You don't even have to reboot off the DVD. Of course, that made us a little uneasy, since we've always chosen Archive and Install to get a fresh OS, but you can't have cold feet here -- that option's been removed. We've been told it's now the default action behind the scenes, but the bottom line is that you have to trust the installer more than ever before -- and while we didn't have any major problems, it would be nice if we could force a new install of the OS without having to wipe a disk. Installation itself took about 45 minutes on most of the machines we tried, although we did run into some snags once things were complete.
We didn't have any problems with the more pristine MacBook Pros in our fleet, but one of our production machines is a cranky older iMac that's been in constant use for over two years without a system rebuild, and when it restarted the desktop pictures were all set to the defaults, the System Preferences app wouldn't launch from the Apple Menu, our MobileMe sync states were a little confused and Spotlight began reindexing all the external drives.
Snow Leopard review
Fixing these problems didn't take much, but if your machine is already acting up don't expect everything to go perfectly. Other installation notes: We were promised 6GB of storage savings with Rosetta is no longer installed by default, so if you're still rocking some legacy non-Universal apps you'll want to make sure and install it. Printer driver installation is much smarter, installing drivers only for those printers you've used in the past and printers that appear on your local network.
We have no idea why Apple continues to insist on installing language translations by default, but they're much smaller now at MB. Overall, installing Snow Leopard is just like installing any other major OS update: The process itself is fine in fact, Apple has even built in some safeguards to let you pick up an install if your computer dies or is shut off half way through , but it's the little kinks you have to work out afterwards that can be tricky. If you haven't loaded up your system with hacks and tweaks chances are you'll be fine -- and if you're living on the edge, well, you're probably used to doing some extra work around upgrade time.
UI enhancements Dock Expose Previous OS X releases have brought major UI features like Expose and Dashboard with them, but there's nothing that major in Snow Leopard, although the various tweaks to the system are certainly appreciated. The biggest new feature is Dock Expose, which, as you'd expect, simply links Expose to the Dock. Holding down on an app's icon triggers Expose for that application's windows, and if you drag a file onto an app, you can then select which window you want to drop it into.
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It's definitely nice, but it's not earth-shattering. Here's a little video of it in action: Stacks We've never been huge users of the Stacks feature, but it's been tweaked and is much more usable in All the other views are essentially the same -- and for whatever reason, dragging a file onto a stack icon doesn't open the stack, but instead opens a Finder window. While we're on the subject of folders in the dock, explain this nonsensical operation to us: This counter-intuitive and frankly frustrating glitch has been around since Tiger -- and we have no idea why.
Here's some video: Finder file previews We'll get to the big Finder changes shortly -- the Cocoa rewrite definitely improved things -- but the big UI tweak here is live file previews. That means you can watch a video, flip through a document, and generally peek at things without having to open an app or even hit the space bar for Quick Look. It's quite handy -- but again, not earth-shattering. The new Finder, on the other hand, is both major and more than welcome.
Notable app changes Finder It's hard to explain how dramatically improved the Finder is now, because there's nothing externally different beyond those file previews and an icon-size slider in icon view. Suffice to say that the Cocoa rewrite has simply made things better: Sure, all the old Finder quibbles like inconsistent windows states and those damned. At least until we dump another couple thousand files into the system and slow things down again. Although the big change for users is the "dark" interface with a title bar and controller strip that disappear during playback, underneath QuickTime has been entirely rewritten with hooks into modern OS X components like Core Video, Core Animation, and Core Audio.
OS X Snow Leopard Updated for the First Time Since | Digital Trends
That doesn't mean much if you're just playing back an MP3 or a single video, but remember that QuickTime is more than an app -- it's the entire media layer for OS X, so the Snow Leopard rebuild will have big consequences down the line. That said, there are some notable changes with QuickTime Player: That glossy title might come at a steep price for some of us -- at least at first glance. QuickTime Player X has certainly added some welcome new options for most, but for QuickTime 7 Pro users, things get a little confusing. If you've already got Pro on your system and do a straight install, you'll end up with the standard new QuickTime -- which means a lot of what you're used to will be missing.
Hell, there isn't even a preferences dialog -- so say goodbye to presenting movies on a different monitor, or choosing a default full screen setting. The changes also means that you can't do quick'n'dirty edits by copy-and-pasting anymore a favorite of Engadget editors , and export options have been reduced to presets for iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, MobileMe, and YouTube. On top of that, some QuickTime-dependent apps seem like they need a rewrite to work correctly -- we couldn't get our Turbo.
Oh, and those screen recordings? They're encoded with some combination of H. That may not be the case for all, but it was for us. This won't be too much of an issue for users who are sticking with the basic QuickTime functionality, but for those of us who've become accustomed to Pro, it may be a little shock. Interestingly, Apple let us know that you can actually re-install QuickTime 7 Pro from the Snow Leopard disc and from your Utilities folder, oddly , but if you hop right into a standard upgrade, it's amazingly easy to miss we did on multiple systems.
Safari 4 If you're thinking of upgrading to Snow Leopard on day one, chances are you're already running Safari 4, since it's been available since June. The big changes in That means if a plugin like Flash crashes it won't take the whole app down with it, but sadly, we weren't able to test it -- for maybe the first time ever, we couldn't crash a browser.
