The next release of Apple’s Mac OS X will be available in a few months’ time, and Steve Jobs recently let the world know just what they can expect from it. Leopard is billed to have over 300 new features (though what actually counts as a ‘feature’ is somewhat nebulous), and at a recent keynote speech Mr Jobs went through a few of the most impressive.
It’s pretty safe to say that I was blown away by the demonstration – I was almost literally drooling, almost as much as when Apple revealed their iPhone. Many have already said that the new Windows Vista was still behind OS X Tiger in many ways, and Apple’s new version, Leopard, will raise the bar yet higher, leaving Windows well and truly out in the cold. So what’s all the fuss about?
If you take a look at the Leopard sneak peak on the Apple web site (which, incidentally, has also been given a face-lift, though I’m not quite so taken with that) you’ll see that the first ‘feature’ listed there is the desktop. The new dock has to be the most tasty, lip-smacking, gorgeous improvement they’ve introduced to date! No longer a flat semi-transparent box with bouncing icons, the new dock is properly 3-dimensional, with the icons sitting on top of the surface rather than in front of it. Not only that, but the dock surface is reflective. No doubt we’ve all seen the trademark reflections Apple have been including in pretty much everything for quite some time – well now the dock shares that same treatment, and it’s awesome! Not only are the icons on the dock reflected, but also any window that comes close to the dock. Mmmmm, sweet. Check out the demonstration on the Apple web site to get a better idea of what it’s all about, it’s well worth looking at.
The other part of the interface that’s been given a complete re-think is the Finder, which is the Mac equivalent of the Windows Explorer. For die-hard Mac users, you either love or hate the Finder, with its quirks and oddities. The new version however seeks to address many of the complaints, and hasn’t simply been given a face-lift but has been redesigned pretty much from the concept up. Drawing on the familiar interface and structure of the iTunes menu, the locations and folders in the left hand pane are more useful, tidier, and more intuitive. The icing on the cake though has to be the Cover Flow view that has been imported from iTunes too – now documents in a folder can be graphically scrolled through, giving live previews of each document. Images are displayed as you would expect, but so are documents, PDFs, even videos. You can even interact with some of those documents right there in Cover Flow without actually opening the document, allowing you to quickly skim through pages in a PDF file in situ, or play a video file right there in the Finder.
Interface-wise, Apple have put a lot of effort into standardising everything, taking up criticism about Tiger having a multiple personality disorder. No longer will we have a mix of brushed aluminium, light grey, pinstripe, dark grey bits – pretty much everything will take on the look and feel of the latest iTunes, making everything feel a little more comfortable.
Of course there are some things I wasn’t quite so impressed by. The top menu bar is now semi-transparent, allowing the background to show through. I’m hoping they give us control of the opacity, as in the demonstration I felt the background showed through just a little too much. Steve Jobs also made a big song and dance about Stacks, an addition to the Dock functionality. These are basically just folders with a little eye-candy, not exactly a revolution. Similarly, Safari 3 has been released as a preview ahead of its official release later this year, but so far I’ve found little different between the new and the current versions. Sure, it’s fast, it’s always been fast, and now there’s a better in-page search jobby, but other than that it looks almost exactly the same, and it still doesn’t appear to link into the Google Suggest system like Firefox does. Neither does Safari 3 appear to work completely with the TinyMCE online editor, which means I still can’t use it for blogging.
So, what’s the conclusion at this point? To put it simply, I’m really looking forward to the release of OS X Leopard, and if I have enough money by then I may well consider upgrading. The trouble is, I would probably have to upgrade the whole computer, as my 1Ghz G4 probably won’t cope too well with it. I’m still more than happy with Tiger, so I won’t be upgrading urgently, but if I find I have money burning a hole in my pocket…
Oh yeah, and Safari 3 is available for Windows as well now, so go download it!