Inside Leopard: Macworld's OS X 10.5 preview

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Inside Leopard: Under-the-hood

There’s plenty going on above the surface in Leopard to grab your attention—from entirely new features to enhanced favorites. But don’t let that prevent you from taking a deeper look at the under-the-hood changes introduced by OS X 10.5. Terminal, X11, and Disk Utility may not be the stuff of headlines, but there are enough significant changes here to radically affect how you interact with Mac OS X.

Terminal

Terminal is the application that gives users direct access to the Unix core of OS X. As such, it’s not something that everyone will use every day. However, for folks such as Unix converts and those who like to use OS X’s Unix programs, it’s an essential application—and it’s received a substantial upgrade in Leopard.

What’s new

Apple has given Unix users a friendlier face with the latest version to Terminal.

Tabs As with Safari (and basically every other Web browser) and iChat, Terminal now sports a tabbed interface—press Command-T or choose Shell -> New Tab, and you’ll see a new tab appear at the top of your Terminal screen. Tabs are a great way to keep multiple information sources available at one time without crowding your screen when not in active use.

Tabs in Terminal windows are quite flexible—you can drag them around within one window to rearrange them, drag them out of the tab bar to create new windows, or drag and drop to transfer them into another Terminal window. You can even take an open Terminal window without any tabs, show its tab bar (Shift-Command-T), and then drag that window into a tabbed Terminal window to create a new tab from the window.

Settings You can create a variety of Terminal window looks, and save each of them in the Settings section of Terminal’s preferences. Using the new Inspector, you can then easily select a different look for each Terminal window—or tab—that you have in use.

You can also set the opacity level of selected, normal, and bold text; background color; and the cursor independently—OS X 10.4 only allowed setting the opacity for the background color. If you were a fan of using an image for your Terminal background, though, you’ll be disappointed: that feature has been dropped in Leopard.

Window Groups You can also create window groups in Terminal, which are collections of open windows and tabs. You can set a workspace as the default, so it opens when you launch Terminal, or you can switch between them using the Window -> Open Window Group menu item. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to change which window group is the default without opening it and saving it again.

Inspector The Inspector has been greatly simplified for OS X 10.5. There are now only two tabs: Info and Settings. Info lets you change a tab or window’s title and size, and shows a list of running processes. Settings lets you change the look of a window or tab by choosing one of the your defined settings.

Revised Preferences In prior versions of OS X’s Terminal, the Preferences screen was quite basic—just a couple of radio buttons, a pop-up menu, and a checkbox. In Leopard, though, there are now four tabs. Startup is most similar to the old Preferences panel; Settings and Window Groups are used to manage those respective features; and Encodings lets you specify text encoding options.

What we think

The OS X 10.5 Terminal works quite well, and the addition of tabs makes managing lots of randomly-placed Terminal windows a thing of the past. With even more control over window appearance, most users will be quite happy with Terminal 2.0.

If you access the Unix side of OS X at all, you’ll need a terminal program to do so. In the past, programs like iTerm have filled holes left by features that Apple chose not to include in Terminal. With Leopard’s Terminal, however, the number of such holes is much smaller, and more people will find Terminal suits their needs just fine.—ROB GRIFFITHS

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