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21 gripes with Apple Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

Leopard's good, here's how to make it great

Apple's Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard operating system upgrade is full of good stuff, but there's room for improvement. Lots and lots of it. We asked Harry McCracken - editor of PC Advisor's US sister title PC World, and an avowed Mac fan - to list his gripes, requests and puzzlements.

First, a disclaimer: I like Leopard, aka Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, the Apple operating-system upgrade. True, Apple's list of 300+ new features includes several dozen I'll never touch. (A Danish dictionary! Analysis templates, whatever those are!)

But even when I filter out everything that doesn't matter to me, I'm left with a long list of stuff that'll make my computing life meaningfully better. Compared to Windows Vista, Leopard is a meatier, more polished, more immediately useful, less annoying OS upgrade.

But while I've been working my way through everything that's new in Leopard, and being impressed by much of it, I've also come across a fairly long list of quirks and gotchas - the kind of stuff I hope Apple will iron out in Leopard updates. Without any further ado, here's my list... which will probably get longer the more I dig into the upgrade.

See also: Mac, PC or Linux? Your next operating system

1. Time Machine is picky about hard drives - or, more specifically, hard disk formats. The cool continuous backup utility wants to work with drives formatted with Apple's own HFS+ format, not FAT32, the Microsoft format which the rest of OS X can speak. That's understandable.

But I don't understand why, when I plugged in a new Seagate Free Agent USB drive formatted as FAT32, Time Machine didn't seem to be aware of its existence at all. A "Hey, you need to reformat this as HFS+" message would have made things easier. (My storage-loving colleague Melissa Perenson has run across similar issues.)

2. Speaking of external drives, I wish that Time Machine, like the vaguely similar (but far less slick) backup features in Windows Vista, could back up to a portion of your primary drive as well as to a secondary disk.

Yes, it's a lot safer to put your backups on a different drive. But if you've got a MacBook or MacBook Pro, chances are that you're not going to keep it connected to an external drive most of the time, as Time Machine requires for optimum effectiveness.

3. I like Time Machine's quirky, slightly silly flying-through-space user interface - really I do. But I wouldn't object if there was a simpler, more streamlined alternate UI, too; when I'm freaking out over a lost file, I'm not always in the mood to be entertained.

4. Leopard introduces more transparency effects - most strikingly with the menu bar along the top of the screen, which lets whatever wallpaper you've got behind it seep through. To me, this "feature" is at best ugly. And at worst - as with my wallpaper of a night scene in Hong Kong - it renders some of the items in the menu bar close to unreadable. That wouldn't be a problem if there were a "Turn off transparency effects" option.

5. When you click on a Help menu item in Leopard, you get a special menu with a built-in search field and list of results. Which sounds handy, except that longer titles in the list of results sometimes get cut off, rendering them unintelligible even though there'd be plenty of room to display the entire title. Gratuitous text-chopping is a crudity I associate with Windows, not OS X.


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