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Mac OS X Leopard's 10 most undervalued features

Our list of 10 lesser-known gems for Mac fans

The big day has arrived for Mac fans, as Apple releases Mac OS X Leopard worldwide.

It's easy to focus on the high-profile inclusions in Leopard - Time Machine, Spaces, Stacks, Cover Flow, the changes to the Desktop's look-and-feel - but what interests me most about any major OS X update are the little things. These are the enhancements and additions that will increase OS X's usability and make me more productive long after the hype over the marquee features has died down.

After walking through Apple's Guided Tour, and the 300-plus New Features page, and playing with the release version for a few days, I've come up with a list of 10 lesser-known gems to look for after you've installed Leopard.

Quick Look

I know that Quick Look has been given prominence in some of the Leopard presentations, but its role has mostly been as an aide de camp to Cover Flow. I'm withholding judgement on Cover Flow's utility until I've had a chance to live with it for a while, but Quick Look is already one of my new best friends.

To get a full preview of a file or a group of files, without having to launch multiple applications, all I will need to do is select them and press the space bar. And this works in the Finder, Time Machine, and Mail, among other places. How simple and elegant can something be? I love this above everything else.

Add attachments to iCal

There's a lot to love in the new version of iCal, including support for the CalDAV networked calendar standard. I'm particularly interested in the Event Dropbox feature, which lets you add multiple attachments to meetings, and then share those files when you email invites to attendees. And you can use the Quick Look feature to preview those documents right in iCal. Even if you're only managing your own events, attaching related documents (with things such as Google maps, for example) means you'll have less searching to do when the event arrives.

Resizable partitions

In Leopard, you can create and resize hard disk partitions on the fly, without having to erase your drive and start over. For people looking to create temporary workspaces for projects, or to boost productivity in Photoshop, this will be huge.

Smarter dismounts

In the same vein, Leopard is smarter about ejecting partitions. In the past, if you ejected a volume from a partitioned drive from your desktop, Mac OS X assumed you wanted to unmount all the partitions on that drive. With Leopard, you'll get the option of only unmounting the volume you selected, or you can eject the whole disk. And, if you hold down the Control key when you eject a partition, it will only unmount that partition, bypassing the dialog box.

Integrated sharing

The new Finder makes it easier to connect to Macs on your network, either via file-sharing (to look at volumes you have access to) or via the new Screen Sharing application (which is also used in conjunction with iChat). The controls to do both are built right into the folder windows on your desktop. You have to have access to the Macs in question, but it's a great way of blasting open your home network for sharing files and troubleshooting. And, if you have a .Mac account, you can set Leopard up so that you have access to your home computer from your notebook or remote computer when you're away from home.


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