Mac OS X Snow Leopard: Perfection, refined

Numerous usability enhancements and important reengineering under the hood make Snow Leopard a worthy update to the king of operating systems

New releases of Apple's Mac OS X operating system are highly anticipated because each one upgrades the Mac platform in the best way. That is, for Mac users, a new Mac OS X release is always like getting a new computer. Apple generally brags of hundreds of new features folded into each release, and post-upgrade exploration is an enjoyable exercise that marks cultural and design differences between the Mac and the PC.

If the question on your mind is whether to buy Snow Leopard, Apple has made it a no-brainer. The price -- $29 for a single machine license, $49 for a pack of five -- brings overdue sanity to runaway client OS pricing. Owners of Intel Macs should consider Snow Leopard a must-have because it's optimized for their hardware to an extreme that Apple could not approach before.

[ Perfection? Find out what's wrong with Snow Leopard. Discover the 7 best features of Mac OS X Snow Leopard and get the details on all the new Mac OS X features in InfoWorld's "What's new in Mac OS X Snow Leopard" slideshows. ]

Apple uses the term "refinement" to describe Snow Leopard, downplaying the sweeping scope of change in the new OS. While Apple asserts that "at least 99 percent" of the 1,000 or so projects that make up Mac OS X saw improvement (I buy that; just streamlining the PowerPC branches out of the code would touch most projects), much of that change cannot be seen as added functionality. Apple's efforts are, however, quite palpable to users.

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This is an upgrade that most users will feel more than see. Some users, such as the visually impaired and developers of performance-sensitive applications, will now see the Mac as the only rational platform choice. For everyone else, Snow Leopard is a total rush, a shot of adrenaline to a platform that was already perfect in design. Every part of the user experience is palpably accelerated so that you can do more with just the core platform, apart from applications. Snow Leopard is scaled up to run more applications and have more Web sites open simultaneously while easing navigation and protecting stability.

Dock Expose brings order to cluttered workspaces. See all of an application's windows by clicking an icon in the Dock.
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