Leopard worth the upgrade for Mac users

Leopard, the new Mac OSX operating system, ships with over 300 new features. Since its release date just over a month ago, there have been countless reviews, blog posts, and lists covering the highlights of the system. With so many to choose from, I decided to list the top five reasons I upgraded from Tiger (OSX 10.4) to Leopard (OSX 10.5).

1. Time Machine:
This built-in back up system is one of the most adored features of the new operating system for its convenience and user-friendly interface. Thankfully, Time Machine lives up to all the hype it’s getting in the press.

I would imagine that many of us know the pain of a failed hard drive or lost data, and with Time Machine, you can rest assured knowing that you’ll be able to recover your data (or, if you’re a nerd like me, your whole life) without any hassle.

While setup isn’t quite as easy as Apple makes it seem, the software is amazing once you get it up and running. If you can’t find a file and think you might have deleted it, simply click on the Time Machine icon in your dock to see a history of your current folder. Use the arrows to navigate back in time until you see the file you’re missing. When you’ve got it, just click restore and you’re back in business.

Time Machine could lead to record numbers of users keeping backups of their data, and probably also lead to a big increase in external hard drive sales.

2. Spaces:
With laptop sales topping the bill for Apple, there will be more users who need better ways to manage all their open windows. Sure, if you have a 24” monitor, it’s easy to have several application windows open at once, but laptop users might find it hard to see everything on a 13” or 15” screen. Apple introduced Expose to help solve the screen real estate problem by showing you all your open windows with the click of a button.

Spaces takes Expose one step farther. Now you can not only have several application windows open at the same time, but also have several different desktops open as well. Want to make a desktop that shows your open communication applications, iChat and Mail perhaps? Well now you can move your iChat and Mail windows into one space and keep Microsoft Office application windows, like Word or Excel, in another space.

Aside from keeping life organized, I could see this being a popular feature for students who want to want to act like they’re taking lecture notes, but iChat with friends or browse the web in class. Keep one space with your lecture notes and open all your fun applications in another space. If your professor comes over, just switch to your class space and no one will know you were secretly reading Perez Hilton instead of learning anthropology.

3. Quick Look:
Things have always seemed to be faster on a Mac. Switching between applications was a snap, emailing photos took almost no effort, and video chatting with friends could be done with ease. Quick Look makes finding the right file even easier than before.

Previously, there were a few ways to check out what file you were looking at before you launched the application to open it. With column view, you could see a decent sized preview of certain file types (jpeg, mov, pdf, and a few others) before opening them. In Leopard, Apple also introduced Cover Flow view, modeled after the lovely iTunes view mode, which also lets users see their files without actually launching an application and opening them.

While Cover Flow is nice, it’s not very useful if you like being able to see a big huge list of all the files you have in a certain folder because the Cover Flow image section takes up a lot of space if you want to see a large thumbnail preview.

With Quick Look, you can browse your folder in any different view mode and preview them in a pop-up window by simply hitting the space bar. The images appear in full size, so they’re easily legible, and you even have the option of viewing them in full-screen. This makes finding that Word Doc you’re looking for a breeze, without ever having to open up Microsoft Word to do it.

4. Web Clip:
This smaller feature might not make everyone’s list, but it’s certainly a nice addition to the Mac Dashboard. With Web Clip, anyone can make a dashboard widget from a snippet off a website. Making Web Clips is really easy too.

In Safari, a little scissors icon appears near the address bar. All you have to do is click it and select the section of the website you’d like to use as a web clip. Are you always checking for celebrity news? Select IMDB’s “Movie and TV News” sidebar and you can see the section whenever you access your dashboard. Are you an avid reader of the Trashwire MySpace blog? Well click on the blog section on our profile and see a live version in your dashboard.

Web Clips are automatically updated and the links are clickable. This makes scoping the updates on your favorite blogs and sites a lot quicker.

5. Mail:
I was torn between several great aspects of Leopard, like incredibly easy-to-use networking or the fact that you can just plug in a printer and print as opposed to installing all kinds of drivers and software, but I think Mail has received one of the best upgrades in the new OS.

Mail is easy to take for granted because it’s something I use every day and rarely think about when using, but with the addition of the notes feature, the application has become more useful than previous incarnations.

Utilizing notes and to-do items has taken away much of the need for Stickies, my previous favorite simple Mac application. With Stickies (which is still included in the new OS) I could write myself tons of notes and place them all over my screen. While that’s useful, things can get a little cluttered. Using the new notes feature in Mail, I can keep all my notes with my emails in a simple list as opposed to all over the place.

Mac OSX 10.5 Leopard is one amazing operating system and well worth the $129 it goes for in stores. Unlike Windows Vista and its multiple editions, there is only one version of the OS and that includes all the new features. The upgrade is definitely worth it for any Mac user.

Alexis Gentry

Alexis Gentry is the creator and editor of Trashwire.com. She has been called a “dynamic, talented and unique voice in pop culture” by Ben Lyons of E! and, with her strong fascination with entertainment and penchant for writing, it’s not hard to see why.

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