In Depth: Apple's Leopard leaps to new heights

A refined look, revamped apps and new options build on an already solid OS foundation

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Front Row: Grab the remote

If you've never used the stylish little remote that came with your Mac, then you've probably never used Front Row. It's the unsung hero of Mac OS X, but only for those who need it. If you're into streaming music through iTunes or watching DVDs full-screen on the computer, Front Row -- in tandem with the remote -- makes things easy. It also now allows you to check for movie previews so you'll know what's coming soon to theaters near you. It accesses that information over your network from the iTunes store.

Dashboard gets new widgets

Dashboard is another feature that often flies under the radar for Mac users, but a couple of new features may raise its profile. New for Leopard is integration with Safari, allowing you to make a "Web clip" that turns the page you highlight into a widget. Whenever the page is updated online, your Web clip widget updates as well.

Apple also offers up a new widget for moviegoers, allowing you to scan movie previews and even buy tickets online. And you can now sync your widgets using a .Mac account, so all your widgets will work the same way and use the same settings on different Macs.

Safari find
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New movie preview and Web clip widgets. (Click for larger view.)

Dashcode: Make your own widgets

Dashcode offers Mac users a quick and easy way to design and create their own Dashboard widgets. In order to help developers with their creations, Apple distributes commonly used blocks of code and includes widget templates that developers can incorporate into their projects. Using Apple's Dashcode development environment, it's possible to assemble custom widgets without writing a single line of code, using drag-and-drop components.

For those who prefer a hands-on approach, Apple offers an advanced source code editor that offers pro tools such as syntax highlighting for Cascading Style Sheets, HTML and JavaScript languages. And when you're ready to compile the widget, it can be done so with a single click. Dashcode rounds up every file (including images, style sheets and JavaScript), organizes them and prepares them for deployment.

Dashcode is the next step up for those who've outgrown Safari's Web clip feature, and with Apple's templates and easy widget construction, even users with no coding experience can design their own mini-applications.

Font Book

Managing fonts has been the purpose of Font Book since its inception, and the improvements in the latest version add to Font Book's value. For instance, it's now possible to print out detailed previews of your fonts in Catalog (standard alphanumeric characters), Repertoire (all glyphs in a font) or Waterfall formats.

 
Font Book
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Printing out font samples in Waterfall view. (Click for larger view.)
 

The Waterfall option displays the selected font family in different font sizes from smallest to largest. The effect is not unlike its name implies. The actual sizes displayed can be customized, and each font style receives its own page of samples. The Waterfall report also allows for printing font details, including family, style, kind, PostScript name, full name, unique name, manufacturer, version and designer.

Included in Leopard are new fonts such as Arial Unicode, Microsoft Sans Serif, Tahoma, Papyrus Condensed and Wingdings. This release also offers Braille support for Voiceover, including the new Apple Braille Regular, Apple Braille Outline and Apple Braille Pinpoint.

Also note Font Book's auto activation of fonts. If an application requests a font that's not active, there's an option within Font Book to have it auto-activate, which allows the font to remain active until the application that needs it quits.

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