Now that I’ve had some time to play with Leopard, I can say that I actually like it. I think a lot of the subtle design elements are still a bit unpolished and in flux (like the way they added the ability to make the Dock not shiny at the last minute) and yeah, that transparent MenuBar really needs to go. Transparency is tricky (no interface element’s visibility should be so dependent on whatever’s showing in the background—I had to switch my desktop background to dark grey). It might look great in screenshots but it’s a bastard to use when you actually need to read stuff on your menu. Having said that I often use a transparent terminal window (dark grey background with loud yellow letters) when I actually need to see stuff in the background (like debugging a web app) but those cases are rare. The only other gripe is that a lot of my favorite widgets broke.
OS X (that’s Oh Ess Ten for Windows folk) is really an evolutionary operating system. What we get today with the release of 10.5 will eventually be refined and polished by the time we hit 10.5.9 or so. There are a lot of hints in the design and refinements showing us where Jobs & Co. is headed. One of the things emerging from Leopard is how much Apple is paying attention to flow and productivity. I have no doubt that there are many GTD followers among Apple engineers. For example, Mail.app is becoming more of a GTD command center with integrated ToDo lists and what not. You can sense that with additions like Spaces (to create virtual desktops you can switch back and forth from), the new Finder, and other refinements that a lot of thought went into defining the optimal flow of things.
At the same time it’s hard to give one defining characteristic of Leopard aside from Time Machine. Of course, while Time Machine is very cool and well done, it is after all a backup utility. Not something I’ll be spending most of my time in.
One of the side benefits of Leopard is the new Cocoa API used by third party developers as a platform to create new and wonderful software out of Apple’s reach. One of the apps rumored to showcase Leopard’s under the hood capabilities is Delicious Library 2. Another big one for me is TextMate 2 which supposedly makes use of CoreText (or whatever) API improvements in text-handling (which I’m sure is necessitated by Apple’s extending global reach). We’ll have to see what new and exciting possibilities are offered by the improved API.
I for one would like to see a much more improved GTD stack of some sort. One that integrates well with the myriad of web services out there (Remember the Milk, Google Calendar, etc.). Right now you really have to stitch a bunch of tools together with assorted hacks to cherry pick the best features offered by a variety of services.
The Biggest Feature of All…
One thing that amazes me is that after over a year and a half after switching from Windows to a mac is how much I take for granted. Here I am, with a freshly installed, brand new operating system typing away on a blog and the only disruption I suffered is the one hour it took me to run the upgrade and some of my favorite Dashboard Widgets no longer working. No crashes or lost data. Minor gripes with some interface elements (which I know will get remedied) but aside from that nothing eventful.
Also, the system as a whole runs more stable (Firefox is less problematic for example, another incentive to keep sending those automatic crash reports to Apple) and faster. Maybe that’s the biggest “feature” of all that Redmond cannot reproduce no matter how much they try to keep up with the interface: painless and steady improvement.