Leopard, which came out on Friday, has a slicker, more reflective look than previous versions of OS X. The biggest change to the Mac operating system is the dock, which has shed its 2D filmstrip look in place of a reflective, and 3D dock. The toolbar on the top of the screen has also been made slightly transparent to give you a peek at the desktop background beneath.
There's a new look in Finder called Cover Flow. If you've ever used the feature in Apple's iTunes jukebox software, or in the new iPods, the system works the same way. Each file gets its own photo preview, which is especially helpful when looking at media items like photos and videos.
Leopard's new QuickLook feature lets you get an instant preview of any file you're looking at in Finder. To toggle it, just hit the space bar on your keyboard. Quickview works with all sorts of files, including photos, movies, PDFs and other office documents.
One of the cooler features in Leopard is Web Clips. Web Clips lets you take a chunk out of any Web site and turn it into a widget to use in OS X's Dashboard. It's only available using Safari, and can be toggled with a scissors button on your browser's toolbar. Just click it, and you'll get a little box you can move around to fit any content on the page. When you're done, just click the OK button, and your new widget will show up on your Dashboard where it will update along with the Web site.
If you like reading RSS feeds while away from an Internet connection you're in luck, because the new version of the mail app lets you read and store all your favorite RSS feeds. To add a feed, just drag RSS, XML or ATOM feed into mail, and it will stick into the RSS feeds folder on the left hand side. You can read the messages while offline and even send them to your friends as an email.
Finder's new side bar keeps track of all sorts of items that have been created or edited by time. You can track items from today, the day before, last week or by file type. If you're a .Mac subscriber, you can also access the entire hard drive of any remote computers that share your account.
For people avoiding to get desktop clutter, the new version of Apple's Safari browser will save any files you download into a handy folder that sits on your dock. Mac users will really find this new feature handy when downloading application installers from the Web.
Stacks is a new feature that lets you create little folders in the dock that expand when you click on them. You can group all sorts of files or applications together, and it won't take up nearly as much space, or require as much digging to get to the file as it did before. Windows users missing the start button can create their own application launcher by simply dragging all the icons from the applications folder into a new stack.
Setting up Time Machine, OS X Leopard's new data backup system requires picking a hard disk where you want to store all the various versions of your files. It works on the fly with each file, or as an entire system backup. When you fill up your disk space, Time Machine will simply cease to continue backing things up.
Spaces is a new feature in Leopard, and it's useful for the folks with small screens who like to run a lot of applications at once. Spaces lets you toggle multiple desktops where you can drag and drop open application windows. You can keep it simple with two, or bump it all the way up to 16. Power users can also set up applications to always open up in a certain space, keeping screen real estate under control.
System Preferences doesn't look a whole lot different from Tiger, but new on the list are controls for Time Machine and Spaces, the latter of which has been grouped in with Expose.
The Time Machine shows selected applications, pictures, documents and other items as they appeared throughout their history. If you find a lost file, just click the Restore button to return it to your present Desktop. You can even select your inbox in Mail and use Time Machine to show what was in the inbox at various times in the past.
Apple has added security enhancements including more firewall control.
We like that Macs sip rather than gulp energy by default. Mac OSX still offers easy controls for powering down the monitor and CPU after you're away from them for a while.
iChat's videoconferencing enables you to add custom backgrounds. Just step out of view of the webcam when it tells you to, or it won't work properly. Sadly, the anticipated 'Star Wars hologram' effect didn't make into the Leopard final cut.
Alongside the Dictionary, you can look up Wikipedia entries without going to a Web browser. You will, however, need an Internet connection since Wikipedia doesn't save entries to the hard drive.
We weren't able to run GarageBand the first couple of times we tried to open it in Leopard, but a system reboot seemed to do the trick.