There are literally tens if not hundreds of reviews of Snow Leopard out there in the blogosphere that are written by folks that are way more qualified to write the review than myself. However, I thought I might point out some cool changes and bug fixes to OS X that probably have slipped through the cracks of other reviews yet are truly important to folks who have seen them first hand.
First, let me say that if you are running Leopard, the upgrade to Snow Leopard is pretty much a no-brainer. It costs $29 retail, $25 at Amazon.com, or $49.99 retail for the 5 license family pack, $43.99 from Amazon.com. So the cost of the upgrade is not really an issue for most people.
This version of OS X is something that Microsoft should also be doing. It was a chance for the developers at Apple to take all the little nagging bugs and finally fix them. Also, revamp behind the scenes in order to vastly improve the performance of the OS. Some of the improvements are truly revolutionary.
The Finder program, the software that allows you to see files and folders on your computer, has been rewritten totally in Cocoa. This means that it runs in 64bit mode which means a major performance boost, almost 2 times faster. Believe me, its very noticeable when you bring up a folder with a lot of files. Scrolling that list in the Icon view mode is just as smooth as can be.
The Dock has had some big changes. One of the biggest being the ability to use Exposé by just clicking and holding the mouse button down on an icon in the Dock. If a window is minimized, or just behind other windows, Exposé will pop up, you can then click on the window you want. This also works while dragging files around. Drag a file you want to copy/move to a different folder down to the Finder Dock icon, wait a sec and Exposé pops up, then just drag the icon to the window that contains the folder you want for your destination.
One of the biggest changes to the OS that a lot of people are talking about is in the Services menu. Yep, I said Services. If your like me, you might not even know what that is, much less have ever used it. Before Snow Leopard, Services was a mess. It’s menu item is in the Application Name menubar item. So, if you are running Safari, you would pull down the Safari menubar item and the Services menu item is just below the middle of the menu. When opened in Leopard, you would get a list of near to 100 items, most of which were grayed out (not available) and the rest didn’t seem all that useful. Snow Leopard has massively improved that menu. When opened in the Menubar, the list of item visible are only items relevant to what you were doing just prior to opening the menu. Apple has also put the Services menu in the Right-Click/Ctrl-Click popup context menu and other menus (the Tasks popup menu in a finder toolbar for example) making it very convenient to access.
Thanks to the new Services system, I was able to create a very simple Automator Service item to refresh thumbnail images of files easily. I simply started up Automator.app. Choose “Service” from the template panel that appeared. Used the search bar to locate an automator action to create thumbnails by typing “thumbnail”. Dragged the “Add Thumbnail Icon to Image Files” automator action to the workflow pane in automator. Selected “image files” from the Service receives selected” popup menu and left “any application” in the other popup menu. Selected File->Save from the Menubar and gave the Services workflow a name and that was it. I now have a way of refreshing thumbnails in the Finder when I make a change to an image and want to see the new version in the files thumbnail or icon.
There are many more changes that others have reviewed to death. What I want to go over now are the bug fixes I have found that used to really burn me up when they happened.
First is in the Finder. You create a new folder after opening a folder full of files. In Leopard, as the Finder started populating the list of files with thumbnails, if you tried to rename the folder from “Untitled” to something else, you would be taken out of edit mode almost instantly as the next thumbnail is updated. Snow Leopard has fixed this so that you can change the name of a file or folder while Finder is populating thumbnails without being interrupted. That’s a big one for me. It was incredibly frustrating to have the edit box go away while trying to rename a file/folder like that.
Another fix is with a system that has dual monitors. I tend to drag icons from Safari’s address bar to keep a URL to a page on the desktop for later use. I also would drag images from web pages to the desktop. I use most of the screen for my windows, so I would use the second screen to drag the icon/image to. When I let go, the icon/image would wind up being added to someplace on the main screen, not where I dropped it. This meant that I would have to use Exposé “move all the windows off the desktop” feature (F11 for most of us) so that I could access the new icon/image and move it to the second screen where I had originally dropped it. Snow Leopard fixes this to. The icon/image is placed exactly where you drop it. Hallelujah!
Now, don’t get me wrong here. Snow Leopard isn’t without its own set of bugs. I can’t create or reply to email messages in Gmail in either Safari, FireFox or Fluid.app. I can in Opera or Mail.app, so at least I have options, but not being able to use Gmail from the two most common browsers is a problem in my book. Hopefully, this can be fixed soon. I hear that there are OS X 10.6.1 seeds being sent out as I type this, so here’s hoping.
Also, the upgrade didn’t go as smoothly as I would have hoped for either. I attempted to start the update on my MacBook first only for it to fail almost immediately. After a very quick call to Apple (really, I got someone from America within 10 seconds of being put in the queue!), I found out that my MacBook’s hard drive was damaged and needed to be repaired with Disk Utility before the upgrade process could take place. After it was repaired, it still didn’t upgrade successfully, so I just blew it away and installed Leopard, then Snow Leopard and was up and running again. My Mac Pro update when very smoothly and I was back up and running in less than an hour. So definitely make sure to run Disk Utility’s Verify on your main OS boot drive to make sure it’s clean and ready for the upgrade.
Also, I would suggest heading over to http://snowleopard.wikidot.com/ and make sure that mission critical software you need is compatible with Snow Leopard. More than likely it will be, but there are some issues with Adobe’s Creative Suite that you might need to be aware of. Plus, if you are running any hardware that has proprietary software, you will need to make sure that those manufacturers have updated their software to the new OS before updating an important machine.