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Other Cool Features I Look Forward to in Leopard

October 17th, 2007

Here are some other Leopard features, some I knew about and some I didn’t, which will make a difference for me. These are not the main features, but rather the lesser-known ones.

UI Recording and Playback in Automator
Add even more capabilities to your workflows. Use a new action called Watch Me Do that lets you record a user action (like pressing a button or controlling an application without built-in Automator support) and replay as an action in a workflow.

This is what has kept me from using Automator before now: it was limited in what actions it could record. With this feature addition, maybe it will become the super-Macro program that it should have been from the beginning.

Here’s a feature I have a question about:

Boot Camp: Copy Files Between Mac OS X and Windows
Copy, open, modify, or delete files in Mac OS X that you saved to your Windows partition. Leopard understands the Windows FAT32 disk format.

Does that mean that you can make a disk image/copy of the Windows partition while in Mac mode and then use that to re-install a virgin copy of Windows at will, without trouble? Because you can’t now.

Dashcode IDE
Quickly design, code, and deploy your Dashboard widget. Dashcode is a completely integrated development environment.

This, along with a half-dozen other Dashcode features, may actually allow me to make widgets without learning a programming language. We’ll have to see if it lives up to the promise….

Icon Preview
See files for what they really are. Leopard displays icons that are actual thumbnail previews of the documents themselves.

This will be super-cool… so long as it doesn’t take forever to fill in the previews like it does now. I hope, but do not expect.

New Folder of Options
Take control your view options. Adjust the grid spacing to move icons closer together or further apart for the currently viewed folder, or with one click make this view the default for all your folders.

Nice, but is this as far as they went to FTFF? For example, when I set “all windows” to calculate folder sizes, will it remember and stay consistent? We shall see.

Screen Sharing
Collaborate with a buddy via iChat. Work on a Keynote presentation together, surf the web as a team, or help each other with an iMovie project. iChat initiates the connection (asking permission first) with an audio chat so you can talk things through as you work or play. Trade views of each other’s desktops. Even drag files from one computer to the other.

This is what will make iChat a killer app, in my opinion–the ability to cross-control Mac screens remotely. Previously this was only available in apps such as Timbuktu, for $180 or more.

Location-Aware Printing
Print in multiple locations with ease. Leopard detects when you’ve changed locations. So as you move your Mac between work, school, and home, Mac OS X figures out which printer to use and sets it as the default printer. You can choose another printer whenever you want.

A very small feature, but it’s the attention to details that count. I’ll be using this one.

Spotlight: Advanced Searches
Use a richer search vocabulary. The Spotlight search field now supports Boolean logic with AND/NOT/OR and parenthesis syntax. Search category labels such as “author” or “width.” Use ranges in your search including “greater than” and “less than.” Spotlight also understands quoted phrases and dates.

Search by Filename
Find files faster. If you know the filename you’re looking for, narrow your search results so that Spotlight searches only filenames.

Again, nice–but will you be able to sort Spotlight results by size? I’ve been waiting for that, and will be disappointed if it’s not there.

Icon Mode in Open and Save Panels
View your files as icons in the Open and Save panels, just as you would in the Finder.

Cool, but this is catch-up with XP. In Leopard, can you rename and delete files in Open and Save panels, like you can in Windows? Something overlooked in the past, and one of the few feature advantages Windows has over the Mac.

Grammar Check
Let your grammar set a shining example. A built-in English language grammar checker helps ensure that you don’t make errors in grammar.

This would only be useful so long as it doesn’t suck as much as MS Office’s grammar checker–but I’m betting that it’ll be roughly as bad.


So, not a bad set of additional features. As for the main features, I may or may not use Time Machine, QuickLook seems great so long as it actually is “quick,” I will probably use Spaces (but an still disappointed that they don’t allow for alternate Desktops), and look forward to Safari improvements–so long as I can still use an ad-blocker like PithHelmet (it looks like it’ll be possible!). There are a ton of other medium-level features that I’ll be using as well, in Mail, iChat, the Finder, etc. Leopard will almost certainly be well worth the price.

Speaking of price, what the hell is with Apple and the Education price? Education buyers used to be able to get OS X for something like $70-80–now the price is jacked up to $116, almost no discount off the $129 list price. What the hell, Apple? Getting greedy again? Bad form. (It’s still worth it, but you have to wonder why they did that.)

