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
Automator workflows work just like scripts because they are, and through the magic of integration, Automator workflows can be triggered by such events as incoming e-mail and the appearance of a new file in a folder. But Leopard adds command-line support to Automator so that non-user-facing processes (background processes) and shell scripts can kick off Automator workflows, even injecting variables. I'm all over that. It bridges the immense gap between the OS X GUI and Unix without exposing you to AppleScript, which is powerful but arcane.
Finder is a great example of integration through Apple's consumption of its own dog food. Remote file servers now appear in Finder's sidebar rather than in a separate Network Neighborhood, making file servers as easy to access as DVD-ROMs and local drives. If a listed server supports remote console access through Leopard screen-sharing or the open VNC protocol, one click gives you access to the display, mouse, and keyboard.
To support Spotlight desktop search, Tiger was equipped with the ability to extract data from a wide range of native and foreign content types, such as XML and HTML files, PDF documents, Word documents, and PowerPoint/Keynote presentations, to populate its search database. Apple used this to create QuickLook, which previews any of Leopard's understood file types with one click, without opening the application that created it or even requiring that the application be present on the computer. For presentations and PDFs, you can page through the entire document in QuickLook, and you can expand any QuickLook preview to fill the screen.
Time Machine provides exceptional automatic, continuous backup of client data, handled in the background. For home and individual professional users, Time Machine backs up to an external hard drive attached via FireWire or USB. In a commercial setting, Time Machine can make use of Xserve, which includes Time Machine Server, to protect groups of Mac clients on a LAN. Time Machine isn't archive-like backup that requires a special app for recovery; you can use Time Machine to recover lost files from any point in your system's history. But for me, Time Machine's greatest value lies in its ability to restore an entire Mac from a Time Machine disk or server backup in one click. You're not just covered for lost files and folders. Because Time Machine can be used to recover a full system, you can use it to clone a machine as well. Even in the worst case, you'll lose a few hours' work.
Leopard is remarkable. It's more and better software than anyone should sell for $129 and more than I can stuff into a story that's already way too long. I'll keep riffing on Leopard in my Enterprise Mac blog, where you'll find my take on other Leopard features as I transcribe my experiences and create new ones. If you feel you've been denied a chance to get your geek on, I am now working on a review of OS X Leopard Server, which will describe the Leopard Unix architecture that exists in identical form in the Leopard client reviewed here.
About 11 years ago, I wrote a column (in another publication) in response to letters I had received that called me to task for hailing the arrival of computers that were performance overkill for the majority of users. I wrote that the reason to look forward to the faster personal computer is that it would have the spare firepower and resources to look after itself, to stay out of the user's way while being a microsecond away from answering any user demand, and to make sure that the user never has to do anything twice. That's Leopard.