Mac OS X Leopard: A perfect 10
Apple's new operating system and its massive new feature set challenge users and developers to explore new and better ways of workingFollow @infoworld
Now I have them. Spaces creates a set of virtual desktops, each the size of your entire display, that you can flip into the foreground with one keystroke or one click. You can drag an application from one Space to another by dragging a window into the thumbnail for the destination Space. Apple managed to make cut-and-paste and drag-and-drop operations as easy with Spaces as if they are with one desktop, and actually easier than a two-headed system.
I took an immediate shine to Spaces' ability to open a given application consistently in an assigned space. For example, whenever I launch Xcode, Apple's development tool suite, it launches in a Space of its own. You might create one Space for RSS and IM, another Space for browsers, another for video, and another for Office. It's so easy to create, rearrange, and remove Spaces that it becomes as familiar as using the New item in a File menu. You can also pin applications to the screen so that they are present in all Spaces.
Applications that use Apple's OS X frameworks, as all native Mac GUI apps do, inherit an integrated spell check/correction facility that works the same in all cases. Leopard has added a grammar checker that catches a surprising number of gaffes made even by expert wordsmiths such as myself. All apps with text fields are also wired into an Oxford American Dictionary, updated in Leopard so that it's the sweetest online reference book this side of a forklift; and it's also an offline reference book — always there even when your network is not. Leopard also lets you submit the same query to the Oxford Thesaurus, and you can query Wikipedia from inside the Dictionary. Apple reformats Wikipedia findings to make make them more print-like, and Leopard displays a narrowing list of matching words as you type each letter of the word you're after, even for Wikipedia.
Mail and iCal have evolved, as individuals and as a couple. The face of Leopard's Mail client is familiar to Tiger users, but those on Outlook Express and Thunderbird have some adjustments to make, for the better.
Mail is markedly faster in message searching and filtering. Mail content searches across mailboxes are finished in a very short time, while scanning huge mailboxes by sender's name is almost instantaneous. In Tiger, I set aside a Smart Folder, which is a pseudo-inbox view of mail that's been run through pattern-matching filters, to hold mail from InfoWorld. With Leopard, I was able to make a derivative Smart Folder that catches e-mail from my managers and editors, producing an in-my-face notification rule when new mail arrives.
Mail's new Activity pane constantly displays the real-time status of server connections and message transfers (in both directions) among multiple mail servers in real time. If a server is down or connectivity to it is slow, you'll know it immediately instead of assuming that a message has been sent successfully. You'll not only see connections as they're opened and closed, but also the transfer rate of the message.
I have multiple accounts on seven e-mail servers (my own, InfoWorld's, Google's, and others). That's a lot of cracks to fall through, but now I can watch priority e-mail go out, or fail to do so, and I have a chance to immediately flip to a different server if I need to. I can be on the phone with someone, send them an e-mail, and say "it's in your inbox ... now" with confidence once the message transfer progress bar fills in.