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Snow Leopard

There are plenty of reviews and information about Snow Leopard out there, but this is my own personal take (adapted from a post I did for Macaulay students, many of whom are eager and ready to install it!)

snowleopardSnow Leopard is getting a lot of attention recently, and it’s not expensive at all. At a price of $29 for the upgrade, or $49 for a family pack for five upgrades, it’s a hard deal to resist. I have now installed Snow Leopard myself on all my own Macs, and all my family’s Macs (and will soon be upgrading staff desktops at Macaulay), and this is what I’ve found–in case you’re thinking of giving it a try.

The basic advice–if you don’t care about details–is that this is not a required upgrade, and probably will not make a very noticeable difference in how you use or experience your Mac. At this point, unless you’re a curious, bleeding edge, ahead of the curve, innovation-hungry, power user (like me 🙂 ), you should skip this and stick with Leopard. You’ll be fine.

But if you’re planning to go for it, here’s what you should know.

  1. Snow Leopard will save you some hard drive space. Not a huge amount, but a noticeable amount.
  2. Snow Leopard will let you have the date, not just the day of the week, in the menu bar at the top of your screen.
  3. Stacks (the way that folders full of files or apps on the dock appear) work better in Snow Leopard.
  4. Exposé works better in Snow Leopard.
  5. You can set the clock to automatically update (like a cellphone does) when you travel to a new time zone (how often do you do that?).
  6. If you need to sync calendars (iCal), contacts (Address Book), and email (Mail) to an Exchange server, Snow Leopard does that better. Much better.
  7. Some programs are a little quicker and zippier to open and run. A little. Probably not even noticeable.
  8. When you want to eject a removable disk in Leopard, you may have noticed that annoying message telling you that you can’t do that because the disk is in use. In Snow Leopard, that message actually tells you which program is using the disk, so you can quit that and then carry out the eject.
  9. The wifi indicator now tells you the strength of the various available networks, and has a nifty animation while a connection is being established.
  10. You can tell other people that you are a curious, bleeding edge, ahead of the curve, innovation-hungry, power user like your Director of Technology and Learning 🙂

That’s about it. That might look like a lot of new and exciting features (a list of 10!!), but if you really look at them, none of them are big or important.

There is also one fairly large negative. I have seen reported, and experienced myself, serious crashes of Microsoft Word under Snow Leopard, when the program was working perfectly on the same machine under Leopard. These are real hard crashes, with lost data (completely unrecoverable). That will probably be fixed with a Microsoft patch or upgrade soon, but at this point I would say that if you do upgrade to Snow Leopard, do not use Word. Stick to Pages or Google Docs. I have seen reports of other apps crashing or just not working well under Snow Leopard, but have not experienced that myself.

So those are the differences. All together, are they worth $29? And worth taking a risk that something may go wrong that we will not support? That’s an individual decision. Honestly I should say that the risk is pretty small–this is not a difficult upgrade and Apple handles these things very well. But as I said, some students have had issues. So choose wisely!

And of course if you have questions or comments, email me! (or comment on this post).

(And feel free to read some of the many other reviews out there on the web–I particularly liked MacWorld’s, Ars Technica’s (23 pages!), and David Pogue’s.)