First Look: 23 things we want in Leopard

Capturing moving pictures

OS X has always had pretty good screen capture tools—you can take screenshots of the whole screen or a window, and have those shots go to the hard drive or the clipboard. But what I’d love to see in OS X 10.5 is a built-in screen movie capture tool. For anyone who writes, or does tech support for relatives, or who plays video games, capturing a screen movie can be a valuable tool—for showing others how something works, or just for proving to your friends that you really did kill that level 17 Jwarbatic Slather Beast with your bare hands and a Twinkie.

As of today, on PowerPC Macs at least, Ambrosia’s Snapz Pro X is the best solution for capturing screen movies. Snapz Pro X does a very good job at capturing movies of onscreen actions, but I think Apple could build in a perfect tool. It’d be great if I could just tell my relatives, “Hit Shift-Command-5 and record a movie of what you’re seeing on the screen,” instead of trying to debug things through iChats and/or e-mail. I can’t very well ask them to all go buy a relatively expensive tool just to make things easier for me. Well, I could ask, but I’m pretty sure I’d get a very low response rate!—RG

Bring back Sherlock

I expect one of two things to happen with Sherlock in OS X 10.5. Either the Web services app will make a triumphant return, or it’s going to vanish into the ether. Unfortunately, I think the latter is most probable, and that’s too bad.

Rather than managing a whole mess of open Dashboard widgets, why can’t we have the option of a single application that bundles features into one window?

With the demise of Karelia Software’s Watson—a sorely missed Web-searching tool that could find eBay items, airline travel times, phone numbers, and other data—Sherlock is really the only Web services application out there. Watson was an amazing program for its time, simplifying and streamlining the process of accessing the wealth of info present on the Internet. It’s apparent that Apple sees Dashboard as the successor for Sherlock, as many of Apple’s widgets duplicate features found in Sherlock.

But from my seat, there’s a big difference between using a nicely-written OS X application that has many features bundled in one window and opening 15 Dashboard widgets. The application is easily managed; the collection of widgets, not so much. I long for a usable replacement for Watson, and I had hoped Apple would pick up the slack with Sherlock. That hasn’t happened yet, and sadly, I don’t think Leopard is going to end my longing… but one can always hope.—RG

Pop-up innovations

Tiger brought us Dashboard, and scores of Dashboard widgets have appeared on the scene in the ensuing months. But Dashboard is still far more limited than it should be. Sure, it’s a clever idea to hide Dashboard widgets on an invisible layer that only appears when you press F12—but as the saying goes, out of sight means out of mind. I find myself rarely using Dashboard widgets, mostly because I never remember to press F12 to see what’s going on.

So it’s time for some more Dashboard innovations from Apple. First off, you should be able to (legally and officially, not by exploiting hacks or bugs in the system) drag widgets off of the Dashboard layer and into the regular Mac interface. But let’s go beyond that: Why not give Dashboard programmers the ability to interact with the regular Mac interface when the need arises? For example, what about a widget that floats to your Mac’s surface when something important happens?

Speaking of floating notifications, lots of clever Mac applications now support Growl, a system for generating system notifications—largely in the form of small floating windows that briefly appear when something important happens. Once again, this is a place where Apple could really inspire some interface innovation by creating something like Growl and providing it as a resource for all Mac software to use.—JS

Tabbed Terminal

I use Terminal a lot—for everything from using SSH to connect to my home Macs while traveling to uploading files to the Mac OS X Hints server to installing open source software. As such, I usually have a large number of Terminal windows open. Even on a large screen, it can become problematic keeping them all straight, especially when they have identical background and font colors.

Instead of managing 20 separate windows, I’d love OS X 10.5’s Terminal to offer the option for tabbed Terminal windows. The open-source application iTerm has tabbed windows, and they’re amazingly handy. Unfortunately, the program was last updated in February, and there are a few minor issues with it.

For now, I use iTerm when I’m going to be doing a window-intensive Unix session, and Terminal the rest of the time. But if Apple were to add tabs to Terminal in Leopard, I could rid myself of another application.—RG

PowerPC or not to be?

I don’t know what new features Steve Jobs will have up his sleeve when he pulls back the curtain to reveal OS X 10.5 at August’s Worldwide Developers Conference. But there is one prediction about the OS X update code-named Leopard that I’m absolutely confident about making.

Mac OS X 10.5 will run on both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs.

As for the next major version of OS X after Leopard? Well, I wouldn’t get my hopes up, PowerPC users.

The history of Apple—indeed, of any company that plies its trade in the tech biz—is one of cutting off legacy technologies once they grow too onerous to maintain. Consider the last major transition the Mac platform underwent. In May 2002, Steve Jobs declared OS 9 as dead as disco —a little more than a year after OS X’s debut. By 2003, the company stopped selling new Macs that could boot into OS 9.

It’s a little too soon for Apple to take a similar tack with PowerPC-based machines. Still, you have to figure the clock started winding down on those models the precise moment Jobs announced the transition to Intel-supplied processors. Indeed, while Leopard will likely run just fine on a PowerPC machine, a feature such as the promised Boot Camp integration will most definitely not. And while I can’t definitively say whether other, as-of-yet-unannounced Leopard features will only work on Intel machines at this point in time, if I may paraphrase the Magic 8-Ball, all signs point to yes.

But I wouldn’t rend my garments just yet, PowerPC owners—that PowerMac G5 or PowerBook G4 has a few years of life in it before Apple cuts you off from future OS X updates. Apple has indicated that the August showing of Leopard will be a preview, not a full-fledged release. Let’s assume we don’t see a shipping version of OS X 10.5 until at least Macworld Expo in January 2007 or, more likely, spring of that year. Since we no longer live in an age of annual OS X overhauls, let’s also assume that it’s another 18 to 24 months after that before OS X 10.6—Fisher Cat? Siamese? Meerkat?—arrives. By my estimate, then, it’ll be 2009 by the time Apple issues its last call for PowerPC Macs. (“You don’t have to go home, but you can’t compute here.”) And that assumes that OS X 10.6 is, in fact, the last call. Or that OS X+1 isn’t warming up in the wings, for that matter.—PHILIP MICHAELS

[ Senior editor Rob Griffiths runs the Mac OS X Hints Web site. Senior editor Christopher Breen offers Mac troubleshooting hints in his Mac 911 weblog. Jason Snell is the editorial director of Macworld . Jim Dalrymple is Macworld.com’s news director. Philip Michaels is the executive editor of the Web site. ]

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