The 10 hidden gems of Snow Leopard

It's all very well reading the official line on the bumps and buffs of Apple OS X Snow Leopard but the company can't possibly tell us every little detail of what comes in the package. So, after a chance to play with it ourselves over the weekend a glean what else we can, here's a 10 tips and tricks to get you started along your own lines of Mac discovery. Do let us know if you find any more that Apple just didn't have time to tell us about.

1) Malware protection
This is something Apple seems to be inching into their architecture as each version of OS X goes by. It begin with a fairly simple File Quarantine warning on the internet downloads in Tiger but now these files are checked against amalware list and, if there's a match, you're now told exactly what this file is and not to download it. It works for all files downloaded via your mail client or browser but will obviously not support BitTorrent activity, so be careful. It's also not going to help remove any malware from your system, so, if you are significantly concerned by the rise in Mac malware, then you'll need some added support.

2) Preview improvements
Much of the fun has been the added functionality from the OS X image viewer, Preview. You can now scan images directly in and out of the program as well as import pictures straight from the iPhone's camera roll.

3) Screen grab file names
Screen grabs taken with the shortcut keys on previous versions of OS X have had default names of "Picture 1", "Picture 2" etc which isn't very helpful for remembering what they are or managing your files. The default in Snow Leopard is now to name the files with the time and date stamp of when they were captured. Much better.

4) Text to speech shortcut
It's perhaps not something you'll use every day but one neat addition is the "send to iTunes" feature on the right-click contextual menus. This means you can send any highlighted piece of text directly over to the music player app which will then convert the copy into audio. Useful for a break from reading or some difficulty with pronunciation.

5) Specific HD settings
Only one for those using a machine with a DisplayPort socket but, if you've got one, then play some HD video via an HDMI adaptor into your nice, big HDTV and you can go into the System Preferences and decide whether you want to send out in 720p, 1080i or 1080p in order to best match your screen.

6) QuickTime X controls
The dissolving controls and improved web streaming were well noted before the release of the QuickTime X software but it's the little touches that often make the most difference. Unlike most video players, the fast forward and rewind buttons now stick down when you click them, so no need to keep your finger on the mouse. You can also accelerate the speed of tracking by clicking the buttons for a second and third time.

7) Text Substitution
Head to System Preferences and Language & Text to make a few text shortcuts which will save you writing out those long phrases you tend to type on a regular basis. For example, you can program "Pocket-lint is the best tech site on the web" to when you type "Plis" and that will then work across Mail, iChat and TextEdit. More system-wide support would be useful but it's a handy one nonetheless.

8) iTunes shortcut
Just a subtle one but worth mentioning. You can start up iTunes by hitting "Play"on the newer keyboards which have the specific button. Before, the system would only switch to iTunes if you had already opened it. It's a decent way to save precious effort if you're only wandering over to your machine to pump the tunes.

9) Battery Advice
It won't have taken many people long to spot this one although those running Snow Leopard on a desktop only might not have a clue. If you've got the OS on a MacBook or MacBook Pro, you'll be given little warnings as to the condition of your battery as well as how full it is at any one time. Users with an unhealthy battery will, once upgraded, get a warning asking them to either "Service Battery", "Replace Soon", "Replace Now", or "Check Battery". Quite a nice little money spinner for Apple - from the cynical point of view - given a new battery costs over £80 and Snow Leopard just £25.

10) Wi-Fi icon
More of an observation for the last on our list but if you're using a portable device with limited battery supply then it's worth noting. The Wi-Fi icon is a little more active in Snow Leopard than before. Rather than just indicating whether Wi-Fi is switched on or connected, it now flashes to let you know when it's scanning for networks.