Leopard is here – What does it mean to you?

Every now and then Apple releases a major upgrade to their operating system. The last major release was 10.4, code named “Tiger.” Last Friday Apple released 10.5, code named “Leopard”

Apple releases major operating systems for several reasons:

  • Money – Operating system updates make money and sell Macintoshes. Each major OS release pushes the envelope of what the hardware can do and for some people, these features are the tipping point to upgrading their machines.
  • Software Advancement – It is with the major releases that Apple can make large, sweeping changes to the internals, which may break compatibility with some hardware and software, but it is done infrequently enough that it is not as much of a pain as a “dot” release, such as 10.4.11.
  • Keeping a lead on Microsoft – Apple jumped over Microsoft with OS X and has been slowly gaining market share. This is good for Apple – See Money 🙂

Apple’s latest cat is a very nice upgrade. Not only are there very visible features, such as Coverflow and QuickLook, but there are nice updates to Spotlight, the Finder is nicer, and there are many new low level upgrades that users will never see but will surely benefit from.

Applications written for Leopard can take advantage of garbage collection, which simply means it is easier to write applications that have few if none common memory bugs.

Apple has connected syncing with their built in database, Core Data, which means that we should see more applications using Core Data and gaining benefits of backup via Time Machine.

Speaking of Time Machine, Apple has made it so incredibly easy to back up your Mac that you’ll wonder why this wasn’t done before. The answer is simple – In order to have something so simple and integrated as Time Machine, Apple needed to add features to the core operating system, such as FSEvents, which lets the operating system track when files are updated.

On top of that, QuickLook, which is the technology that lets you peek at documents without launching the document’s application, had to be invented so you could look at very old documents that might not have their application installed anymore.

Apple changed the dock, taking away the ability to put simple folders on the Dock and folders now become “Stacks,” which let you peek into a folder, such as your recent downloads folder.

Another thing that changed under the hood is networking. Leopard will fine tune itself for the network you are currently on, which is a boon for those of us fortunate enough to have Verizon’s fiber optic network, FIOS. No longer do we need to run tuners – Leopard does it for us. Nice.

For security, Leopard supports signed applications. While there are reports this functionality is wreaking havoc for some applications, which Apple will fix, this is great news for us Mac users. We’ve been blessed to not have any viruses nor trojan horses for our platform, but that could change. Apple is trying to head hackers off at the pass by allowing developers to put a “seal” on their applications. If a hacker edits any part of the application, the “seal” is broken and the operating system can alert the user.

Apple tweaked the UI by making the menu bar translucent, which some like, some hate. They changed the default folders look, such as Movies and Music, and most hate them.

Spotlight is much faster and even supports boolean searches, as long as you use AND, NOR or OR. Capitalization is required. You can even use parenthesis to group search expressions. For example, you can search for:

dog AND (cat OR bird)

to find any document that contains the word dog AND at least cat or bird. Simple, eh?

If you’re a scriptor, Automator has received a large overhaul and makes it much easier to write some very sophisticated scripts with just some dragging and dropping.

The new Help system has search right from the menu and can find menu items matching your search. This is great for finding hidden menus that deal with “size” or “image” in large applications. The only thing I hate is that the help system uses a floating palette which sits on top of all windows. Who thought this was a good idea?

Launching application is faster and the general feel of Leopard is faster than Tiger was.

iChat received a lot of updates – New visual effects, tabbed chatting and integrated file sharing is fantastic. Toss in screen sharing with audio and I can now support my mom’s computer from hundreds of miles away.

Some users are having awful upgrading experiences, but since Apple sold 2 million copies in a few days, I don’t think the overall experience has been poor. My install went fine and I even restored from Time Machine.

If you plan to upgrade to Leopard, be sure to see my Moving to Leopard article for tips that might make your migration to this new cat smoother.


  1. I was a bit ambivalent at first. I thought I’d probably keep Tiger for a while. BUt after upgrading my home iMac… I’m sold. It’s got a couple of warts here and there, but it’s so much more than I was expecting. 🙂

    PS – Andy Ihnatko’s recent joke on MacBreak Weekly isn’t a joke any longer. hehe http://www.mac404.com/

  2. Apple has connected syncing with their built in database, Core Data,

    Thanks for your article. One correction: Core Data is not a database. See Apple’s documentation:

    WHAT CORE DATA IS NOT “Core Data is not a database. Core Data provides an infrastructure for change management and for saving objects to and retrieving them from persistent storage. It is not in and of itself a database.” http://developer.apple.com/documentation/Cocoa/Conceptual/CoreData/Articles/cdBasics.html#//appleref/doc/uid/TP40001650-DontLinkElementID10

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