In the run-up to Monday’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote presentation, a group of Macworld editors sat down and produced a list of the features they hoped to see in Mac OS X 10.5, code-named Leopard. Now that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has given us a partial peek behind the curtain, it’s time to assess our wishes against what Apple will deliver in Spring 2007 when Leopard is set to pounce.
1. Improvements to Spotlight
We’ve made no secret of our frustrations with Tiger’s Spotlight search feature. Not least among those frustrations is Spotlight’s inability to perform complex searches. Leopard’s version of Spotlight changes that, allowing you to conduct Boolean searches using And, Or, and Not conditions. In addition you will be able to search using specific file attributes—by author, type, or keyword. However, Jobs mentioned nothing about improving Spotlight so that it easily finds files by a specific title—Aunt Betty’s Pasta Recipe, for example—as the Mac OS’s Find feature once did.
2. Built-in launcher
Speaking of Spotlight, Apple appears to have addressed our next request for a built-in launcher. In a feature that appears to be similar to the most basic capabilities of Objective Development’s LaunchBar, in Spotlight you will be able to enter the first few characters of an application’s name, have it appear as the top hit, and launch it by pressing the Mac’s Return key. No word from Apple if, as with LaunchBar, Spotlight will track your habits and understand that when you type
icyou mostly likely intend to launch iCal rather than iChat.
3. Finder fixes
Jobs and the other Apple execs who demonstrated some of Leopard’s new features flashed to the Finder from time to time in order to access documents and open applications. In those brief glimpses there was no hint that the Finder’s appearance will be radically altered. The Dock, Sidebar, and Smart Folders remain. As for Rob Griffith’s requests—a sortable column-view window, easily customizable contextual menus, selectable colors for column view window backgrounds, some way to browse the Spotlight metadata directly in the Finder, and more powerful Smart folders—we’ll have to wait and see.
4 and 5. Windows compatibility and integration…or virtualization
Apple has released Boot Camp, a beta release that lets an Intel-based Mac run Windows XP. As well as Boot Camp works, its major failing is that you have to boot your Mac into one operating system or the other—there’s no shared space where the two platforms can coexist.
In Leopard, I’d hoped to see Apple offer greater integration between the Mac OS and Windows running on an Intel Mac—allowing users to quickly switch between each operating system or, at the very least, creating a space where you can store items that can be accessed by both operating systems. Rob Griffiths hoped that Mac OS X 10.5 would let you create virtual CPUs, ones where you could run any flavor of Windows as well as Linux much as you can with Parallel’s Parallels Desktop for Mac.
From all indications, Boot Camp will continue to work in a way that requires you to boot your Mac into one operating system when you want to run Windows, and another when you want to use the Mac OS. Thankfully for those seeking concurrent operating systems, Parallels is here to stay and VMware, a big name in virtualization, has announced its intention to support the Mac in a forthcoming release (Microsoft, however, has left the game, announcing that it will not develop a new version of its Virtual PC.)
6. Virtual desktops
Leopard’s Spaces feature grants our wish. With Spaces you can create multiple work environments—one for a podcast, another for a Web page you’re creating, one more for the many open pages in your Web browser, and yet one more for iPhoto editing, for example—and easily move between them with a keyboard shortcut or the click of your mouse.
7. Make a true media center
If Steve Jobs had ended his address with a “one more thing” and unveiled a true media center Mac, our wish may have been granted—but he didn’t and it wasn’t. While he did say that Front Row would be updated, he didn’t specifically spell out how. Until he does, we’ll continue to get along with our TVs, TiVo, and ancillary AV gear.
8. File and account security
FileVault, OS X’s automatic encryption technology, was once the kind of marquee feature that made the cut for a Jobs keynote. Not this time. No word on FileVault’s fate.
9. Restore more
I asked for a feature similar to Window’s System Restore—a way to “rewind” your Mac to a state and date when it was happier. And, by gum, Apple gets darned close with Time Machine, a backup/restore feature that allows you to locate and recover files from your Mac’s past. Scott Forestall, Apple’s vice president of platform experience, demonstrated how you could use Time Machine to locate and restore a file that’s been moved from a particular folder. Using Time Machine you can not only restore that file, but previously saved versions as well. Apple’s OS X Leopard Sneak Peek page tells us that you can restore single files, groups of files, whole folders, and even your entire system with a single click.
Unlike Windows’ System Restore, Time Machine requires an additional hard drive for storing and restoring your backed up data.
