Apple Mac OS X Leopard review

So the wait is finally over, Apple's latest Operating system is here and you've got the decision to make as to whether you should upgrade or run for cover until you are forced to do so. Should you upgrade? Pocket-lint braved the install.

Unlike Microsoft's move from Windows XP to Windows Vista, Apple's move to Leopard from Tiger isn't as bold. That's not to say there aren't a stack of new features jam-packed in the new OS, but the good news is that it's very much business as usual.

This business as usual is good in our mind because it means that there isn't likely to be the backlash Vista has experienced from Windows users across the globe.

So what do you get for your £80? Well 300+ new features, but the key ones include a new-look dock, complete with Stacks, a download folder if you use Safari, Spaces, Time Machine, Quick Look, Parental Controls, Boot Camp and some speed and performance improvements to Mail, iChat and other Apple apps.

So that's what you get, but are the new features any good? Lets run through the list above:

The Dock
Realising that people want more and more applications on the dock at the bottom of the screen, Apple have overhauled the dock to allow you to now stack applications in folders. Called Stacks they sit on the right hand side of the dock bar and allow you to group files or applications in folders that you've created. It's pretty handy and something that if you find you've got lots of browsers or photo applications on your dock (like we have) then you can now tidy them up. Scrolling over the image springs up the stack and then you can choose from there. In keeping with the stacking system, Apple has also created a download folder which automatically puts your downloads into a folder rather than clogging up your desktop. Apple has also updated the look of the dock making it more 3-dimensional. It's nice, but at times can look a little confusing with the blue light to show an application is running not as clear as the black arrow on Tiger.

Spaces
Like Dashboard this is yet more space for you to lose applications. The idea is that you can have up to 16 desktops working at once and assign applications to open in certain spaces so you, yep that's right, don't get a "cluttered" desktop. The system works well, but you can, very much like Dashboard, forget which space which application is running. In an attempt to make it easier you can shortcut straight to a space via control and the screen number or by pressing F8 and then seeing them all at a glance. You can also move application windows around between screens just by dragging them over. Why would you need it? Well we've found that it's good for stuff that you are doing in the background, like download files or having your iTunes window up without getting in the way of your work space. However we don't like that you can't contain the Alt-Tab use to a single space like you can in Linux.

Time Machine
Probably one of the biggest new features of Leopard is Time Machine a backup system that ensures you don't loose all your files. Taking the idea from Microsoft's System Restore, the application will save your entire system to a backup drive of your choice and then every hour, every day and every week will work to make sure that you have a backup. In practice it's a serious bit of software that allows you to travel back in time on your computer and sort anything out. It's both powerful and impressive.

Quick Look
Quick look is an evolution of image preview, except now instead of just giving you a quick glance of images it gives you a quick glance of virtually all content files like word documents, images or text files. Where its comes in handy is when, using an improved "Finder" you can view files in a folder in CoverFlow just like you do album art in iTunes or on your iPod and therefore see roughly whether it's the right document before you open it with the full application. You can even view it full screen, which is nice.

Parental Controls
While some might see it as very Nanny State, Apple thinking of the kids has implemented a number of features under a parental control tab. What this means in practice is that you get easy admin setup so you can treat your kids like your office most likely treats you, i.e., give them access to certain programs, websites and the like. The feature also includes the ability for that account to be only accessible at certain times of the day and the ability to log what websites the user has looked at. Parents will no doubt love it.

Boot Camp
If you've got an Intel Mac then you can now officially create a partition and run Windows on it. For those who've been using the beta, there isn't any real noticeable difference here, but it does mean that you can be sure that you'll get support. Additionally it is also considerably easier to set up and you won't have to worry that your machine is going to blow up because you are part of a beta programme. You will however need a copy of Windows to install.

Verdict

So should you upgrade? At £80 there is plenty here to justify the expense and unlike going from Windows to Vista the experience isn't anywhere near as bad or confusing.

In the couple of days we've been playing with the new OS we've had no issues with any applications not working and noticed a minor speed increase in applications opening, which is always nice, and more emphasis on warning you something is about to happen in the same way as Vista does. It's not as forced on you and you can easily turn it off, but it's clear Apple are trying to make it easier for new users.

However, the more we've played with the new features the more we've grown to like some of them. Time Machine is especially good.

Spaces is the most interesting from a daily usability point of view and if you can spend some time setting it up works very well. Perhaps not as well as within Linux, but it will help ensure you stay clutter free.

A thumbs up.