We've been poring over Leopard since getting our copy, and no doubt about it, there's just way too much to say. The number of fixes, updates, and new features in this release is astounding. Granted, many aren't major (and some aren't even easily immediately noticeable), but the marquee apps like Spaces and Time Machine are instantly indispensable, while the finer details (like revamped Bluetooth and network connections preferences) leave little to be desired. Looking at Leopard's gestalt, it's plain to see that this by far the best version of OS X to date.

All about Leopard: interface gallery

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Read on for a long list of changes, updates, additions, and impressions, and don't forget to check out the gallery.

Note: So we're skipping over Safari since the only major change there (since the beta was released) is Web Clips (which we'll cover).

If there's anything you want to check out that we didn't last night, leave us a comment and we'll see if we can work it in!

Install
  • Install was pretty painless. A few clicks and you're off. It took just under an hour (58 minutes, to be exact) to do its thing, despite the installer claiming it would be a 3-4 hour upgrade for our stock MacBook Pro.
  • For old school users: installing the barebones OS onto a G4 Power Mac's freshly formated disk took just 20 minutes.
  • The install chewed up a good 3.3GB of space on top of what was already there. Apple recommends a solid 9GB, so be prepared if you're constantly low on space like us.

UI
  • All menu bar menus are semi-translucent, still searching for a way to change that transparency and/or disable it. We're sure someone will discover a defaults write command for this.
  • Menu bar menus also now have curved edges; same as the dock. Oh, and red-yellow-green buttons are a lot more vibrant and colorful.
  • But the menu bar itself no longer has the trademark curved top left and right corners. The end of an era, says we.
  • Drop shadow on the active window is extremely pronounced. Like, 35px pronounced.
  • Launching apps with Spotlight is tremendously easy, they come up instantly, and separately from the rest of the search results. It'll still try searching the index for matching files, though.
  • Stacks are nice, but there are a few things that kind of bummed us out. If you keep your dock on the side (like we do) you only get the grid view, not the fan.
  • ... Also, depending on which files you have contained in your stack, the dock icon changes from an empty folder to the icon of the "top" file. So as contents of that stack changes, so does its icon, making it visually difficult to keep track of in the dock. (Unfortunately there's no option we've yet seen to just show the folder,and not represent its contents by way of icon.)
  • The new dock is ugly. For a nicer, simpler, kinder dock, bring up terminal and punch in defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES, then killall Dock. (Use NO to bring back the ugly.)
Spaces
  • Spaces maps to control + arrow, as well as control + number key to take you to the spaces of your choice. These hot keys are editable.
  • Spaces also lets you bind applications to certain spaces, so you always know where they are. You can also bind an app (like, say, iChat) to follow you around regardless of which space you're in.
  • If you have multiple browser windows open in different spaces and applications with links, those links open in the space-appropriate window. In other words, if you click a link, it'll open in the browser in your space, not in the browser in another space. Brilliant.
  • You can't change the background of individual spaces -- this gets confusing when switching rapidly about.
Finder
  • When you're in columns view and move left / right, you get a little animation back and forth (instead of the less visually perceptive cursor moving over instantly).
  • Why does Cover Flow view require the file browsing on the bottom be in list mode? What's wrong with column mode?
  • Use command + y (or just hit space) to Quick Look things. It's like command + o (which simply opens files) except way faster.
  • Oh yeah, you now have breadcrumbed folder paths at the bottom of the window (hit view -> show path bar). Friggin finally!
  • Finder didn't start discovering Windows machines on the network. We had to first connect to a drive share; only then did Finder drop that server in the Shared group in the locations column.
Time Machine
  • Plug in a drive, get prompted to designate it as your Time Machine backup drive. (Remember, TM drives can still store other data, your system just needs to know which it should be backing up to.) Choose not to do that (by hitting cancel) and it will write a hidden file called .com.apple.timemachine.supported (and a ton of other files), and won't ask you again in the future. Us, we'd actually kind of like an "ask again later" button, though.
  • Detail: if your drive isn't very large it won't even bother asking if you want to make it a backup drive. We assume it wants a drive at least the size of your primary hard drive.
  • Removing your root-level system folder from TM backup gives a strange, somewhat confusing prompt: do you want to exclude all system files (those being what, precisely?) or just the system folder? Sounds like it's asking if you want to exclude the system folder + default apps, or just the system folder. Either way, when we put system + default apps in the Time Machine exclusions, the number of files it backed up went from over a million files down to ~200k.
