First Look: Leopard preview: What's new in OS X 10.5

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What it is: Apple’s tools for users with physical impairments get a major upgrade in Leopard. A new text-to-speech engine features a voice, Alex, that sounds far more natural than what Apple has offered previously. The VoiceOver screen-reading tool is also upgraded, and also supports Grade 2 contracted Braille devices.

What’s changed: The new NumPad Commander lets you transform your keypad into quick access to commonly used VoiceOver commands. VoiceOver also lets you set hot spots over accessible windows and notifies you of any changes in those areas. QuickTime features improved closed-captioning support. And all your accessibility preferences can sync to your other Macs via .Mac.—JASON SNELL

DVD Player

What it is: DVD Player is the OS X application that handles DVD movie playback. It didn’t really get much press last year when Leopard’s features were initially previewed, but Apple has sure made up for that this time.

What’s new: DVD Player has received a major feature upgrade from its Tiger predecessor. A new full-screen interface gives you easy access to playback controls, subtitles, and alternative audio tracks, as well as image, color, and audio settings.

DVD Player’s full-screen view

An Auto Zoom button scales the movie to remove the black bars (letterbox) from the image (it does so, of course, by trimming width from the picture). A playback position bar—similar to what you see in QuickTime Player—lets you quickly drag-scroll forward or backward to any point in the movie. Use the new image bar to save bookmark locations, images you’d like to see again, and even full video clips. Once saved, you’ll be able to see the bookmarks, images, and video clips any time you play that DVD again.—ROB GRIFFITHS

Parental Controls

What it is: Mac OS X’s feature that allows parents to limit the capabilities of specific accounts. For example, Parental Controls can be used to restrict Mail and iChat to particular contacts; limit Safari browsing to parent-provided bookmarks; and limit the user’s ability to change settings, burn discs, and hide “mature” words in the system-wide Dictionary.

What’s Changed: Apple hasn’t released many details about Leopard’s version of Parental Controls, but from what we can glean from publicly-available information, Parental Controls in Leopard gets its own pane in System Preferences (rather than just a set of options in Accounts). Whereas Tiger’s version lets you limit an account’ Web browsing to those sites manually entered by an administrator in Safari, Leopard adds a new content filter that actually intercepts Web pages and determines, on the fly, if each is “suitable for kids,” blocking those that aren’t. (You can also use the Tiger approach to manually add sites that you want blocked or allowed, bypassing the content filter for those URLs.)

Leopard also adds time limits to Parental Controls: you can set up specific times during which a child is allowed to log in and use the Mac—with different times on weekdays than on weekends—as well as how long a Controlled account can be used at any one time. Leopard can also log a Controlled account’s activities to keep track of people with whom your child has e-mailed or chatted; which applications have been used; and which Web sites have been visited. You can even monitor a Controlled account from another Mac on your home network.—DAN FRAKES

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