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

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Automator

What it is: First introduced in Tiger, Automator is a tool to help automate common tasks. It includes a number of actions for various applications that make creating simple workflows as easy as drag-and-drop.

What’s changed: Apple hasn’t talked up the changes to the Leopard version of Automator, but don’t expect a program that mirrors its OS X 10.4 predecessor.

A new record function in Leopard will let you automate nearly any application, and you can edit the recorded action to further customize it. Automator will offer starting points, which guide you through the first steps of your workflow—for example, “working with photos” and “working with files and folders.” The addition of variables means you can store values that might be used in several steps of a workflow, helping you build more complex workflows.

Finally, the interface for Automator appears to have received a facelift, including the presence of a Media button on the toolbar, which should give you direct access to your music and photos.—ROB GRIFFITHS

Mail

What it is: As initially demonstrated last year, Version 3 of Apple Mail features improved integration with information from throughout your Mac. There’s a new feature that lets you leave notes for yourself, as well as improved integration with iCal’s To-Do items. The new version will also offer Stationery, templates for creating graphics-rich e-mail messages. And ther’s new support for RSS, letting you read Web site feeds right within mail.

To-do list integration in Mail 3

What’s changed: Mail 3 seems substantially the same to what we saw a year ago. The program appears to have added more support for intelligently detecting certain types of data, such as addresses, and offering to do useful things with them, such as adding those addresses to appropriate contacts in Address Book. Apple says that Mail 3 will also offer improved support for Spotlight, letting your mail float right to the top when you do a Spotlight search.—JASON SNELL

iCal

What it is: The new version of Apple’s built-in calendaring program provides support for shared calendars that can be edited by multiple users. One of the keys to iCal’s newfound social skills: iCal Server, built into the Leopard version of Mac OS X server.

What’s Changed: The iCal interface has gotten a Leopard-style makeover, which means it looks more like iTunes 7 now, complete with sidebar. You can now double-click on an event in iCal and edit all its details, not just the name of the event, via what Apple calls “the new Inline Inspector window.” And you can attach documents to any event’s “drop box,” attachments that are automatically sent when you send out invitations to that event. It’s unclear just how many of iCal’s new features will really only work if it’s attached to a CalDAV server like the one found in the Leopard version of Mac OS X Server.—JASON SNELL

Dashboard

What it is: Steve Jobs calls Dashboard “a huge hit” for Apple since its introduction with OS X 10.4, and he’s got the numbers to prove it—there are more than 3,000 widgets floating around out there that you can install on OS X ’s hidden layer, accessible with just the push of the F12 key.

Apple’s Movie widget

The major changes to Leopard’s version of Dashboard were previewed last August. They include Web Clip, actually a button in Safari that lets you turn Web pages into widgets, and Dashcode, a development tool aimed at would-be widget makers. Dashboard will also include .Mac syncing, making it easier to transfer widgets from one Mac to another.

What’s changed: Very little since las August. Jobs spent most of his WWDC 2007 keynote recapping the Web Clip and Dashcode features. However, one new detail did come out of that presentation: Apple is adding a movie widget that generates a listing of movies playing in local theaters and their show times; it also allows you to play trailers for current releases and coming attractions.—BRIAN CHEN AND PHILIP MICHAELS

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