Premature Review of OS X Leopard (9A527)

Being a technology enthusiast I had a very hard time waiting until October to give Leopard a test run on my Mac Mini.

I decided to give the beta build (9A527) a test run to see what I have to look forward to when the family pack I’ve been eye-balling finally hits store shelves.

Unfortunately, unlike my initial impressions of Tiger, Leopard has already given me enough gripes and annoyances to dampen my excitement towards its release.

Although most of the negative points I have towards Leopard in its current state are subtle, attention to the small subtleties is what traditionally keeps Apple a cut above their competitors in the area of clean UI design.


Poor Aesthetics

My first login immediately brought about feelings of disgust over the abomination that is the translucent menu bar. As one of many people with a color deficiency, I find the menu bar has lost significant contrast. This would create much irritation and potentially eyestrain throughout the day as I struggle to read the menu of a given application. This mis-feature becomes even worse in form of a distraction when one makes use of applications (such as those in the Adobe Creative Suite) that have toolbars just below the menu bar which will now clash in color to varying degrees depending on your wallpaper image. Given a check box in system preferences to turn this off or increase the opacity of the menu bar, I could potentially forgive this.

The new color scheme of the OS is dark, grey and gloomy. It is so far from modern and so putrid as to make me reminiscent of the Windows 98 UI. Overall, the visual appeal has left me so disappointed that I am in the back of my mind thinking the current UI design just has to be in place only to facilitate an upcoming Steve Jobs One more thing… moment in which he can announce to the world that this GUI was just a temporary placeholder for the real Leopard GUI that was intended to remain secret throughout the Leopard beta testing. One can only hope…

Time Machine Limitations

Aesthetics aside, I already have a few issues that are either annoying or disappointingly limiting with the new features. First up is Time Machine. Time Machine was a feature I was greatly looking forward to as the promise of a set and forget backup solution with an intuitive UI is far too compelling to ignore. All this promise is however lost with the inability to use a network share of any variety as a backup volume. Perhaps I am not the norm, but I have several computers (five at current count) Apple and otherwise. One of my habits is to keep as much data as possible away from my individual desktops in favor of a central file server. This allows me the conveniences of seldom worrying about data on my machines. The external hard drive required for Time Machine to work means I would either need an external storage device for each of my Apple machines or be forced to use a propriety setup involving sharing a drive via an AirPort Extreme. Either workaround makes my FreeBSD server with massive storage capabilities useless.

UI Annoyances

There are many new features in the UI that are welcome improvements but lack that last little bit of polish to make them perfect. An example is the new stacks feature in the dock, which although useful suffers by the fact that initially the drop off point on the dock to create a stack is right next to the trash. I don’t imagine there will be a shortage of users that inadvertently trash their target folder on their first couple stack creation attempts.

Another annoyance I have is with the new sidebar in the Finder which does not auto-size itself to fit the width of the item labels beneath the Shared heading. Although it conveniently snaps precisely into place when you manually resize the area, it also does not retain the width when the Finder window is closed and later re-opened.

Being a person who uses the Terminal application more frequently than nearly any other app on my system, I was excited to learn that I was soon to be spared the clutter of multiple terminal windows scattered across my screen due to the new tabbed functionality. Two issues immediately cropped up unfortunately, first up the key stroke to set the title of the Terminal window has been changed from Command+Shift+T to Command+I forcing me to lose some muscle memory that I’ve acquired over the years. Worse yet, there is no way to set the title on the individual tabs, only on the Terminal window itself. This has made the multi-tab terminal less then useful for my purposes.

Leaving with a Few Positive Notes

In spite of my above negativity and cynicism above, there are a few features that managed to impress me:

Dramatic Preview Improvements

The Preview application used to view PDF documents, images, etc. has been significantly upgraded with a new UI. This new version in Leopard has improved to the point that I can finally read a lengthly PDF document on screen comfortably. In previous OS X releases of the Preview app scrolling through a document was awkward and cumbersome if a single page did not fully fit into a non-scrolling window. This forced the user to zoom out to fit the screen size, usually making the content difficult to read due to smaller text sizes.

Document Content Icons in Finder

I am throughly impressed by the Finder’s new ability to generate icons based on the contents of documents represented. The accuracy, blazing speed and rich compatibility with a wide variety of file types this feature provides is a sight to be seen. The value of this new ability to quickly recognize previously forgotten files with obscure file names is immediately obvious.

Intuitive use of Network Volumes

One of the biggest annoyances I had with Tiger was the cumbersome UI required to connect to file servers. The new Finder in Leopard authenticates, mounts and un-mounts network volumes with far fewer clicks and substantially greater ease.


A feature missing from OS X yet enjoyed for well over a decade on most X11 based window managers and desktop environments is virtual desktops. The Leopard implementation (Spaces) is not only visually rich but very well designed and a thrill to use. Anyone who is constantly multitasking across countless applications spread amongst nearly infinite open windows will wonder how they ever lived without this functionality.

One Response to “Premature Review of OS X Leopard (9A527)”

  1. Denis Lemire Says:

    Whoops, my bad! It appears that once you mount a network volume (in my case a Samba share on my FreeBSD server) Time Machine includes the volume as a possible backup volume. Unfortunately I do not currently have enough storage to do a full backup from my Mini.

Leave a Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /usr/local/www/wordpress/wp-content/themes/ on line 75