Help-Key: What You'll Use in Leopard


We learned a lot today about Apple’s up-and-coming OS, Leopard. That being said, nothing we learned was really Earth-shattering. All the rumors of built-in Windows integration, teleportation rays and disease curing were bunk. In fact, almost nothing that was rumored came to fruition, and that’s the rub: there just wasn’t much new stuff announced.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it was a bust. As it’s a developer’s conference, the bulk of the speech was about Leopard, not various hardware. That was to be expected. And of Leopard we heard much, but more importantly, we saw much. While I wasn’t allowed video on the floor, I took a few key photos. And, luckily for you, the reader, I have a descriptive and detailed verbal pallet.

The first thing new users of Leopard are going to notice is the interface, naturally, and it’s a pleasure to look at. The photos of the new Desktop (with a capital “D” now, thank you) don’t do it justice. When windows are dragged around, they’re reflected nicely in the new 3D Dock at the bottom of the screen. It really does look like there’s some depth to the screen.

In addition, the menu bar is now transparent with a blur effect. This is the one desktop feature I’m a little hazy on (ha! ha!). The idea is that most people don’t use the boring Bondi Blue desktop Apple’s ship with, most people find some graphic as a background that is somehow an extension of their personality. I have Halle Berry’s latest Esquire shoot.*

By making the menu bar at the top transparent, you get to see a whole 20 pixels more of your favorite photo. Huzzah!

What I do like about the new interface is Stacks. Steve said that Stacks is the answer for those of us who’s desktops are too cluttered to actually use. With Quicksilver and Spotlight, I rarely see mine. It’s cluttered with so much stuff, I don’t even know what’s there. Stacks lets you automagically organize everything into smart groups that you can browse via a nifty fan interface or via a basic and rather boring grid. It’s hot.

What makes all this fun stuff useful is Core Animation. Not really a feature most people would “use”, Core Animation is the new graphics technology that allows everything going on to be animated. This allows for the introduction of Cover Flow into about every part of the Mac, and I do mean every part. On at least 4 occassions, Steve demoed different apps with Cover Flow, including the ability to preview multiple videos playing at the same time and using Cover Flow to browse through them. The look was stunning.

To see what I mean, watch the video Apple has posted on its Website. You’ll see the new features in Finder, including Cover Flow with live previews. It’s hot. It also illustrates a bit of the new Desktop.

The real star of the show, though, is the new Time Machine application. On the surface, it’s a generic back up and restore program, much like others that exist today for PCs or Macs. By adding the Core Animation and Cover Flow, though, you get a whole new experience. When you “go back in time” to your archives and look for the files you’re missing, you don’t always know what it’s called, when it was saved, whatever. If you’re handy with Spotlight, however, it’s as easy as finding it on your local computer.

When multiple versions are found, you can use Cover Flow to preview each version until you find the one you need. And the interface makes it look like your in outer space. Sick.

We’ve heard of Spaces before, Apple’s version of multiple desktops. Nothing fancy here, just the ability to group windows and apps by task. If you’re at work and spend your lunch hour playing Sudoku, you make up your slacker desktop and switch to and from it when the time is right.

Also mentioned were Quicklook, a built-in file preview app with live updating, very cool, and the fact that Bootcamp comes standard. We already know these guys, so let’s move on to ne other new feature that could potentially be a favorite by many: Widget Clippings. While browsing in Safari, if you find a collection of data (movie showtimes, stock tickers, Paris Hilton updates) on a website you want to keep current, but don’t want to load whatever site it’s on, you can hit the Clip button, highlight the data, and presto: a Dashboard widget of your data, always up to date. It’s simple and clever, and you can even customize your widget with a toolbox of looks, styles, and functions. And it’s ostensibly easy enough for your mom to handle.

Speaking of Safari, the mildly popular Web browser made by Apple, it took the lion’s share of the rest of the speech. Not just the beta of version 3 that’s now available on Apple’s site, but the announcements of a Windows version took everyone by surprise. Not just that, it sort of doesn’t suck (from initial impressions, anyway). The goal is to gain marketshare, and Steve is doing this by packaging it with new iTunes downloads. Not sure if we like it, but Safari still beats IE in most categories.

In more dubious Safari news, Steve announced that using the AJAX + Web 2.0 aspects of the browser is the secret to third party apps on iPhone. Recently, Steve said that third party apps would be possible on the iPhone, which was contrary to the initial announcement that it would be a closed system. This made developers and fans very happy. Today we learned that instead of stand-alone applications, these apps would be dynamic Web pages that Safari would use to execute all kinds of Web 2.0 goodness. It’s something of a cop-out in my opinion, but it’s still useful. I see a plethora of “portable web services” hitting by the end of the year.

If you use that phrase, the one I just coined here, you must PayPal me a dollar. Just so’s you know.

That’s what we learned today about Leopard that we didn’t know before: Fancy new Finder and Desktop, Widget Clippings, Cover Flow for everything, and a dynamic back up mechanism, all tied together via Core Animation and Safari.

Leopard looks to be fully stocked and ready for it’s October release. We’re sad that only Intel Macs will likely be supported, but are happy about being able to easily make useful content for our iPhones. The question that remains, though, is will people use Safari on a Windows PC?

* Just kidding. it’s Megan Fox.