  • If TM fails (and even if it doesn't) there's no clear way to re-initiate another backup -- right click the TM icon in the dock (that is, if you left it there), then hit back up now. Thanks Ronald and onescoop!
  • Beware: changing (or even viewing) Time Machine options during a backup has the tendency to unexpectedly kill the backup. Huh?
  • TM can include external non-TM drives in its backup routines. (By default your TM drive isn't backed up to itself, so if you want to redundancy for all the other data on your TM disk, you might have some futzing to do.)
Mail
  • Expect a Mail database upgrade when you start it up the first time. Updating the DB on our machine took under 5 minutes, and we have a LOT of mail. (Mail.app has a tendency of chugging big time -- sometimes minutes just to switch folders -- on our larger mailboxes).
  • As it turns out, Mail is DEFINITELY faster in a lot of our folders containing thousands of messages. No more grinding email along for us!
  • Mail columns are actually a lot better about sticking in place and keeping their proper width now, no more musical columns when you initiate a search.
  • The data detectors work pretty well, but phone numbers formatted with dots (333.555.1212) don't pick up. This is instantly one of those how-did-we-live-without-it features.
  • When creating a to-do from text selected in an email, that to-do is bound (and shows a link to) that email, for reference. This is a big time saver.
iChat
  • Wow, not bad at all -- might finally actually be a suitable replacement for Adium. Still, no Yahoo IM support, nor any of the other standards.
  • The AIM chatroom auto-join feature is outstanding. When you shut down, lose your connection, or start up, you're right back in.
  • We're still trying to figure out whether you can combine multiple accounts' buddy lists into a single list. [Answer: nope, it's not possible, sorry folks. If you're like us and have multiple AIM accounts you just have to deal with multiple buddy lists. Whatev, Apple.] Why the hell would we want all those multiple lists floating around? (Chax no longer works in Leopard, so we're a little distraught.)
  • You can use the new version of iChat to visually share documents / files non-Leopard users, but instead of putting up iChat Theater, iChat just replaces the video stream of you with a video stream of whatever file you're showing. That is, when it's not crashing.
  • Screen sharing works really well. Fighting for the mouse is always fun, too.
Settings
  • By the way, where do all the Quick Look plugins go? Damned if we know!
  • Network settings are much more simply laid out, especially when it comes to managing multiple connections and their settings. Looks like Apple realized that a lot of people have more than two network connections.
  • As we mentioned, the Bluetooth settings are also redesigned and much faster and easier to use. Bonus: automatic Bluetooth key suggestions when pairing with new devices.
  • Parental settings are far more advanced, now include log monitoring (chat, browsing, etc.), site filtering, and all the standard stuff like schedules. Takeaway: it's actually useful now!
Various niceties, bits, and gripes
  • Leopard supports A2DP! Seriously, it actually works. A bajillion nerds just ordered a copy.
  • ZOMG: the keyboard manager differentiates between different keyboards' modifier keys. No longer do you need to swap the option and command keys every time you use an external PC keyboard. This alone is reason enough for us to switch.
  • Everything is clickable in Web Clips, so you can, say, grab the top headline on Engadget and click it when you see something you want open in a browser.
  • Automator UI recording is a great concept, but we're not entirely sure it's there yet. If you're using keyboard commands watch out, because if you switch windows or interact with your system during playback you might screw up Automator's recorded action.
  • Those new greenscreen-esque backdrops in iChat and Photo Booth? Could be done a little better.
  • The real time / autocomplete in the dictionary is great. Having access to all Apple / tech terms and Wikipedia: even better.
  • Thank god Apple finally updated its Terminal, we had long considered it, um, terminal. (Ahem.) Our favorite part: term themes.
  • Yeah, Cover Flow works for fonts, as well. Just browse to your system font folder and see what we mean.
  • Unfortunately, the to-do creator (launched from your context menu) doesn't work system wide, just in Mail.
  • The grammar checker could use a little, um, checking. Typing in totally high-larious phrases like "I can has cheeseburger?" (spelled properly intentionally) don't set off any alarms -- in fact, neither did "Somebody set up us the bomb." "All your base are belong to us" did the trick, though.
Bottom line, PC users: don't be afraid to give the Mac a second glance, there's plenty in Leopard sure to please. Mac users: run, don't walk, to get your copy when it goes on sale today. If you're anything like us (which we imagine you are, since you read Engadget) you won't be disappointed.

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All about Leopard: gallery, apps, impressions