30/10/2007

Apple iLife/iWork '08 and Leopard

I recently upgraded my MacOS X 10.4(.11) PowerBook G4 with iLife '08 and iWork '08. Unfortunately Apple charge for these and OS upgrades don't always upgrade your original versions if you haven't upgraded.

Many of the changes are minor, but there are some big ones, there's now much tighter integration with .Mac (which requires a seperate subscription). iMovie doesn't upgrade unless you have a reasonably fast Mac (the G4 Powerbook didn't cut the mustard).

iWork '08 is a much more significant upgrade, there's a new application "Numbers" which is Apple's answer to Excel. It isn't there yet and it's not completely compatible, though supporting most of the basic features. It seems to be designed for marketing execs who like to produce all sorts of fancy graphs. Pages (the word processor) is also more suited to doing fancy sheets like flyers or greeting cards, though it will read MS Word (and other format) documents. Keynote (presentations) is a very sophisticated presentation tool in its own right, arguably it has more sophisticated animations and transitions that MS Powerpoint (and will happily read Powerpoint files too and export them). Apple use Keynote for all their public presentations and it's pretty slick, though Powerpoint users will have to go through a learning exercise to migrate.

Newbies (new users) will probably find all the iWork packages relatively easy to use if they haven't been sucked into using MS products already.

Briefly, Leopard (MacOS X 10.5.0) is a significant upgrade. There are some genuinely innovative features (however some bits look a lot like Vista). Coverflow can be used to scan for files (like iTunes artwork) but MacOS actually previews the content of the file while scanning and it supports a lot of formats, including Word, Excel, Powerpoint (or Keynote), Movies etc. If the 'space-bar' is hit while viewing a file, then then content of the document can be previewed (i.e. all the pages of a PDF or slides in a presentation seen). It isn't possible to actually edit the files unless you have the relevent package installed though.

Leopard can do the same thing across a network and scan both Windows PCs and other Macs (well public shares anyway). If a remote user is using iChat, then it can be used to send/receive files between users and remotely control the remote Mac (if the user allows it).

There are many low level enhancements and the OS is now truly 64bit (well almost). This should make things faster on 64 bit machines (G5's or newer Intel systems). There doesn't seem a noticable speed increase on the Powerbook G4, but a MacBook Pro did seem slightly more responsive.

Time machine is Apple's new back-up system. It can save a complete copy of the installed system on to a locally connected drive (internal on a MacPro, or externally on laptops via USB or Firewire), it will also save to an Xserve running Leopard server (in a workgroup situation). The drive needs to be significantly bigger than the drive that is backed-up as once the original data is saved, incremental back-ups are performed. It does this in a reasonably clever manner, so only changed files are saved, but looking at a back-up shows the complete directory structure as was on the disk at the time. Any file saved can easily be restored by just going back the time-line to before the delete occurred.

It's also possible to completely restore a Mac (say if the hard disk is replaced) as the OS now has a restore from Time Machine type option.

2 million copies of Leopard have been sold in the first weekend, which is pretty astounding feat for an operating system, older Macs will gain less of advantage than newer ones with 64bit CPUs and decent graphics systems.
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