10. Smart locations
We’re still in the dark about whether Leopard will provide an OS 9-like Location Manager that automatically changes certain system settings—default printer, mail server, and network settings, for example—based on where you are. A later look inside Leopard’s System Preferences may provide an answer.
11. Smart users
Our best guess is that if Leopard offered the option to easily transport your personal information and favorite applications from one Mac to another via a USB keydrive or iPod, Jobs would have shouted about it to the heavens. He didn’t, so we’re not holding our breath.
12. Improve VoiceOver
This is one that decidedly falls into the Plus column. Not only has Apple granted our wish that VoiceOver become easier to use (you will be able to configure VoiceOver’s preferences so it provides more or less detail in its descriptions of objects on your Mac’s screen) but, as we’d hoped, it will provide far-less-robotic text-to-speech voices with Leopard. Jobs demonstrated a Mac reading a paragraph of text with a voice that was every bit as natural as the voices offered by Cepstral.
13. Expand Disk Utility’s powers
We’d hoped that Leopard’s version of Disk Utility would provide more robust tools for dealing with a misbehaving Mac as well as for partitioning drives without having to erase the data on them. We’ll go on hoping until Apple gives a definite yea or nay on this subject.
14. More from Mail
Jobs didn’t address the under-the-hood improvements I’d longed for in Mail—more extensive rules and filters, for example. In his world, getting more from Mail means providing users with stationery templates, notes, and to-do’s that link to applications such as iCal. I’m hopeful that along with these eye-catching features, we’ll see those under-the-hood improvements as well.
15. Smart syncing
Want to sync folders on your Mac with those same folders on a mounted file server or remote server as easily as you can with .Mac? So do we, but Apple has dropped no hint that Leopard will allow you to.
16. Keeping tabs with iChat
Nailed it. Not only will the next revision of iChat let you display multiple chats in one window via a tabbed interface as well as save video chat files, as we’d hoped, but you will be able to display an iPhoto slideshow or Keynote presentation within a video iChat, observe and control a single shared desktop with a new feature called iChat Screen Sharing, and place your iChat image in front of a virtual backdrop—either a still image or QuickTime movie.
17 and 18. Automator II and more Automator updates
We would like Automator to be able to record onscreen actions and offer more advanced programming tools including variables, conditionals and branching. Jobs mentioned nary a word of Automator’s future but we remain hopeful that no only will Automator be even easier to use under Leopard, but more flexible too.
19. Capturing moving pictures
We at Macworld live and die by Ambrosia Software’s amazing still- and motion-capture utility, Snapz Pro X. If Jobs’ failure to mention similar motion-capture capabilities in Leopard is any hint, our investment in Snapz Pro X will not have been in vain.
20. Bring back Sherlock
Given the promise of Web Clip, a Leopard feature that will let users grab a portion of a Web page that updates on a regular basis—local movie listings, for example, or updated sports scores—and plunk that data into a widget, we can drive the last nail in Sherlock’s coffin. Apple has clearly thrown its weight behind widgets to the point where we’ll be shocked if the Sherlock icon hasn’t made its last appearance in Tiger.
21. Pop-up innovations
Macworld ’s Big Cheese, Jason Snell, was hopeful that Apple would allow Dashboard widgets to interact with the Mac OS in meaningful ways. For example, you might drag a widget out of the Dashboard layer and into the Mac’s interface or, when something important happens, a widget might bubble up to the surface. From all appearances, widgets will remain beached in the Dashboard environment.
22. Tabbed Terminal
If you spend a lot of time in Terminal with multiple windows open, you’d like a version of Terminal that included a tabbed interface for neatly arranging those windows. If a Developers Conference isn’t the place to show off such a geeky feature, we don’t know what is. Yet a tabbed Terminal was not on the menu. On the other hand, Jobs’ WWDC keynote is as much for the mainstream press as it is for developers and a tabbed Terminal isn’t likely to wow the readers of the New York Times and Business Week .
23. PowerPC or not to be?
Even though Apple officially ended its relationship with the PowerPC processor by announcing the Intel-based Mac Pro and Xserve, the PowerPC lives on in its support in Leopard. Take a gander at the bottom of Apple’s Leopard Sneak Peek page and you’ll see these words:
All these features and more are delivered to you in one universal, fully accessible, 64-bit operating system.
The key word here is universal , a term Intel-Mac users are accustomed to looking for when researching software compatibility. But as the tide turns and we move to the point where applications that work with Intel processors are the norm, those running older Macs with PowerPC processors will be just as interested in Universal applications—and an operating system—that work with their computers.
[ Christopher Breen is a senior editor for Macworld .]