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Mac OS X Leopard Beta: First Impressions

After tossing around the whole weekend to prepare this first analysis with the latest Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard beta (specifically the 9A466) provided by Apple, I can’t help but have two conflicting feelings: enthusiasm and disappointment (mixed with skepticism), but let’s go step by step.

To begin with, we can say without a doubt that Leopard is going to be an even greater speed injection than the one we already witnessed with Tiger. The whole system behaves in a very light way and certain features such as Quicklook, Spotlight or the resting and reactivation of the computer give a new meaning to the word instant.

Mac OS X Leopard Beta: First Impressions
Mac OS X Leopard Beta: First Impressions

Talking about Quicklook, this is next to the (Cover) Flow view of the brand new Finder, one of the biggest hits of the next version of Apple’s operating system . That’s really all they promise, although we’re going to have to climb the walls until plugins appear that add support for more mundane video formats such as DivX or Xvid. And Finder, what can I tell you about Finder? The child has grown up… and in what a way. The new iTunes-style sidebar shortcuts are really handy and especially sections like Shared (with computers connected to the local network) or Search For (with smart folders that show the documents we have accessed today, yesterday or last week, as well as all the images, all the videos…) simply make our day-to-day life much more productive.

But let’s move on. Time Machine is delivering on its promise, although seems a little bit more caught up in effects than the version shown by Apple in the videos on its website . Basically, the galactic background in movement with the time tunnel becomes a simple static image, I imagine, that in a provisional way. Spaces, on the other hand, is close to its definitive version, and it is probably the first multi-desktop system I will get used to . As a small feedback for Apple, I would like to be able to customize the background of each desktop individually in order to distinguish them more easily (if requested, the transition of the backgrounds from one desktop to another could be done by fading, as well as the option Change image every x seconds ).

As for the applications, a quick look: Safari is a bit lacking in new features (we want a plug-in system like Firefox already) but what it does is good. Mail works great and both the new tools with which to take notes and maintain our task list, and the templates with which to give color and style to our emails are perfect (by the way, if you use gmail or yahoo accounts, we’ll only need to enter our address and password so that everything is set up automatically ). Quicktime definitely includes the full-screen option as standard. Photo Booth is still in its infancy but although it’s the application with the most crashes per second I’ve seen in a long time, it promises to be a worthy successor thanks to the new effects (configurable in many cases through a simple control) and the possibility of making 4 photo bursts in the purest photo booth style or recording video. The DVD player has changed so much that comparing it to the Tiger version is like comparing night and day; now we can boast about it , not only about DVDs but also about HD-DVDs and Blu-Ray discs (or so they say, I haven’t made the leap to high definition yet). Front Row is identical to the AppleTV, so much so that even in some error messages it refers to itself that way.

Well, where’s the disappointment I was talking about at first? I wouldn’t know. My first impression of Leopard is positive and I’ll count the days until October when the final version will be distributed, but the truth is that the expectations that Steve Jobs created at last year’s WWDC were such that the slight changes in the interface and new features such as Stacks know little. Those were the top-secret new features that they couldn’t show us? I don’t know about you, but I hope that Steve has a few aces up his sleeve … the real novelties that for some mysterious reason he didn’t present at WWDC just a few weeks ago. Am I crazy or is this new policy of presenting products six months before their launch the one that is killing me?

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