Leopard leaps onto our screens with 300 new features

Cupertino (CA) - Apple released Mac OS X 10.5, codenamed Leopard on Friday. Leopard comes with a host of graphical and user-centric new features, more than 300 in total. Originally scheduled for release in June, was it worth the wait ?

One of the big user features is Time Machine. It’s a new feature which lets a user peruse back in time to see how their system looked on a given day. This even includes the ability to see since deleted files as they existed back then, a form of automatic versioning, as well as open and manipuate them. Apple calls this "a giant leap backward".

Another is an enhanced Finder, the Apple search tool. Finder allows configurable sidebar options which appears to the left of application windows. The search is integrated into Apple apps and allows searching through files and data as before, but with a more context sensitive user interface.

There’s a new Dock. Apple has added a desktop de-clutter feature, one which allows files and folders to be taken away from the desktop and docked in the Dock. These can then be accessed via something called "the stack". It’s an icon listbox of each of your applications. Note that using the Dock in this way allows your desktop to not be cluttered. It also provides a more integrated way to organize your desktop as the stack can be manipulated like a regular folder.

Apple has also introduced QuickLook. It’s a follow-on to a popular form of technology seen added recently to modern operating systems, including Vista. It allows the contents of a document to be examined in some form before actually being opened. This could be in the form of some hover text, or in a dedicated portion of the window. Basically a quick pop-up to see what’s inside before it’s opened.

Many of its standard apps have been enhanced. Mail now comes with 30 professional stationary patterns, has the ability to integrate RSS, has some mashing abilities, such as taking an appointment for dinner and automatically pulling through a map of where the restaurant is. There are also default settings for popular global email sites like Gmail, Yahoo and AOL which allow for easier setup. There’s a new notes feature, and a to do list which can be populated as easily as highlighting a portion of the email and clicking a button.

iChat has been given some visual boosts with Chat Effects. These allow various video effects to make your video chat experience truly tripendicular. Integrated sharing, the ability to record and save chats - including video chats, the AAC-LD audio codec, and many other additional options to traditional features, such as the way chats are displayed, etc.

Spaces lets a user organize applications into groups or categories. It’s a way to setup common or related applications in a quick launch type configuration. It can be thought of like a telephone keypad of configurable dimensions. Click 2 to run a particular app, click 7 for another, each with icons displayed for launching, including QuickLook views for documents. Multiple keypads can be configured. If a user engages in lots of office processing during the day, a space can be setup for word processors, video editors, email, chat clients and other related apps. For the home user, maybe Garage Band, iTunes and some games need to be in there.

Leopard comes with built in parental controls. These allow surfing during certain times, which websites are allowed, not allowed, the people they can chat with, etc. In addition, all of the activities can be logged, providing a review ability to see what each child did on the machine.

Boot camp is officially released and enhanced. Setup is made easier and users can hold down the option key at startup to directly boot into either OS. All necessary drivers are included on the Leopard disc.