Really cool reasons to get Snow Leopard

There’s much more to Snow Leopard than just a few tweaks. Apple set out – as they put it themselves – to “build a better Leopard”, and it shows in every streamlined action and snappy response time.

What that means for you, the user, is that you get some of your precious time back: time that you’re not spending waiting for an application to launch or a spring-loaded folder to open. That in turn means less frustration: Snow Leopard (and Mac OS X in general) is about technology that respects the user by keeping out of their way.

What about Apple’s other claims? For instance, does Snow Leopard really save your disk space? The iMac we’re using had 152.06GB on its hard disk before we installed the new OS.

And afterwards? It’s currently showing 145.14GB used: a saving of 6.92GB. And that’s as near as dammit to Apple’s claimed 7GB saving, we reckon.

Extra support

One of the other aspects of Macs that we don’t think gets nearly enough attention is their continued support for people with disabilities.

From its early days, Mac OS had features such as Sticky Keys to help those who have difficulties using the keyboard. The Universal Access System Preferences pane now offers a wide range of support technologies built in to Mac OS X, and Snow Leopard incorporates the drivers for more than 40 models of Braille display.

If you use your Mac at home, Snow Leopard now has built-in support for Microsoft’s Exchange Server mail, calendars and contact lists.

What does that mean? Well, if you’ve been trying to cajole your work’s IT department into letting you bring your MacBook into the office, they’ve now run out of excuses! They’ll find system requirements for Exchange on Apple’s site.

All in all, then, we would say that it’s worth upgrading to Snow Leopard – for those of you who can. If you have a PowerPC Mac, Leopard is still supported, and will be updated for a while yet. What follows is a summary of some of the features of Snow Leopard that we’re enjoying. And we’re pretty sure you’ll enjoy them too.

1. Safari – so good

Alright, we know – Safari 4.0 has actually been out for quite a while now, but for some of you, this might be the first time you’ve seen it. Certainly Snow Leopard’s default browser has much to recommend it: rendering of pages is fast, accurate and mostly error-free.


It’s even one of the most standards-compliant browsers out there, and passes the Web Standards Project’s stringent Acid 3 Test with flying colours (visit for more details).

2. Where in the world…

Take a look at the Time Zone tab in System Preferences > Date & Time. You’ll probably find it’s now a much more accurate reflection of wherever you are at present. That’s because Snow Leopard rather helpfully uses the same Core Location technology as the iPhone and iPod touch to work out your exact location.

Location support

And if you’re the globe trotting type, no longer will you need to remember to reset the time zone after a journey – Snow Leopard does that automatically too.

3. Printer support

Mac OS X has always been a good citizen when it comes to supporting a large number of printers. And now it’s even more helpful than ever before. It will look for local printers on installation, and even checks for their latest drivers over the internet.


The underlying technology behind Snow Leopard’s printer support is called CUPS (which stands for Common Unix Printing System) and it’s also a brand-new feature this time around.

4. Watch your language

The International System Preferences pane has received a makeover too. Now called Language & Text, it’s a point of reference for all system-related uses of text. Here’s where you set your Mac to use British-English spelling, and also set up keyboard shortcuts for symbols and phrases.


For instance, already enabled for you is the shortcut that converts ‘(c)’ into ©. You can also use it to turn simple combinations of letters into words or phrases: for instance ‘MF’ could become ‘MacFormat’.

5. Taking a shortcut

Remake or remodel could be the watchwords for Snow Leopard with Keyboard being another of the Preferences panes receiving an overhaul.


Once you’ve launched it, choose the Keyboard Shortcuts tab and you’ll see what we mean. Now properly codified, Keyboard Shortcuts offers you – the user – the chance to add, remove or modify the keyboard shortcuts you want.

For instance, if there’s an application you want to launch with the touch of a key, go ahead. Want to change the default keys for Exposé? No problem.

6. For the record

Ever had to explain one of the finer points of Mac OS X to a Mac newbie over the phone? Well, now you don’t have to, thanks to QuickTime X (you could always ignore your phone of course, but that would be rude).


In QuickTime Player X, go to File > New Screen Recording, use the pulldown menu to choose your sound and quality settings, choose a place to save your movie, and record yourself explaining the problem with full visuals. You could even post your tutorial masterpiece to YouTube (go to Share > YouTube…).

7. Exclusive preview

And the updated features just keep on rolling in – including Preview, which proudly continues with its onward march towards being one of the most useful applications bundled with Mac OS X. Its handling of text selection from PDFs is absolutely superb now, and it will even grab text that is arranged in columns.

PDF preview

Annotations have also seen something of an improvement in this version too. If you click on the Annotate toolbar button you’ll see that a full toolbar appears at the bottom of the application window.

You’ll find that this makes it much easier to select and use multiple tools, further speeding up your work and increasing your efficiency.

8. Disk-onsolate…

Do you remember the bad old days, when you’d try to eject a disk from your Mac’s desktop, only to be told that it couldn’t be ejected because it was ‘…in use by another application’? Extremely frustrating. But which application was actually using it?

Disk in use

Snow Leopard now works out which application is currently using the disk in question. It will then present the information in the ‘disk in use’ dialogue before advising you to quit the application and try it again.

9. Pair remote

Using the General tab of the Security System Preferences pane you can also choose to pair your Apple Remote with your Mac so that another remote in the vicinity doesn’t trigger Front Row, either by accident or design: simply click Pair…, and follow the on-screen instructions.

Pair remote

You can also disable all remotes: handy if you’re in an open location and your Mac might pick up signals from others.

10. Firewall

To prevent unauthorised servers contacting your Mac, go to System Preferences > Security > Firewall, and hit Start (you might need to authenticate first; click the padlock icon and enter an administrator password).


To enable incoming connections for certain apps click Advanced…, then add the app you want by clicking +, finding the app and clicking Add.

11. Control remotes

Using the General tab of the Security System Preferences pane you can pair your Apple Remote with your Mac so that another remote in the vicinity doesn’t trigger Front Row: simply click Pair…, and follow the on-screen instructions.


You can also disable all remotes: handy if you’re in an open location and your Mac might pick up signals from others.

12. How does that grab you?

To make a screenshot hit Shift+Cmd+3 to grab the whole screen, Shift+Cmd+4 to grab a window. Not so long ago, you’d have to wade through images named Picture 1, Picture 2, and so on, to find the right one.


Well, not any more: Snow Leopard adds the date and time to screenshot file names, making it easy to find the one you need.

via TechRadar

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