One final point: Safari took longer than usual (two and a half years) for a Mac OS X upgrade, but even at that, it was twice as fast coming out than Vista, and has a lot more useful features added to boot.

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  1. October 18th, 2007 at 22:00 | #1

    Hmm…some interesting things, certainly, but I in the year that I’ve been using my MacBook, I can’t really say that I’ve been terrribly amazed at anything in OS X (and Finder, in particular, I find fairly unhelpful), so Leopard had really better make a good impression. I’ll probably keep the MacBook for another year, maybe two, but if Leopard doesn’t really show me the light, I really doubt I will get another one.

    That fact that Vista really sucks works in Apple’s favor, of course, but I kind of hope that by the time I’m ready for a new laptop Dell or some other manufacturer will finally let me buy a computer with Linux pre-installed. :-)

    When installing a new version of OS X, is it generally pretty easy to wipe out the existing version? I’m thinking I’d like to start with a clean slate with Leopard, but I suspect that, given the way Apple likes to make things easy for the user, it may not offer that option in the course of a normal installation. Am I wrong to think that?

  2. Luis
    October 18th, 2007 at 22:32 | #2

    Sako:

    Well, obviously the question is, what do you look for in an OS? You talk about switching to Linux; what in Linux strikes you as being better than OS X? For me, for example, ease-of-use is a big factor; I have found Windows to be unnecessarily complicated, usually taking too many steps and not doing things in a pleasing way.

    One thing is, MS seems to go out of its way to annoy the living crap out of you. For example, when Vista tried to implement better security, they wound up annoying most users and making them turn off the whole thing. And how about those little balloons that keep popping up when you start Windows, going on for minutes and telling you things you are fully aware of, like “Hey, you’re not monitoring your security!” or things you could care less about, like “There are unused icons on your Desktop! Shall I remind you for the 100th time this month?” And then they make it a huge chore to find out where to turn off such notifications–if they even allow you to turn stuff like that off at all. Or how about the old “”Some items in the Start menu are not visible” reminder? As if I (a) give a damn, or (b) want to be reminded every damned time I open the Start menu, with the information balloon occluding a choice I want to select, so I have to dismiss it first?

    Or how about Network connections? There’s a Mac at my work which can join the Windows network and access shared disks twice as easily and five times as fast as can be done on Windows computers. How about getting features years early? Sure, Vista search is faster now, but OS X had fast searching two and a half years ago. The list goes on and on.

    I haven’t used Linux, so I don’t know what’s so great about it aside from the low price. But I would point out that with Leopard, OS X becomes a certified UNIX OS. Is that important to you?

    Also, keep in mind that Linux can easily be installed on a Mac using Parallels; you can run them side-by-side.

    As for clean installs, wiping the HDD is easy; just reboot from the Install DVD and select the type of installation you want; everything else is simple and automatic. You can start it going and leave it for a half hour or so–unlike Windows, where you have to sit there and watch it because it might stop at any time and prompt you to type or select something a few times during the whole install process. You can choose for it to wipe the HDD, or archive and the completely re-install the OS only, or just install the OS over the existing one while maintaining all preferences and passwords. Of course, with the former two, there is always the issue of backing stuff up beforehand, and then resetting all prefs and passwords (and re-installing apps and data files in case of a complete wipe).

  3. Luis
    October 18th, 2007 at 22:40 | #3

    Oh, and hey, how about plug-and-play? Every time I plug something as simple as a USB flash drive into a Windows box, I have to sit through three different balloon notifications from the system tray before an unnecessary dialog box gives me choices about what to do with it (else I have to go to the Start menu, open My Computer, and then open the flash drive)–as opposed to OS X, where the USB Flash icon simply appears on the Desktop after a few seconds?

    And how about printers? Windows requires driver installation. The Mac OS either has the drivers pre-installed, or is smart enough to build one all by itself. Usually all you have to do is just plug in the printer and boom, it’s there to use in your printer list.

    Often I have bought peripherals that can work with OS X and Windows; they come with a CD that has Windows drivers that must be installed, but nothing for OS X. Just plug-and-play.

    I guess that a lot of this really helps if you move your computer around a lot like I do…

  4. October 20th, 2007 at 17:53 | #4

    Thanks for the enthusiastic responses, Luis!

