Actually defining the Leopard Desktop and Finder as “new” is a bit excessive. Taking into account the demonstration by Jobs and the information that can be found on the Apple website, both elements seem to work as they have been for years, except with a few slight modifications and a handful of new features. However, the sum of these changes provides an overall look and feel that is considerably different from the current incarnation of OS X. Additionally, Leopard will offer two new features, Cover Flow and Quick Look, aimed at making it easier and more efficient. the preview of the files.
To delve into the ins and outs of the changes to the Desktop and the Finder, we will have to wait until the final version of Leopard, scheduled for next October. However, we can take a look at these improvements to OS X 10.5 based on what Apple has already revealed to us.
A new “Desktop”
Jobs began his review of the new features of Leopard by showing the new Desktop, but what he was really talking about was a set of changes to the general interface of OS X, as well as a number of improvements made to the Dock.
Leopard will include a number of minor visual changes compared to what you are currently used to seeing while using the Mac. The famous Mac OS menu bar will be translucent, revealing the image you have defined as your desktop background behind it. However, it is not a static change, but Apple has told us that the menu bar will automatically adapt its color and level of transparency depending on the selected desktop image. So if you select a dark background for example, you can still clearly read the menu names.
Another change, which will be well received by the most critical of the user interface, is that all the windows of the OS will have a consistent appearance. Regarding the applications created by Apple, you will no longer see windows with a polished metal look in some, the Aqua toolbars in others and still others that use a softened gray background; Although the latter seem to currently mark the official style of OS X windows. (Jobs has also mentioned that the active window will be more prominent over the rest of the inactive windows, although he did not make a demonstration on the way in which it will be implement such functionality.)
The Dock also has a new look, similar to a shiny platform on which the icons rest. The effect is more attractive when a window is dragged on the Dock, since it will be reflected on the surface of the platform. We do not know to what extent this spectacular effect will affect the performance of the most modest teams, if that is the case.
The Dock incorporates another novelty in the form of Stacks. If you drag a folder to the Dock, a new icon named Stack (which looks like an icon stack) will be added to the Dock. Click on that icon and the contents of the folder will appear as a slightly arched column showing high resolution preview icons and the file names. (In case the folder contains more than 10 items, the files will appear in a translucent grid.) Click on any item to open it.
Although currently OS X already allows you to drag a folder to the Dock and easily access its contents from the Dock menu, the Stack feature facilitates this functionality in a more obvious and also more attractive way. Additionally, Apple’s description of the feature indicates that you can also create a stack by dragging a group of files onto the Dock.
The Leopard Dock includes a stack from scratch: Downloads. This folder, presumably stored somewhere in the Home folder, is the default repository for files downloaded from the web or saved from email. In OS X 10.4 downloads are done by default on the desktop. This feature of Leopard will help eliminate clutter on the Desktop while making it easier to locate downloaded files. What is even more useful is that as the files are downloaded the stack icon in the Dock will reflect this progress. (Apple says this is true for Safari downloads, so we don’t know if the visual indicator will work with other browsers.)
A new Finder
As with the Desktop, defining the Finder as “new” is another way of saying “a new look and a few new features.” For example, the Finder windows, in addition to including the new soft gray look, will also include a revamped sidebar, looking more in line with the list of sources located on the left side of the iTunes 7 window. Sidebars provide a cleaner look and include logical groups of items: Devices (hard drives, CDs, DVDs), Shared (volumes and network computers), Places (hard drive files and folders), and Searches. As with the items in Playlists in iTunes, you can collapse any of these groups to hide their contents.
The Searches group in the sidebar incorporates any of the searches that have been saved using the Spotlight feature, as well as several default searches that are provided as an automatic listing of matching files: Today, Yesterday, Last Week, Pictures, Movies, and Documents . An interesting improvement is that Leopard’s Spotlight feature can search on local computers or remote servers (although it is not very clear if this feature requires that the rest of the computers also include Spotlight to create an index). Another improvement, not mentioned by Jobs during his presentation but which is reflected in the information available online, is the ability to use a simple syntax in Spotlight to perform Boolean searches (and, or, not) as well as the search for exact phrases , dates and date ranges.
The Shared group provides an easier way to access computers on the local network. This group shows any computer (Mac or Windows) that shares files, as well as any Mac that has the screen sharing feature activated. Hopefully this feature works better than Tiger’s web browser, which did not always list all computers on the local network.
Even better is the feature called Back To My Mac, which uses the .Mac service to facilitate connections between remote Macs. For example, if you have a Mac at home and a Mac at work, each will keep .Mac informed of its current IP address, and each will then appear in the Shared list in the Finder sidebar, allowing you to connect, or even to a more impressive way, control it with a click through shared screen. We don’t yet know how that feature will perform when the rigorous routers and firewalls are added to the cocktail party, but if Apple can find a way to make it say