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Monday, October 29, 2007

Apple Mac OS X Leopard arrived

After delays to make way for the iPhone, Apple's new operating system arrived. We put it to the test,

Seven months late and two and a half years after the last upgrade, Apple's latest operating system is finally here. The new version, Mac OS X 10.5, better known as Leopard, has more than 300 new features, but how much of a difference will users notice?

While the changes are numerous, switching to Leopard won't present too steep a learning curve to those who upgrade. It is certainly nothing like the leap up from Windows XP to Vista - Microsoft's new operating system - earlier in the year.

More evolution than revolution, Leopard includes a major graphical overhaul, giving a slick system more polish than ever. The dock where your favourite programs sit is now 3D, for example, and you can search for files using the Cover Flow interface that lets iTunes users flick through images of CD covers.

Another time-saving feature is a tool that shows a preview image of files before you open them, helping you find what you're looking for more quickly.

As well as the new coat of paint, there are more substantial changes and additions such as Stacks, Time Machine and Spaces. Stacks is a new way of grouping together multiple programs into categories such as office or photography.

Time Machine is an automatic system backup application that will create copies of files on an external drive, so you can fly back in time to access files you might have deleted. It is, of course, graphically impressive and easy to use, but also an incredibly powerful and impressive bit of kit.

Spaces tries to keep you desktop clean and tidy by dividing it into 16 desktop screens, each of which can have applications running. It can get a bit confusing at times, but you can set certain programs to open in certain spaces, keeping them out of the way.

After playing with the system for a couple of days, it becomes apparent that there is plenty on offer, ranging from small improvements such as being able to see which wi-fi networks are locked or open to more drastic changes such as smart folders. The allow you to assign files automatically to certain folders, so one may contain all photographs or another contain any file with the word 'work' in the file name.

Should you upgrade? For £85 it's probably well worth the investment, if only for the safety net of the Time Machine.

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