t have Vista, or don’t have a card worthy of being called Dx10 compliant, even in gamer circles. In short, I love reading about and playing with new tech, but when it comes to spending my money and resources (particularly time), practicality and not hype tends to rule my mind.

Another example is that I only just upgraded my MacBook Pro to OS X Leopard, even though it’s been out for 9 months already. When it first came out I was reticent to upgade immediately, wary of early problems and also that I was only just getting used to OS X anyway. Since then, I’ve always seemed to have an excuse not to do it - some impending trip / presentation / deadline which meant it wasn’t convenient, and really just lack of time.

Nevertheless, I finally made some time to do it last night, mostly because a couple of people in my family are getting or likely to be getting Macs soon, and of course those will come with Leopard, so I’d like to be in sync. Also Snow Leopard isn’t going to be out for another year by the sounds of it, so it’s still worth me upgrading and not waiting for the next one.

My early impressions have been good - it’s very much an evolution rather than revolution, but then if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I like how once again the things that are good for flashy demos are actually very useful in practical terms too, in particular ‘Quick Look’ is really very handy. Basically you can just press the Spacebar whenever you’re selecting an item in Finder or whatever, and it pops up a window allowing you to browse the content of the file, whether it’s a PDF, Powerpoint presentation, document, image, archive, whatever - and it does this without starting any applications, so it’s super-duper-fast. Incredibly handy for skimming through a bunch of documents when you’re not sure exactly which one you want just from the filename, without the overhead of firing up apps and loading everything fully.

Other things are handy too, Spaces are handy but nothing new if you’ve used multiple desktops on other systems before, and the fold-out stacks make shortcuts to common folders more convenient than before. I doubt I’ll use many of the other features - all my important stuff is backed up on a server so I don’t need Time Machine (although I will definitely be recommending that one to my parents), and I’m too attached to Firefox and Thunderbird to get excited about the Safari and Mail enhancements. Oh, I could see myself using the presentation features of iChat though, that’s something I normally have to use GoToMeeting or similar for.

As an upgrade I think Leopard is a bit expensive at £70 for what it is (another reason I put it off), but nevertheless it’s a nice increment to what has become my favourite desktop OS over the last 12 months. I really can’t see that changing in the near future either - with Snow Leopard, Apple seems to be taking the opposite approach of those in Redmond by concentrating on optimizing & further streamlining what they have rather than stuffing in more and more features, which sounds good to me. OS X already does everything I want, and is no slouch in the performance dept already, certainly compared to the hulking, sweating mass that is Vista, but if they can make it even faster, and smaller, then all the better.

Hmm, I’m definitely becoming an Apple cheerleader. A bit scary, but hey, they make stuff I really like to use. Sure you have to pay a little extra, but I’d rather choose to pay for something I can take pleasure in using, than be coerced into paying for something that at best leaves me apathetic, and at worst annoys the hell out of me.