7 things you'll hate about Leopard

29th Oct 2007 | 00:00

7 things you'll hate about Leopard

Get past the hype and you'll find that this cat bites

We've been living with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard for 72 hours now and while there's undoubtedly a lot to love, there have been some annoyances too. Here they are in all their frustrating glory:

1. Safari, Mail and third-party plug-ins

If you've splurged on third party plug-ins for Mac apps like Mail and Safari, then you'll be in for a shock. Some plug-ins no longer work at all under Leopard - either because their developers haven't got around to issuing patches yet or because Apple doesn't want you to use them.

The latter is particularly true in the Safari web browser - plug-ins like Red Snapper and FLVR, which worked on Safari 2.0, don't work in version 3.0. Red Snapper and FLVR developer Tasty Apps has even gone so far as to remove the plug-ins from its website - so there are unlikely to be patches for those.

Developers who have found fixes for their plug-ins usually do so using workarounds. The Safari plug-in for SpeedDownload, for example, forces you to use the Unix command line using Terminal before it will install.

2. Stacks and Cover Flow

These new additions to the Mac OS X Finder looked great in the demo we saw at Apple's office off Regent Street. But maybe they're less useful in practice.

Looking at the Documents folder in either Stacks or Cover Flow on our Mac simply shows even more folders. You can't QuickLook into its contents, without repeatedly drilling into the file structure to pull up the documents and pictures that you'd like to see.

The answer we suppose is to trim your use of folders, but that seems counter-intuitive when the purpose of Stacks and Cover Flow is to help organise your Mac life.

We've already discussed Stacks' limited ability to show contents of folders resting in the Dock. If you have more than 10 or so items in a stack, then the stack will automatically switch from Fan view to Grid view, before kicking you over to the Finder.

Hit the 80 icon limit on Grid though and Stacks suggests you kick on over to the Finder to see the rest too. Both of these limitations really only make Stacks useful for short projects and photo albums, rather than as an alternative method of organising your life. In some ways the old nested list view presented when you clicked on a Dock folder in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is actually more useful.

3. Networking

Apple has given networking a much needed boost in Leopard - you can now see and access almost any computer (Mac or PC) on your home network. This is great if you want to grab some music and movie files from a desktop in your bedroom so you can look at them on a laptop in your lounge.

Unfortunately the Shared list in Finder also has a habit of showing up stuff you don't want to see and can't access. It displays these somewhat childishly, with an icon showing a bulky beige monitor and a Windows Blue Screen of Death (BSOD).

It's not true either - our locked Wi-Fi access point shows up with a BSOD icon, even though it's on an Apple Wi-Fi router. Fiddling around with the Shared places settings doesn't appear to hide the stuff you can't access either... so they sit in the Finder annoying you.

4. Back On My Mac

This new Leopard feature looks like a doozy. It enables you to grab files from a home Mac using a remote desktop or laptop. Great if you leave a presentation file on a Mac at home. The downside is that you access your home Mac using a .Mac login - and that means any other Mac owner who knows it can also access your files.

5. Time Machine

Apple reckons that only 4 per cent of people religiously back up their computers, making Time Machine's automated backup system ideal. It really is a no-brainer. The problem comes when your backup hard disk drive starts getting full and you want to delete your oldest archives to free up space for some new ones. Well under Time Machine you can't. Editing and/or deleting simply isn't allowed.

The best suggestion anyone at Apple could come up with was to mothball the old drive and start afresh with a new one. We guess you could also just reformat the drive and start your archives again, but that rather defeats the object of Time Machine in the first place. So if your backup needs are any more than rudimentary, you'll need to look elsewhere for a backup solution.

UPDATE: Tech.co.uk reader Richard Haines points out that you can delete individual files. He says "Launch Time Machine. Find file to delete and highlight it. Click the gear with the arrow on the menu bar. Select 'Delete All Back-ups Of This Document' from the drop-down menu."

You can, of course, also access and remove files directly from the Time Machine drive - you can do this because Time Machine simply makes a copy of the file it doesn't wrap in proprietary code. We've yet to discover what will happen if you do this. We'll try later today. Please let us know if you've done the same.

We've also seen reports that Time Machine doesn't play nicely with Aperture, Apple's pro photography application. This is because the automated backup process can cause ' inconsistences in the Aperture database'. Apple's recommended solution is to turn off Time Machine's automated backups and perform manual ones instead... defeating the purpose of an automated backup system in the first place.

6. The Finder Menu and the Dock

Apple invented the current vogue for translucent windows and other eye candy in operating systems and it's been scaling back some of its excesses ever since (hello Windows Vista!).

Translucency works best when it adds functionality, but without obscuring what that functionality is for - overlaying simple and temporary playback controls in Leopard's DVD player being a prime example. Where translucency sucks is when it's used for its own sake, like in the new translucent Finder Menu and Dock in Leopard.

Apple says it made the Finder menu translucent because it 'enhances and showcases' the custom desktops it says Mac users like to use. Ditto the new glass shelf design of the Dock. It's see-through and reflective: drag a picture, file or Finder window close to the Dock and its reflection appears on the Dock's surface.

They're both bad ideas. Why?

Because in both cases, the translucency gets in the way. Sometimes you can't tell whether the faint blue glow under an application icon in the Dock is showing because the application is open, or because it's a part of the background. The translucent Finder menu is messy for the same reason.

So too are the Finder's translucent drop-down menus. Drop them down over a document and you get a confusing mish-mash of menu and document. This can sometimes make it hard to pick the right menu item you want.

7. The Beach ball of Death

We haven't quite got to the bottom of this yet, but under Leopard even Apple's native apps sometimes seem to pause for an absolute age before they'll start to do something. Apple shows app bottlenecks like this as a spinning beach ball. You'll see the spinning beach ball a lot when you first start to use Leopard.

We're not quite sure what this random slowness is. It could be because Leopard is beavering away trying to generate thumbnail previews of all your files for you to gawp at in Cover Flow and Quick Look. It could be Spotlight doing its indexing thing. We'll let you know if this slowness slowly disappears. Some slowdown is also inevitable with some apps that aren't yet very Leopard-friendly.

We've certainly experienced lots of inexplicable slowdowns which have forced us to Force Quit applications, relaunch the Finder and even reboot the machine altogether. Even the old fixing File Permissions panacea (an OCD-like obsession for some Mac users) is slow.

We thought we'd give the File Permissions fix a stab in Disk Utility to see if it helped cut down the number of applications slowdowns... only to be greeted with a long 20 minute wait while Disk Utility thought about repairing permissions... and then a 40 minute wait while it actually did so.

Applications running under our now clean reinstall of Leopard on our Power Mac G5 2.0GHz Dual desktop also seems a lot more unstable that those on our Intel-based MacBook Pro. We're constantly being told that applications have 'unexpectedly quit' on the G5. That's happening only occasionally on the Intel Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz MacBook Pro

This never used to happen in Tiger.

It's not all bad

Some of our gripes with Leopard are minor, others are more serious and will hopefully be addressed in future by Apple and Mac developers alike. Luckily there are still a lot of things that Leopard is good at. You'll be able to find out what those are in the next part of this article.

AppleComputing
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