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
Mail is the only collaboration app that I keep open all the time, and the only one whose notifications I bother with. Leopard Mail has a new RSS pseudo-inbox that keeps up with subscribed RSS feeds. A Subject line search within Mail will pull up matching RSS entries as well, and individual feed entries are displayed in the message view pane, just like e-mail. The ringer is Mail's built-in ability to send new RSS updates to me as e-mail. I actually read blogs now because they're part of my essential e-mail workflow, rather than a separate application and task that demand my attention. It works very well, and the kicker is that Leopard Mail can make new blog entries appear in my real Mail inbox.
Mail's Data Detectors find e-mail addresses, URLs, mailing addresses, telephone numbers, dates, and times of day in message bodies. You can right-click over a detected field to show a street address in Google Maps, update Address Book contacts from a phone number or e-mail address, and create iCal events from meeting times mailed to you. A boon for me, and for a friend who doesn't see so well, is that Data Detectors will also display telephone numbers (such as long conference bridge numbers) in screen-filling type with one click.
With Leopard, Apple turned iCal, its weakest bundled app, into a proper professional calendar and scheduler. iCal can send appointments, reservations, and other events to Address Book contacts and groups via e-mail. iCal sends and consumes events packaged in the same RFC 2445 iCal (no relation) format that's understood by Outlook and all other serious calendar apps. I can e-mail an iCal event to my Nokia E61i or BlackBerry and click to add it to their calendar. Leopard's iCal supports the WebDAV protocol for easy synchronization with Web-based calendars such as Yahoo's and .Mac's.
For me, Leopard iCal's home run is the ability to create a new event by dragging an e-mail message (the sender/subject/date line in Mail's message list) and dropping it in iCal. Instead of copying the e-mail's contents into the item description, iCal constructs a hyperlink that opens the original message in Mail using its unique message ID, not its sender or subject.
Easy connections, swift security
Somebody needed to bring some ingenuity to network, file sharing, and firewall settings, which can tangle up even savvy users. System Preferences now supplies an application-based firewall that lets you specify the applications that are and aren't allowed access to the Internet. Any connection attempt from an application not on your list triggers a notification that gives you a chance to block or allow the request. It's a good idea to add downloaded apps to the deny list until you're certain they only reach out to the Internet when you ask them to. This is smarter than the common port/protocol method. App firewalls stop malware and applications that covertly phone home with your personal info. As a bonus, Apple moved firewall settings to System Preferences' Security pane, where it belongs.
Leopard's System Preferences makes network setup and troubleshooting a breeze. All network interfaces — Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and FireWire on the MacBook Pro — show their real-time status in plain language, and only the minimum required configuration details are displayed and open to change. An Advanced button brings up the original, expert-level Networking preferences pane. It's quite a contrast. I'm a net-savvy guy, and I appreciate the cleaner, simpler view.