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Leopard is uncaged

[intro]My copy of Mac OS X 10.5 has finally arrived - will it be worth the wait?[/intro] Just when I thought a busy week of gadgeting  (and Awards

[intro]My copy of Mac OS X 10.5 has finally arrived – will it be worth the wait?[/intro]

Just when I thought a busy week of gadgeting  (and Awards presenting) was over, I get home to find a courier waiting at my door with a copy of the latest Apple operating system in his hand. I already know the direction my weekend is taking…

As I wait for Mac OS X 10.5 (aka Leopard) to install on my Intel iMac, I can finally allow myself to get excited about the delayed OS upgrade. I’ll be honest: the demos that I’ve seen at Mac events have been somewhat overshadowed by other things (like, erm, the iPhone), so today I sat down and began to measure my expectations.

From what I’ve read and seen on Apple’s Leopard site , there are some real treats in store. Here’s what I’m looking forward to most:

1. Web clipping This is a really neat idea that could spell the end for the burgeoning world of widgets. It’s a really simple idea: you highlight the part of a web page that you really like, clip it, and keep it – constantly updated – on your dashboard. I’m really interested to see how this works.

2 Cover flow. I like it on iTunes, and love it on the iPhone – but how’s Apple’s carousel-style interface going to work for browsing through files? It should look good, thanks to the enhanced preview capability called Quick Look that allows you to see what documents, pictures and movies actually look like. But I’m used to browsing by name – will this be more than eye candy?

3 Time Machine. Ok, it’s just a backup application. But it looks really really cool, presenting a line of windows stretching away from you into a spacey time-tunnel that’s a little bit like the 3D window selection in Vista. (I know, I know, but it’s about time Apple pinched something back.)

4 iChat. If i can just get this working through my office firewall, it’d be a great way to collaborate – you can now share documents and do presentations over a video linkup.

5 Stacks. This have been talked about in Apple circles for a long, long time, and I still can’t quite get my head around them – basically, I think they’re a way of organising files and folders without them cluttering your desktop. I’m looking forward to finding out more.

6 Spaces. At last, I can switch between multiple desktops running different applications – and by using Parallels, one of them can be Windows. I’m glad I bought those 4GBs of RAM…

7 Mail. One thing here, really – data recognition that will allow you to instantly add addresses and phone numbers at the bottom of emails to the address book, without having to manually cut and paste.

8 Dashcode. OK, I just said Widgets might be dead, but having played with an early version of this widget-creation software I’m keen to get my hands dirty and create some stuff.tv dashboard widgets. It’s easier than you’d think.

And what I’m not looking forward to? Well, I like the spacey theme of Leopard (see the packaging, above) but I’m a bit worried that the transparent menu bar and dock are taking the whole thing down too much of a Vista line.

30 minutes into the installation and it’s still ‘checking installation DVD’. This may take some time. I’ll report back when I’ve actually had a play.

UPDATE: It’s all installed. But it’s not working. Like a number of aluminium iMac owners, I encountered a problem with a software update in the old Mac OS that caused video artifacts on the screen and plenty o’ crashes. Apple has acknowledged the problem and said it’ll have a fix out by the end of the month. In the meantime, you can roll back the update and use your iMac without any problems.

I thought that the new system would solve this problem. I’m sorry to report that it hasn’t – and there’s no previous software to roll back to. So what I get is a black screen if I do something as mundane as rolling over the Dock. My Leopard report may take a while… GRRRRRRRR…