Mac OS X Snow Leopard: First Impressions

The latest version of the Mac operating system OS X Snow Leopard (10.6) hit shelves Friday, and although it’s receiving no where nearly as much hype as previous versions, I still none the less couldn’t resist buying it.

The lack of hype for Snow Leopard is directly related to what it offers: instead of a range of new features, Snow Leopard mostly offers under the hood improvements, including speed and general usability features that many won’t notice, at least not initially.

Installation

Installation was straight forward. Some sites recommend a full backup before installation; my main machine is running Time Machine, so I did nothing extra before running it.

Installation time does vary between machines. So far I’ve installed it on an early 2007 Quad Core Mac Pro with 4gb of RAM, and a 8 week old 13″ Macbook Pro with 2gb of RAM . Install times were 45 minutes and 1 hour, 10 minutes respectively.

There were no hiccups at all in installation. Straight forward, click on a few options (and give it your system password upfront) then sit and leave. At the end you get the standard OS X welcome video that came with Leopard.

Speed

The most noticeable change in Snow Leopard is speed. Both my machines were running Safari 4 before hand, so I didn’t expect to see any significant difference there, but I was wrong. Safari 4 was already quick, under Snow Leopard it’s noticeably quicker again. It’s hard to qualify how much faster, but sites load seemingly in half the time they did before (probably not by measurement, but that’s the feeling it gives.)

Spotlight is also noticeably quicker, particularly on a machine where you’ve got a ton of documents and programs installed. Leopard was an improvement on Tiger, but Snow Leopard feels instantaneous.

The overall system takes up less room on a hard drive (I’d love to see Windows do that) and everything feels more sprightly, even if the difference isn’t as noticeable as Safari and Spotlight.

Hard to get a screenshot of, but preview is there up top
Hard to get a screenshot of, but preview is there up top

Preview feature

Clicking down on an icon in the dock now shows every window opened for the program, Expose of sorts for each program. It’s a nice feature that makes accessing windows easier, particularly on my little 13″ Macbook Pro that doesn’t exactly offer a lot of screen space.

Bug fix

The biggest bug fix for me was with my Macbook Pro. Despite owning the current model, my Macbook Pro randomly hung/ froze out of sleep, seemingly at random times, and I can’t tell you how annoying the spinning color wheel appearing is when you’ve dished out good money for the latest Apple machine (note that the frozen times were never permanent, usually 5-20 seconds at a time.) 18 hours later, and purposely closing the machine multiple times, and it hasn’t hung/ frozen once.

New bugs

The only issue so far (and it’s an odd one) is that I can no longer copy and paste out of Firefox into Safari. I use both; it’s an old habit dating back to when Safari use to bork the admin side of WordPress, and back before Safari offered WebInspector (I still like to use Firebug.) I can cut and paste from Firefox into TextEdit, then cut and paste from TextEdit to Safari, but not directly.

Summary

There’s no overall compelling reason to go out and buy Snow Leopard immediately, vs say previous upgrades to OS X, but there is very good argument against not buying it, and that’s price. The family pack cost AU$59, and single AU$39 (for memory it’s $29 in the US); and that’s not a lot of money by any stretch. For the price, it’s worth it. If you have hanging issues with your current Mac, then it becomes a must have.

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