Hopefully our good luck rubs off on you. Since we're not heavy Exchange users, we won't go in-depth here -- our man Michael Gartenberg has got you covered there -- but in our quick tests we found setup to be simple and the integration to be flawless. It's hard not to look at how well Snow Leopard integrates with Exchange and see exactly why Microsoft decided to kill Entourage and bring a proper version of Outlook to the Mac, but that's not happening for a long while -- until then, we think OS X users who need Exchange will be pretty happy.
Compatibility Here's where it gets a little rough.
OS X Snow Leopard was just updated for the first time in two years
Although Snow Leopard is ostensibly just a polish and repair job on Leopard, there've been enough changes under the hood so that plenty of things are likely to break -- or at least not play nice. As with the installation, if you're running a stock or close-to-stock system, you probably won't run into any problems, but if you've got a setup as tweaked as most of those in the Engadget labs, you're going to run into some issues.
The biggest compatibility-breaker is the demise of InputManager plugins in bit apps, which means things like Unsanity's Application Enhancer framework and Safari plugins like 1Password and Glims are now broken or at least not really playing nice.
But after a decade of constant advancement and regular operating-system upgrades, Apple has taken a pause with the release of Snow Leopard, also known as Mac OS X Instead of adding hundreds of new features, Apple has chosen to use Snow Leopard to cut ties with the past, plan for the future, and take dead aim on its present competition. The result is a Mac OS X update unlike any in recent memory, one that boosts speeds, reclaims disk space, tweaks dozens of features, and lays the groundwork for a new generation of computers that feature bit multicore microprocessors, ultra-powerful graphics processors, and massive amounts of memory.
And that upgrade, the aged among us will recall, was completely free. That sound you hear is a thousand IT managers sighing with relief. Rather than requiring an immediate restart, a lot of it takes place as soon as you double-click the installer. In essence, Apple has taken the wait out of the process: Now you set up all your installation settings and walk away; the rest of the process including a reboot can take place without your direct intervention. And the installation process itself takes less time in Snow Leopard than it did in Leopard. Find out what you need to know about installing Snow Leopard.
In previous versions of OS X, you had the option of installing drivers for the printers of particular vendors.
That was always a bit confusing: Instead, it automatically installs drivers for printers your computer has used in the past. And it installs drivers for printers Apple considers popular. Apple has boasted that Snow Leopard requires less hard-drive space than earlier versions of OS X; believe it or not, this revamped print-driver system is the reason for most of that space savings.
What happens if you encounter a strange, new printer?
No new features.
Snow Leopard will automatically download and install the drivers it needs. There are some other notable options in the customized installation window. Rosetta, the technology that enables code compiled for PowerPC chips to run on Intel chips, is available—but is not installed by default. But given that most everyday users have no idea which of their apps are Intel-native and which are PowerPC, this seems unnecessarily harsh.
Another technology making a surprise appearance in the installation-options list is QuickTime. Unlike previous OS X updates, which offered major new additions or modifications to the Mac interface, Snow Leopard looks largely the same as Leopard.
Instead, they sport white text on a translucent black background. You can now scroll through Stacks when in Grid view. You can also click on a folder to drill down into its contents, displayed right within Stacks. Despite the whizzy animation effect, I never liked the business of pressing a yellow button in the upper left corner of a window to banish it to a Phantom Zone in the corner of the Dock, where it would hang around with the other banished windows, along with other files and folders I had dragged there. It made the Dock a mess, I could never remember what I had stuck down there, and if I clicked on the wrong one windows would fly out of the Dock, unbidden.
Which is why I never, ever press that little yellow button. Fans of the yellow button, fear not: With that box checked, when you click on that yellow button, your window will still fly away into the Dock. But instead of disappearing into the mess on the right, it will minimize into the icon of the application it belongs to. That makes it easy to bring the window back. It even works via drag and drop: You can drag your item over a particular window, which will bring it to the foreground.
Then you can drag and drop that item wherever you want it within that window. If Snow Leopard is all about keeping outward appearances the same while making big changes under the hood, the Finder is the epitome of the new OS. The original Finder was built back in the early days of system development using the Carbon development frameworks; the main goal then was to ease the transition from the classic Mac OS to Mac OS X. Almost every app in Snow Leopard is now bit-capable; that means old apps that relied on Carbon frameworks had to be rewritten using Cocoa.
Those giant icons are generally useless in most instances, at least until Apple finally makes Mac OS X resolution-independent, so that gorgeous bypixel icons can be small and incredibly detailed, rather than the computing equivalent of the oversized novelty check traditionally given to lottery winners.
The Finder still has its occasional hiccups, but Apple has done a good job of making it more efficient. And Finder dilettantes will be thrilled that Apple has finally gotten the behavior of the oblong button at the top right corner of the window bar right—it makes the toolbar and sidebar vanish with a neat animated effect, but otherwise leaves the window looking just like it did before.
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The iPhone 2. Now, with Snow Leopard, the Mac gets the ability to directly connect to Exchange servers, too.
Making the upgrade
In practical terms, that means that Mail, iCal, and Address Book can all be configured easily to connect to corporate Exchange servers. Apple has not been shy in pointing out that the Mac now provides better Exchange connectivity out of the box than Windows does, with no additional software required. But with the release of iPhone 2. If our IT department wants to move us to Exchange, I now say bring it on.