Visual updates of Leopard aesthetic, functional
Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard has finally been released, to much fanfare, parading and hullabaloo.
However, I wrote earlier that I thought the release would be nothing much to holler about – so I figured why not follow up on those previous sentiments.
So first, the standard disclaimers:
1) I love Apple products.
2) I do not yet have Leopard installed, but I have played with the release version of the OS. As a result, I’m going to stick with what I know most/best about the system so far, what I’ve had most experience with: the user interface (UI).
First, Leopard looks like a nice visual improvement on Tiger. Many Mac sticklers seem quick to point out that the UI in Tiger often switched between Apple’s two main visual themes, ‘Aqua’ and ‘Cocoa,’ depending on the application.
Not only was this aesthetically annoying, it was a practical imperfection as well – from a design standpoint, you want the user to be completely familiar with the UI. Nothing should be ambiguous, and the seemingly random switches did little to clarify what each theme represented.
Leopard has a singular unified style, with a subtle gray interface and small visual flourishes such as mirrored surfaces.
Alongside being eye-candy, the UI update is quite useful. The Finder (windows users, ‘Finder’ is like ‘Explorer,’ the visual way to browse through folders) now has a feature called ‘Cover Flow’ integrated, and Apple’s Quick Look integration is a nice step forward.
Cover Flow, of iPhone/iPod Touch/iTunes fame, is most akin to browsing through physical files. It’s like a flipbook of quick icons or views of documents, pictures, movies and the like, but the program doesn’t really help with text documents.
Quick Look, however, will fill that need. Think of Quick Look as the current version of Preview on steroids – meaning it can open anything.
So far, I haven’t thrown a file at Quick Look that it couldn’t open – users should count on an OS to handle any type of file with special or esoteric programs, and that seems to be what Apple was aiming for with Quick Look.
Of course, there are other visual improvements: ‘Stacks’ displays a folder’s contents in a nice array when clicked on from the dock, but it’s less useful with folders that have a ton of content.
Then there’s the much hyped ‘Spaces’ addition. Spaces was created to make natural to the OS something many users had added with third-party applications – desktop and window group management.
Spaces works well and is pretty, and the ability to see all of the groups at once is great. It’s by far the best implementation of the idea yet, but I was expecting more. There’s something intangibly missing that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe it’s simply the fact that this basic functionality has been available through third-party applications, so it’s nothing too groundbreaking.
Overall, the visual upgrades in Leopard tilt the UI more toward functional than eye-candy, which is how it should be. Certain other new OS releases can’t say the same (cough, Vista, cough, cough).
Though I have yet to get my hands dirty with other new features of Leopard, let alone start playing with the back-end, for a student price of $116 ($79 at some universities, no word at SU yet), you will notice substantial improvements in the user experience. And that’s not a bad place to start.
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