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Leopard Minutiae

November 18th, 2007

Really, with Leopard, the small stuff counts. The reason for that is, there is just so damn much of the small stuff that it continuously hits you, like stumbling across decorated eggs at Easter. Some you’ll like, some you may not. But taken all together, they make quite an impact as you find more and more of them.

1107-Dockic1Among the many small new visual changes in Leopard are things like this, pictured at left: the title of each icon now has a little grey callout box; furthermore, instead of being static, it moves dynamically with the icon, when it is moved or when it jumps up and down on launch. Other changes include rather dramatically larger drop shadows around windows, rounded corners on menus, the lack of rounded corners at the corners of the screen, and so on. Two of the biggest visual changes commented on are the Dock and the transparent Menu Bar and menus. The transparent menus are most often griped about–people hate them. I guess I can see why people feel that way–the background showing through can be a bit distracting–but frankly, I don’t mind it much, and figure that in a week or two I won’t even notice it anymore. As for the Dock, I don’t see what people don’t like about it. Not that it’s incredibly cool or anything, but I don’t find it objectionable. I’m not too enamored of the blue lights replacing the black arrows to indicate an open app, but I kind of like the 3-D glass shelf thing. Besides which, people have found a way to easily modify the Dock to your tastes.1107-Softup1

I’m not sure I’m so hot about changes in Software Update. The main change is that before (pictured at right), as you were downloading updates, you could still see them–along with the vital information given below, but most importantly, you could remind yourself if any of the updates required a restart. In Leopard, the Software Update has been changed so that instead of this information-ruch list, you instead get a nondescript progress bar dialog box. How is that an improvement?

I have learned more about Stacks in the meantime. You can alphabetize, by adding spaces to the front of the name of any app. I didn’t see this as working before because the new alphabetization ordering does not register in a stack unless you log out/in or restart, or erase the stack and re-insert it. So you can reorder the placement of the icons. On the downside: Apple set a limit of 8 icons per stack in “fan” display. More than that, and you have to switch to the less-attractive (for me) grid layout, or click the fan’s “More in Finder” button at the far end of the fan (they should put that button closer to the Dock, if you ask me). Seems to me that they could fit in a few more icons, or even compress the fan a bit more to add a few after that. Also, Apple didn’t make it so you could drag an icon from the Finder and drop it into an item in a stack.
Here’s another small tweak: when you do a Command-Shift-4 screen grab (where you can select the part of the screen to be captured), Leopard adds the coordinates of the cursor to the cursor itself. Small, but an example of the endless variety of tweaks you’ll find.

Here’s an improvement in Safari: Google apps compatibility. You can now use Google Docs in Safari–previously you just got a message telling you that Safari didn’t work there. But Safari now plays nice with other areas of Google as well, like with Blogger:


This is one example of many, but you can see that below, in Tiger (Safari 2), most of the buttons in the “Create Post” interface were inaccessible. With Safari 3 in Leopard, it all works.
Another small modification is to Safari’s PDF viewer. Actually, a few small improvements. First, there’s an Apple viewer control added to the bottom of any PDF file viewed in Safari, which adds quick zoom controls, as well as “View in Preview” and “Save to Downloads.” Also, PDFs can now be zoomed in and out with the Command-plus/minus shortcut. Before, zooming was a chore, which is why I usually switched immediately to Preview. Don’t have to do that any longer. Plus, the PDF settings are remembered by Safari–if you view PDFs zoomed-in, Safari will keep them zoomed in the next time you view a PDF.

Here’s another touch I like: memory in Open/Save dialog boxes. Before, when dealing with files in list view in a navigation dialog box, you would always be presented with a standard view–in alphabetical order. Since I often copy names of files I just made when I name a new file, I like the list to be in time order–which meant that almost every time I saved a file, I’d have to click the column header to re-sort the list. That gets tiring. Leopard, however, remembers what you last set things to and keeps them that way.

That said, I would prefer that Leopard does what Windows does in such dialog boxes: allow full Finder access to files, allowing you to rename, trash, and otherwise work with files when in the dialog box. But I can live without it.

One thing I don’t like about Spaces: it does not play well with Exposé. Seems to me that when you do an Exposé command to see all open windows, you should get all open windows–that’s one of the great things about it. The problem with Spaces is that Exposé only shows the open windows in the Space you currently occupy. Which means that you have to either not use Spaces or give up on the functionality of choosing from all open windows. They should have at least made “all windows across Spaces” an option, I would think. Unless they did and I just haven’t found it yet.
Spotlight got an upgrade. It now displays dictionary definitions as well as answers to equations. I have noticed that where the automatic focus of the cursor was on the “Show All” option, it is now on the “Top Hit” in Leopard. That can lead to some unintended app launches for those making the switch. I can see the logic of wanting focus on Top Hit instead of Show All, but that seems to be more a matter of taste than of necessity. Spotlight also changed the “Show All” window from the Spotlight search window to a standard “Find” window… and they still don’t allow you to see or sort by file sizes in the Find list! What is with Apple on this? Don’t they realize that some people depend on that? Yes, you can search by file size… but you can’t see what the resultant file sizes are. I wish they would fix that, it has aggravated me for years now.

Lastly, one huge improvement is how Leopard deals with disconnected network disks. It used to be that OS X would get into a multi-minute hang (until it finally decided that yes, the connection was actually severed), essentially forcing you to stop working for a few minutes, or to Force-Quit the Finder and relaunch it. This was a big hassle for me because I move my PowerBook around a lot, and I access network shared folders a lot. I often forget to eject the shared folder before disconnecting, and that would lead to the familiar Finder hang, complete with a persisting Spinning Beachball of Death. With Leopard, that doesn’t happen anymore. When you disconnect without ejecting, the shared folder remains up for a few minutes, and is even navigable, until you try to open something. Then the files and folders all just disappear, and you are eventually told that the server has been disconnected. No hangs. Thank god.

Otherwise, Leopard remains as Tiger was before: very simple for making network connections. As usual, I had a lot less trouble connecting to a shared Windows folder on my Mac than I have making the same connection from a Windows computer.

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