Apple has released the sixth version of its OSX operating system, dubbed "Leopard", adding about 300 new features to the software that ships free with every new Mac, or costs A$159 (NZ$199) for an upgrade from a previous version of OSX. The most noticeable feature of Leopard is the buffing that's been done to the user interface and the file management system. On a Mac, the file viewer is called Finder, and on previous versions of OSX it has come in for some criticism, mainly from Mac zealots who compared it with the Finder used in Apple's venerable OS9 operating system.
Most of those criticisms, including ones that Finder was too hard to browse, have been fixed in the new software. Apple has taken a leaf from its iTunes application and added a visual browser to Finder. Documents and files are represented as tiles featuring their contents. To find the right file, you just flip through them, much as you would with a collection of CD covers.
The company has also taken steps to declutter the desktop using a system it calls Stacks. These stacks, represented by an icon in the Dock that runs along the bottom of the screen, automatically unfurl at a click, allowing you to view the most recently downloaded or saved files.
You're also able to preview the contents of any file, regardless of whether you have the application that created it installed on your machine. But that's as far as it goes. You can't open, print or edit the file, but you can see what's inside it.
Apple's reputation is staked on its ability to take existing concepts and make them easier to use. The idea of having multiple virtual desktops - say one for each application - has been around since the dawn of the graphical user interface. Apple lets you have up to 16 virtual desktops, accessible at a click of a button or a series of keystrokes.
The new software also makes backing up your system, something that most users mean to do but never get around to doing, a snap. Plug in an external hard drive and the operating system asks if you want to use it as a Time Machine drive. Say yes, and it will start backing up your machine every hour. What it backs up depends on the user - some people may want to back up their entire system, others just the vital files they don't want to go missing.
When you want to restore a file, you're presented with a star field overlaid with a series of windows that each represent a snapshot of your system (it consolidates the hourly updates into a single daily update, and then the dailies into a weekly to save space). To find files that you may have accidentally deleted, you flip through the windows or run a search. When you've found the file, you click on it and it's restored to your current desktop.
Leopard is a compelling upgrade, but you'll need a Mac that's less than three years old in order to run it properly.
Australian Financial Review
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