    [W]hat in Linux strikes you as being better than OS X?

    More freedom, more control. Linux either gives me or allows me to configure whatever I want. OS X gives me what Steve Jobs thinks an OS should be like. Don’t get me wrong, Steve has very good taste and is usually spot on, but sometimes OS X feels a bit overbearing.

    Take Finder, for example, it makes me angry that I can never get it to show me the full path to any given directory without a lot of fuss.

    In Linux, on the other hand, this information is literally available at the click of a button. (See screenshot.) Here you see the buttons in the top part of the screen that enable navigation between directories, but a single click on that document icon to the left of the “ubuntu” button toggles between the button view and the file path view, which would show the path to that directory as the computer thinks of it: /home/ubuntu/Documents/

    If I want that kind of information, why should it be kept from me?

    Or, for another example, do you notice that the first letter of each word in the menu bar is underlined? This means that you can use accelerator keys to select any of those options from the keyboard, without having to use the mouse. I don’t see those options in OS X, which is a shame, because I prefer to work using keyboard shortcuts for everything I possibly can. I find it much faster that way than using the mouse, but apparently I don’t get that choice in OS X (I would, however, be delighted to have it pointed out that I am wrong about this).

    I haven’t used Linux, so I don’t know what’s so great about it aside from the low price.

    One of the many things I really like about it are the package management tools. These basically allow you to tell the computer to go out and fetch for you whatever (open source) applications you want, resolve their dependences, install them for you, and make sure to keep them up to date. Sure, you can do this with Fink and such, but it’s not quite as good. Take a look at what it is like running Bluefish in OS X, for example. (See screenshot.) Sure, this is partly because it has to be run in XDarwin, but for an application running in OS X, the impression it leaves is downright ghastly.

    Anyway, I’ve already pre-ordered Leopard, so you don’t have to sell me on it, but if they are available the next time I buy a laptop, a computer with Linux pre-installed would be my first choice.

  5. Luis
    October 20th, 2007 at 18:47 | #5

    Take Finder, for example, it makes me angry that I can never get it to show me the full path to any given directory without a lot of fuss.

    Well, that’s easy: in any open Finder window, Command-click the title of the directory in the title bar. It provides a list of all the directories in the path and you can navigate to any one directly by clicking on it. It doesn’t give you a text pathname with slashes, or anything you can copy and paste, but it does reveal the path. For an official pathname you can copy to the clipboard, try this:

    http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/9894

    Either way, I don’t see how the information is being withheld.

    do you notice that the first letter of each word in the menu bar is underlined?

    Well, I’d love to make you happy and point you out as wrong, but there’s no complete analogue–aside, of course, from simple keyboard shortcuts. You can access the menu bar from the keyboard (CTRL-F2), but then you have to use the arrow keys.

    For me, none of this is a problem. I am very familiar with the ALT-keyboard/menu activation and the underlined action letters–but I have found it of little use. Built-in keyboard commands are good enough to speed me along, and besides, having to constantly peer at menus to learn the set of action letters is a bit of a drag. Even if I memorize them, it can wind up taking as long as it does with the mouse, especially if I have to go through submenus. For example, in IE6, there was no keyboard command for changing text size on a web page; to do the same with the ALT keyboard control, you have to type ALT-V-X-G. Hardly a timesaver, and not easy to memorize.

    Another question is, why would you want to use that? If a command does not have a built-in keyboard shortcut, you can easily make one in OS X, for any application (or designate the same keyboard shortcut that will work in all apps). Just go to System Prefs, Keyboard & Mouse, Keyboard Shortcuts, and click the “+” button. Designate an app, type the menu item as it appears in the menu, and designate the shortcut. Yes, that’s a lot of steps, but if it’s a command you use often (for me, “hide/show row/column” in Excel is one I did this for) then it works great. A lot easier than typing four separate keys in sequence.

    However, one thing that I think I see as a difference between us is that you are more of a coder (few regular users need file pathnames, for example), and what you seem to need is more of a coding-friendly environment–and Linux may be that for you.

    To which I would reiterate the fact that you can run Linux, or just about any other OS, on a Mac anyway, using Parallels.

  6. October 20th, 2007 at 21:36 | #6

    Thanks, Luis, but I’m still going to have to disagree with you on a few points.

