Thu, 27 Aug 2009 Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard review
Mac OS X 10.6 upgrade adds Exchange support and a host of tweaks
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: Generally faster than Leopard; supports Exchange; rudimentary malware checking; most applications run in 64-bit mode; improvements to Exposé and Dock.
- Cons: Lackluster QuickTime Player update; many features won’t truly be exploited until Mac hardware evolves.
- Min specs: Mac computer with an Intel processor; 1GB of memory; 5GB of available disk space; DVD drive for installation.
- Price: £25, £39 Family Pack, Mac Box Set £129, £179 Family Pack
- Star rating:
A familiar face
Unlike previous OS X updates, which offered major new additions or modifications to the Mac interface, Snow Leopard looks largely the same as Leopard. There’s been no radical rethink of the color scheme or toolbars and menu items. However, Apple has done some functional tweaking, most particularly with the Dock and Exposé.
Snow Leopard’s Dock, which underwent a face-lift in Leopard, appears unchanged at first glance. I’m ambivalent about one cosmetic difference: If you Control-click on any item, you’ll see that the contextual menus are no longer the standard black-text-on-white-background seen elsewhere in OS X. Instead, they sport white text on a translucent black background. It matches the look of the Dock, I guess, but that’s about it
On a more substantial note, the Dock’s Stacks feature is now a lot more useful. You can now scroll through Stacks when in Grid view. That enables you to see much more of what’s in a particular folder—which helps a lot if your Stacks folders contain lots of items. You can also click on a folder to drill down into its contents, displayed right within Stacks. It’s been enough to make me actually use Stacks’ Grid view regularly for the first time, with my Downloads folder.
You can now navigate into and out of folders from right within Stacks.
I’ve never been a big fan of OS X’s handling of minimized windows (which dates back to the original release of Mac OS X). 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.
The Dock's new dark contextual menus indicate with a diamond that two windows have been minimized into Safari's Dock icon.
Fans of the yellow button, fear not: by default, Snow Leopard still minimizes windows the same stupid way Mac OS X has for the last ten years. For us complainers, though, there’s a new alternative: A Minimize Windows Into Application Icon checkbox in System Preferences’ Dock pane. 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. (Minimized windows are indicated in most programs by a diamond in an app’s Window menu; you can see that same list by Control-clicking on the app’s icon in the Dock.) Even better, this feature works with Exposé: When you invoke Exposé, all minimized windows line up together at the very bottom of the screen.