Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard review


Customise your installation

If you choose to customise your installation, you’ll notice that the installation of printer drivers is entirely different in 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: If I don’t install HP drivers now, does that mean I won’t ever be able to use HP printers? But Snow Leopard doesn’t work that way. Instead, it automatically installs drivers for printers your computer has used in the past. If you’re on a network, it installs drivers for the connected printers it finds out there, too. 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. Turns out most of us are wasting gigabytes of hard-drive space on printer drivers that we don’t need.

What happens if you encounter a strange, new printer? If you’ve got an Internet connection at that moment, you shouldn’t have much trouble: Snow Leopard will automatically download and install the drivers it needs.

The revamped installation process doesn't require an immediate reboot and saves space by changing how printer drivers are installed.


If you really need bullet-proof, instantaneous compatibility with a vast array of printers, you can opt to install all the drivers - you just won’t realize the disk-space savings you might have otherwise. But for most of us, Apple’s new printer installation method should be all but invisible - except for the reclaimed disk space.

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. Rosetta only takes up a few megabytes of drive space, and without it older programs simply won’t run, so if you have such programs, that option is worth checking. To find out if an App is PowerPC only, select an old app and choose Get Info; if its Kind is listed as Application (PowerPC), it needs Rosetta.

If you don’t, and if you later try to launch a PowerPC app, Snow Leopard will pop up a window to explain that you need Rosetta and offer to install it for you (via Apple’s Software Update utility). I can only assume that making Rosetta optional is an attempt by Apple to goad users to upgrade their apps and to shame developers who still haven’t recompiled their apps to run on Intel chips. 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. No, QuickTime hasn’t suddenly become optional in Snow Leopard. But Snow Leopard’s new QuickTime Player is as radical a departure from the old model as iMovie ’08 was from iMovie HD: it’s a complete reimagining of the app, one that strips away many features that many of us find useful.

If the Mac you’re upgrading to Snow Leopard includes a QuickTime Pro key, you’ll find that QuickTime Player 7 is still on your Mac, but has been moved to the /Applications/Utilities folder. If you don’t have a QuickTime Pro key but still want access to the classic QuickTime 7 player, you’ll need to do a custom install in order to get it.

NEXT: A familiar face


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