Sunday, June 24, 2007

A 64bit Wildcat!

I spent a few hours today testing the latest beta version of Leopard. The new Mac OSX revision (announced for commercial release coming November) was offered for testing to the WWDC participants a few weeks ago. I was able to get hold of a copy... the next is history.

To avoid messing up my current 10.4.10 installation on my black slick Macbook I decided to put the Leopard beta on an external Firewire disk. Installation took less than 30 minutes from beginning to end... nothing special, everything progressed smoothly and without glitches.

The first thing that strikes you when you start using the system is the speed improvement. Any dock icon for any common app I clicked on to launch the app would only spring once and the app would blow wide open, like it was stored in internal memory. It took me some time to think of the fact that Leopard was a 64bit OS and the increased speed was to be expected... I am sure Mac users will love the improvement... I was just running on the latest MacBook (not even a Pro version) and that stuff was just flying...

I found that the most spectacular enhancement though was around the Finder and Quicklook. Imagine you are looking at a, say 30MB image file or an Excel spreadsheet with thousands of lines and columns, or a PDF file of some descent size. Imagine you click slightly on the file thumbnail in the Finder window and the file blows up its contents INSTANTANEOUSLY into a black transparent Quicklook window. In the past, we used to measure response times in secs and sub-secs (less than a sec). I believe Quicklook must be sub-tenth of a second material... you just can't believe the speed. How they have ever been able to implement this is a mystery to me. And it's not just for image files... same thing happens with multipage PDF, DOC or XLS files or whatever else you may desire. And you can scroll multipage documents up and down right after... you can resize them to your heart's desire and it all keeps smooth and slick.

FrontRow changed a bit its look and feel and is a lot more like AppleTV. There are some improvements there too. Email offers quite a bit of new functionality with stationery and to-do-lists.

I haven't tried the Time Machine... I assume it works fine. I tried Spaces too and it looks OK... I am not sure I am gonna use this a lot though. I also enjoyed Alex, the synthesized voice reading texts... really sounds like a real person (well... maybe...).

Finally the Finder offers CoverFlow as we are used for songs in iTunes. In CoverFlow each time you point to the file under the focus, it shows its contents and also, if it's a multipage or a movie, it offers you the possibility to page thru or start playing it. You can also hit the space bar and then Quicklook pops-up with a larger view of the contents. Another hit on the space bar and Quicklook disappears. Slick! It's a great enhancement and helps you quickly scan thru your files and even discover files you "lost" for ages...

Bottomline, the new OS seems extremely smooth and user-friendly... object animations are superb and the speed extraordinary. I can't wait to get my hands on their commercial release next November.

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