June 11, 2007

Mac OS X: Leopard

The new features of Leopard were presented today at the WWDC up in San Francisco. The new features and changes are very exciting. A lot of applications have been revamped and improved, and there's even greater network and application integration that I'll find very useful. But the biggest improvements are those related to file management. I think those features will fundamentally change how some things are done on a day-to-day basis.

Some of the new stuff is just eye candy, like the dock reflections and additional transparency. But some of the eye candy is actually useful, like how the new document stacks are animated (probably using Core Animation). Document stacks are sort of like popup collections of files available in the dock. This is a little like keeping a folder shortcut in your dock's document section, but not as restrictive since there's no filesystem boundary required; the files can be from anywhere.

I really like Quick Look too. A lot of times I open things like TextEdit or Preview just to take a look at something quick, only to close the application again or leave it open. But with Quick Look, that's no longer necessary. Document rendering filters that are plugins for the Finder will allow you to read entire documents without having to open any additional applications. Of course, I expect there to be a computational and memory hit associated with the running Finder. But from a usability standpoint, Quick Look looks great.

I am also really looking forward to using Time Machine. Basically, this is a continuous incremental backup system, but with hooks for the Finder to actually get to the backed up documents quickly and make use of them. You need a second hard disk to serve as your backup repository, and probably the bigger the better. I suspect it'd be best to get an enclosure so you can continually replace the hard disk with something bigger. A feature like this also makes a Leopard server even more attractive. I've already been contemplating moving to a Mac OS X server to take advantage of its groupware support. BTW, this idea isn't new; I first read about it with the Elephant filesystem. Also, in comparison to Windows Vista's System Restore, Time Machine is much more comprehensive, easy to use on a regular basis instead of as a special case, and works on individual files and is integrated with search.

I think Spaces is an excellent addition, although one I won't use that much. I may use it more frequently at work, where I have more limited screen estate and will often keep different application sets and window sets open for multitasking.

There are also a bunch of important UNIX-layer improvements: official POSIX compliance; a new version of Terminal that claims to be more Unicode friendly which might be helpful for Luna since she deals with so many Japanese and Chinese files; Kerberos NFS authentication that has long been lacking. The new Directory Utility looks like there might finally be a GUI for managing network mounts.

A very promising developer addition is Xray, a profiler that lies on top of the DTrace framework that was ported from Solaris. This looks really cool.

Posted by josuah at June 11, 2007 8:23 PM UTC+00:00

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