The 20 Best New Leopard Features: Page 4

Posted November 5, 2007

Joe Kissell

Joe Kissell

(Page 4 of 4)

#14 Improved iCal UI
Under Tiger, I used iCal as little as possible. The user interface was just so annoying! It looked and acted like it was designed by people who had never used a real scheduling program. Ick. Well, the ick is (mostly) gone!

The Leopard version of iCal is quite tolerable, with some very clever UI flourishes that enable you to make most edits in a highly direct fashion. It’s not just that it looks nice, of course; it’s actually fairly easy to use, even when you’re doing fairly involved scheduling. I could wish for a few more refinements, such as a reworking of the alert window, which is about the worst piece of Mac OS X UI I can think of. But still, it’s an excellent move in the right direction, enough to make it truly useful.

#15 Instant Alpha Background Removal in Preview
The versions of Pages and Keynote in iLife ’08 have been able to do this trick for a few months now, but Leopard brings it to everyone. Along with Preview’s new Extract Shape feature, Instant Alpha is the easiest way ever to punch the subject of a photo out of its background, complete with smooth, semitransparent edges, and then save that image for use in other places.

Needless to say, Photoshop gives you a lot more precision control over this sort of thing, but for the price and the simplicity, you just can’t beat Preview.

#16 PDF Manipulation in Preview
Speaking of Preview, it’s becoming quite the little PDF processing powerhouse. You can now rearrange the pages of a PDF, delete pages, or combine multiple PDFs into one file—not to mention adding annotations, highlights, shapes, and other doohickeys.

Sure, Acrobat Pro can do all those things, and free or low-cost third-party utilities can do some of them. But with PDF becoming a more and more important standard, it’s mighty nice to be able to do all these basic tasks right in Preview.

#17 RSS in Mail
I’m a big fan of NetNewsWire for RSS, and seeing how poorly Apple implemented RSS in Safari, I was prepared to hate Mail’s implementation too. But actually, it doesn’t suck!

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It’s still nowhere near as good as a stand-alone news reader, no question there. But it’s actually quite acceptable for simple RSS browsing, and I like the capability of using other Mail features, such as Smart Mailboxes, on my news feeds. All things considered, I think RSS fits better in Mail than in Safari, and if you don’t need lots of bells and whistles, it can enable you to have one less application running—usually a good thing.

#18 Quick Print Preview
You’re about to print a document, and you have a sneaking suspicion the margins or page breaks are going to be screwy. Under Tiger, the solution was to hit the Preview button in the Print dialog, which created a PDF of the document and opened it in Preview.

That got the job done, but at the expense of opening another application. Now, in Leopard, most applications show a nice large thumbnail of the final document right there in the Print dialog; you can even page forward and back through the whole preview. Just a little thing, but it potentially saves a few steps several times each day.

#19 Tabbed Chats in iChat
I know there are some people who habitually have a dozen or more iChat sessions open at once. I’m not one of them—I max out at two or three—but even then, I get irritated at the clutter of windows proliferating all over my screen.

The Leopard version of iChat lets you optionally combine all your chats in a single tabbed window, increasing tidiness and saving a bit of clicking and rearranging.

#20 Alex
It’s been a very long time since Apple touched their text-to-speech voices. At the time Victoria first appeared, it (she?) sounded a lot more realistic than the standard synthetic voices of the day. But Apple had fallen way behind other providers of synthesized voices over the years, including Microsoft. It’s not just geeks who like to have their computers talk to them, of course; people with impaired vision rely heavily on text-t0-speech, and get rightly annoyed when those voices sound too artificial.

The Alex voice in Leopard finally puts everything right: it’s very, very realistic—including breath sounds, which is a bit freaky if you think about it too much. Just one big complaint: where’s Alexis? (Or Alexandra, or even Allie?) Come on, you have to have a high-quality female voice too!

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