I kid because I love, you know that. So it should come as no surprise that I was quick to install Mac OS 10.5. If you want a comprehensive review, other people have you covered. Here’s what pops out at me, personally. Hence “popup book tour.” Clever, right? Right.
Let’s start with something that I think doesn’t get mentioned enough in these reviews. Mac OS 10.5 (I think calling it “Leopard” is stupid) is noticeably faster than its predecessor. This is not a trivial difference, either. I’m not the sort of person who sits in front his booting computer with a stopwatch in hand, measuring each passing second against my accelerating heart rate. You’ll notice the speed increase for sure. Shutdown is so fast that sometimes I wonder whether something hasn’t gone wrong.
I use Spotlight to launch any program that isn’t in my Dock (and there ain’t much in my Dock), and increasingly as a search tool as my computer becomes more “lived in.” Needless to say, I’m thrilled that Spotlight is easily ten times faster than it once was.
Quick Look is a revelation. I was a skeptic when the feature was announced. Is this really necessary? Is the minuscule time delay between clicking a file and seeing its contents really so onerous that it requires a special preview function? With today’s superfast personal computers, and all their RAM and processor power, isn’t program load time negligible? Well, yes, but as it turns out, no matter how small negligible is, it’s still infinitely larger than instantaneous. I’m sure there’s a mathematical proof in there somewhere, but I’ll put it like this. Quick Look is like tabbed browsing or a second monitor. Conceptually, you might wonder why these things are useful, but once you actually touch them all doubt evaporates. You wonder how you ever lived without them. Likewise, the Finder’s new Cover Flow view is a surprisingly useful feature that I mistakenly dismissed as bloat. Sort of like Quick Look for an entire folder.
Much has been written about 10.5′s visual overhaul. Love it, hate it, whatever. Most of the quibbles come down to arbitrary personal preferences. The people who today rail against the enhanced drop shadows will get over it in a week. The only exception is the new Dock. That god damned Dock.
Apple. Really. Are you kidding me with this? I mean, I do get it. I understand why you did this. OS 10.5′s killer feature is Time Machine, which uses a gimmicky but user-friendly 3D visualization to guide users through data recovery. It’s a pretty cool idea, and it’s a feature that you really wanted to hammer home to everyone. So you assimilated the Dock’s aesthetics into this 3D metaphor. This required extra drop shadows, a glass shelf that reflects the current contents of the screen, and glowing blue orbs that denote active programs. Pardon me for saying so, but this is all a bit much for my application launcher.
Some claim that the extra optical doodads on the new Dock slow down their systems. These people are hallucinating (see “10.5 is definitely faster,” above). However, the extra drop shadows and constantly changing background do nothing but distract the eye and confuse the hand on the mouse. The shiny blue dots are a poor substitute for the old unambiguous black triangles. The whole mess also takes up more space on the screen than the old version. The new Dock is a usability nightmare, and as it turns out this has nothing to do with subtle violations of visual perspective.
Better, but still not a perfect solution. I hope Apple reconsiders the look of the Dock in the future. While we’re here, I’ll say that I think Stacks are useless. Presumably Stacks are better because, unlike a traditional folder view, they allow for clearer icon previews of the folder’s contents. Alas, icon previews can only tell you so much about a file’s contents. That’s why I love Quick Look so much. I don’t store folders in the Dock, but if I did, I’d be very, very angry about the sudden inability to use a standard, space-efficient list view.
The other controversial change involves the Mac’s ubiquitous toolbar. It’s translucent now, you see, and that angers people. I fail to see how it’s much of a problem. Usually it’s just a subtle color change that will do nothing but remind you of your current Desktop wallpaper:
Though if you’re a fan of the 1968 Olympics, it’s possible to end up in some nightmare scenarios:
In any case, you essentially have to engineer your own misery on this one. Translucent or solid, it hardly seems worth wasting your breath on the argument. Then again, we’re dealing with a community of users that experiences separation anxiety over the change to the screen corners. Really, people, let’s do our best to not perpetuate terrible stereotypes about ourselves.
I think we can all applaud the changes to the Finder, particularly the new iTunes-like handling of networked drives and mounted images. I’m also glad to see that all brushed metal has been excised from the interface. It irked me every time I opened a Finder window in 10.4. Brushed metal is so 2000, and it has no right to smear itself over something as abstract as a file manager.
OS 10.4′s aging folder icons also irked me. It’s not just that their shiny, plastic appearance was increasingly discordant with the overall look of the OS, but that the coloring was all wrong. Look at 10.4′s icons on the left here. The tab is clear. At a quick glance and especially at smaller sizes, folder icons look like a vague smear of blue. Conversely, 10.5′s folder icons have a stronger silhouette and hold up much better, at least in my opinion. I’m still not sure about that corrugated cardboard look, but it’s a non-issue for me most of the time.
So that’s my opinion. As it turns out, what pops out at me tends to be the visual touches, the little things that make an operating system truly usable. With the exception of the Dock, 10.5 is a clear win, and definitely worth the upgrade. Things not in this review? Spaces. I like them, but I haven’t had much cause to use them yet. Time Machine? I lack the external hard drive necessary for this feature, but I’d like to get one.