    Well, that’s easy: in any open Finder window, Command-click the title of the directory in the title bar. It provides a list of all the directories in the path and you can navigate to any one directly by clicking on it.

    First of all, that’s not at all obvious just from looking at the UI. In fact, unless you had specifically picked up that bit of information somewhere, your chances of simply discovering it on your own seem pretty slim. I would consider that poor interface design.

    Also, the effect we’re talking about here is essentially the same as the buttons in the Linux file browser, but in OS X you have to take an extra step (pressing Command). Why would that be a good thing?

    It doesn’t give you a text pathname with slashes, or anything you can copy and paste, but it does reveal the path.

    And that is really shameful. Why on earth not? What possible benefit can there be in not making that available if the user wants it? The fact that a separate plugin is required for such an extremely simple thing is just wrong.

    Another question is, why would you want to use that?

    It’s just how I prefer to work, that’s all. Why should that be a problem? I can work that way in Windows. I can work that way in Linux. Why not OS X? And, again, how is it a benefit that I cannot?

    one thing that I think I see as a difference between us is that you are more of a coder (few regular users need file pathnames, for example)

    That’s true, most users may not care about these things at all, but why should it be such a hassle for those who do? How is that an improvement on the way that other OSes work?

    I would reiterate the fact that you can run Linux, or just about any other OS, on a Mac anyway, using Parallels.

    To which I would have to counter: If I’ve already got Linux on the machine, what am I going to use OS X for? For when I want to do all of the things I would normally do in Linux, but with more use of the mouse? ;-p

  7. Luis
    October 20th, 2007 at 22:24 | #7

    First of all, that’s not at all obvious just from looking at the UI.

    Well, I don’t think I said it was obvious. Not everything can be evident; some stuff does have to be learned, and as far as 99% of users are concerned, this one is not all that vital. I am guessing that not everything you learned in Linux was evident; I’m also guessing that there’s a fair trade-off between intuitive and non-intuitive features of both OS’s–and since I don’t know Linux, I can’t point out advantages of OS X over Linux, which kind of puts me at a huge disadvantage in this discussion. You can point out comparative examples, I can’t…

    What possible benefit can there be in not making that available if the user wants it?

    Well, the question becomes, why would any given user want that feature? There are times when I might want to look at the directories in the path and jump to one of them (although the keyboard command COMMAND-up-arrow is faster), but why would anyone not doing coding or advanced admin stuff want a pathname?

    And, again, how is it a benefit that I cannot?

    I don’t recall having said that any of this was a benefit or anything similar. Just that you could do this in OS X.

    If I’ve already got Linux on the machine, what am I going to use OS X for? For when I want to do all of the things I would normally do in Linux, but with more use of the mouse? ;-p

    Again, a matter of taste. I’m guessing that most or all of the advantages of OS X are things you don’t use or care about, and the advantages of Linux which are not in the Mac OS are things you value. OS X has a great suite of media programs in iLife; it has a slick interface with a lot of “Wow” factor built in. It has features like Exposé that many find extremely useful. Plug-and-play works great and leaves a lot of work and tooth-gnashing behind. Many like the fact that having hardware, OS, and many apps made by one source to be more stable and usable. And even if you don’t use the Mac OS, the hardware is not too shabby.

    In the end, maybe Linux is far better for your purposes, I really don’t know. I just like OS X; it suits my purposes extremely well.

  8. October 21st, 2007 at 08:03 | #8

    Well, I don’t think I said it was obvious.

    Right, but you did say it was easy. My response was to point out that it’s only easy if you know about it, but the UI doesn’t give you any hints about it. And even if you do know about it, it still doesn’t do what I want it to do, so in my view this is a drawback of using OS X.

    Well, the question becomes, why would any given user want that feature?

    You’ll have to excuse me for saying so, Luis, but this really isn’t much of an argument. Why would I want to do something the way I want to do it? Because I want to, of course! Minority user or not, I shouldn’t have to justify my preferences to the OS; it should simply obey them without question. Mac OS X does not. I would like it a lot more if it did.

    Anyway, this is beginning to stray from the topic of your original post, which is that there are some pretty cool features coming Leopard. This much I do not deny, and I’m looking forward to seeing them in action on my Mac later this month, but I would be a lot happier with the upgrade if it would also fix some of these other things, which I consider deficiencies in an otherwise very good OS.

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