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Snow Leopard more feature-laden than expected

By Rob Griffiths
June 8, 2009 06:11 PM ET

Macworld - After Monday's Worldwide Developers' Conference keynote, we now know that Snow Leopard will cost Leopard users $29 ($49 for the family pack) when it ships in September. In my pre-WWDC OS X Snow Leopard piece, I'd guessed either free or $20--so I was closer to right than wrong, though still wrong. But what do you get for your $29? Are there more features than the five big ones I covered last week?

If you watched any of the keynote coverage, you know the answer to that question is "yes, there are more features." In addition to Snow Leopard's already-known features, Apple revealed some very interesting things about the next major OS X release.

On its Snow Leopard page, Apple groups these changes into four major topic areas: Better. Faster. Easier, Next-generation technologies, More accessible than ever, and Exchange support. I dug through these pages Monday, trying to get a sense for what we'll get to see when Snow Leopard ships in September (not quite "about a year" from last June's WWDC, but close).

As I loaded page after page, I was thrilled to find this blurb on an additional page of enhancements and refinements: "Adjust view options for Spotlight results just as you can with any Finder window. Modify the default view as well as the size, labeling, and alignment of icons." This was the No. 1 entry on my list of Leopard annoyances, and it looks like (yes!) it's finally fixed in Snow Leopard.

Beyond that personal-interest fix, what else is new? In my prior article, I covered the Exchange support and next generation technologies, and though Apple provides some more detail on these changes, there's really not a lot more to say about them. There are a lot of very cool new capabilities in OS X's accessibility features, none of which had been disclosed before Monday's keynote.

(Image Caption: The 'rotor' gesture eases navigation through text and web pages.) For vision-impaired users, the track pad in Snow Leopard will now be usable as a virtual screen--pressing on the trackpad will speak the name of the window under the user's finger as if he or she were touching the screen. To move to the next or previous window, users needs only flick their finger. In addition, there's support for more than 40 braille devices, better keyboard navigation, and a new gesture (the rotor) that eases navigation through text and Web pages.

To me, the most interesting newly-disclosed features are on the "Better. Faster. Easier." page. The thing that really caught my eye is that the Finder has been totally rewritten to take advantage of Snow Leopard's new technologies, such as GrandCentral and 64-bit support. Along the way, Exposé gains some really nice new features, including an organized grid arrangement, and showing all of a program's open windows when you click and hold on its dock icon. Stacks now appear in scrollable windows, and you can drill down into subfolders. Performance should be better, too, with Apple claiming that refreshing a PDF icon is 1.7x faster than Leopard, and 1.4x faster for a JPG icon.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2012 Mac Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.
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