OS X Leopard, 16 Great Small Touches

Mac OS X Leopard has been running on my primary computer for a week now and I’ve had a chance to put it to the test in my daily activities. Much has been written by others about the some of the larger new features so I won’t bother boring you with more of that. However, Apple has done a wonderful job, as usual, with their attention to some of the little things.

So here are just a few of the smaller OS X Leopard features that stood out to me. I don’t claim they are undiscovered new things. In fact, some are well-documented. But they are nice touches that I’ve found particularly useful.

  1. The whole print dialog is rearranged to be much cleaner and to bring the most commonly used options to the front. Click the disclose triangle next the name of the printer and you get a very useful print preview that updates live as you make changes.
  2. Help has a new search feature right there in the help menu. In some applications, help also contains an animated arrow and highlighting that points out specific menu items. Some help content is even enhanced with online tutorials that walk you through a topic step by step.
  3. Quick Look works in Mail. Now instead of ignoring the Word and Excel documents people send me, I can click the file icon and tap the space bar to see what’s inside. Out in the Finder, Cover Flow and Quick Look work nicely to examine folder full of photos and even fonts.
  4. Notes in Mail can contain to-do items. It’s great for grouping a series of things to do that go together. Each item also shows up in the Mail to-do list.
  5. I’ve always missed Apple Data Detectors since switching to OS X. It functions a little different in Leopard and it only works in Mail, but it seems to do a very good job. For example, I received an e-mail telling about the date of an event in one line and listing the time range in another. Data detection was smart enough when I hovered over the time to¬†put it together with the date and offer to add it as an iCal event. It will also figure out dates in phrases like “do you want to have lunch next Thursday?”

    Mailing address are recognized too, and can be mapped or added to Address Book.

    Let’s hope Apple enables this feature system-wide in the future and makes it easily extensible like the old OS 9 version. There are a few nuggets in the developer tools that look promising.

  6. Web clipping to make dashboard widgets is more useful than I expected. It’s really smart about identifying an HTML div area but doesn’t limit you to that. This instantly brings simple widget creation to the masses. This was a quick hit with my kids.
  7. The new bright yellow animated highlighting of text when finding within a document certainly addresses one of my daily needs. It’s so easy to see what you’ve found instead of it being buried in the text with a dim highlight. Apple advertises this as a Safari feature but it also works in Text Edit, Preview and other places. Strangely, it does not seem to work in Mail.
  8. PDF manipulation in Preview allows basic moving, adding, and deleting of pages and combining of documents. You can also annotate PDFs with notes. Both of those features previously required purchasing a copy of Adobe Acrobat or other software.
  9. Parental controls is much more flexible and I love being able to manage it on our multiple family computers from my laptop. The parental controls in Tiger ignored Web content within frames. Leopard not only notices frames, but also javascript and flash insertions of content from other sites, such as widgets and ads.
  10. Leopard seems to have cured the crashing on our family iMac that was apparently related to the video drivers.
  11. Spotlight search is much more flexible. I like being able to easily use AND and OR conditions with search terms. When searching in the Finder, be sure to look at the options under “Other” for the type of data being searched. There are a huge number of useful additions that can be added to the menu with the check of a box. And being able to do calculations and dictionary lookups in the spotlight search field is a nice little extra too.
  12. Background scrolling has proved to be incredibly useful already. I often want to scroll a window in the background because I’m comparing the contents with my current window. Being able to hover and scroll the background window completely eliminates the problem of activating a window that covers the content you are trying to see.
  13. Search in Mail is actually fast now.
  14. I use a lot of photos that I have stored in iPhoto, so having the iLife browser integrated into the file open dialog is a real time-saver.
  15. Leopard now notices what network I’m on and sets my default printer¬†appropriately for work and home. That’s a nice touch.
  16. The Keychain show password feature now defaults to the “Allow” button so I can authenticate and hit enter. I think this will be more secure for people because they will bypass using “Always Allow” when it isn’t necessary.

As is to be expected, all is not perfect in Leopard. I have also have a short list of little niggles that bug me. But I’ll save those for another post.

One thought on “OS X Leopard, 16 Great Small Touches”

  1. I love the way Safari 3 handles PDF files now. When you open one in the browser, then move your mouse to the bottom of the window, a little overlay appears, with an option to download the file. Wonderful!

    And I’m with you on Quick Look. I primarily use the column view, mostly for the document previews. However, column view only allows file sorting by name, which has kept me from viewing a folder of movies by date created. But now I can use Quick Look in a date-sorted list view to give me a preview.

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