What’s new in the Mac world? Oh, not much, just a major new release of Mac OS X is all, one that very inexpensively makes your Mac that much faster, more stable, and more enjoyable to use. It’s called Mac OS X 10.6, a.k.a. Snow Leopard.
As you might have guessed, Snow Leopard is the successor to Mac OS X 10.5, a.k.a. Leopard. It doesn’t give your Mac a ton of new capabilities, as Leopard did over Tiger; instead, Snow Leopard tunes, tightens, and refines your Mac experience. That may not sound like much, but imagine you could upgrade your car to have more horsepower, better handling, less rattles, etc. That’s Snow Leopard. Apple engineers have done a tremendous amount of needed work under the hood, so to speak.
Perhaps to be expected, Snow Leopard comes with good news and bad news. The good news is that it is only $29, as opposed to the $129 that the four previous versions of Mac OS X cost. The bad news is that if you don’t have an Intel based Mac — that is, if you have an iBook, PowerBook, or anything with G3, G4, or G5 in the name — Apple has said goodbye to you. Snow Leopard is for Intel based Macs only. (If you’re not sure what you have, ask us!)
So what’s new in Snow Leopard?
- Speed. Everything is crisper, faster, tighter, with fewer spinning pinwheels.
- Stability and bug fixes. (What, Apple software has bugs?) This is a big deal for features like Time Machine, which used to get cranky if you closed your MacBook while it was working.
- Subtle usability improvements throughout.
- Snow Leopard takes up less disk space. If you install it over Mac OS X 10.5, you’ll discover you have 7 GB more. (It also creates the illusion of more disk space as well, because Snow Leopard now displays disk and file sizes the way humans count, not the way computers count. You know how when you buy a 500 GB disk drive and it turns out to actually have 430 GB? That’s why. The box is labelled the way humans count. So in Snow Leopard, it will appear to be 500 GB.)
- More security features, though the consensus appears to be that they’re somewhat half-assed, and if you are worried about such things you should still use a third-party product. (In fact, one of the first things you should do after installing Snow Leopard is to update Flash Player form http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/, as the version installed has a known security flaw.)
- If you use Microsoft Exchange server, you can now access your calendar, contacts, and mail using Apple’s applications (iCal, Address Book, and Mail) as an alternative to Entourage.
- Older laptops now get some of the neat trackpad capabilities of the new ones.
- If you use Back To My Mac (a feature of MobileMe) to remote control a Mac at home, it no longer needs to be left on; it can be remotely woken up.
- Other bells and whistles. Quite a lot of them, all individually small, but they add up to create a superior Mac experience.
Should you upgrade to Snow Leopard for $29?
We say absolutely…but not yet. It is always wise to wait a month or two after a major operating system release, so the bugs can be found and shaken out via updates. Of course, if you can’t wait that long and want Apple’s latest and greatest, don’t let us stand in your way. Mac users across the land are using it without issue. Especially if you’re still on 10.4 (Tiger), you’re now two major releases behind, and it’s time to get current!
Note that Snow Leopard does not come with the ’09 versions of iLife (iPhoto, iDVD, iMovie, iWeb, GarageBand) or iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote). You can buy those products individually, or get all three in one box for $169, which is slightly less than it would be otherwise.
That’s the overview. If you want to know anything more about Snow Leopard, or aren’t sure if you want to upgrade — you know who to ask. We’re here.