Opinion: The top 25 overlooked and underrated features in Leopard

Don't miss these little-known but highly useful features in Mac OS X 10.5

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File-sharing user account

Another new type of user account is called a file-sharing user account, and it's almost the opposite of the guest account.

In previous Mac OS X releases, if you wanted to allow users to connect to your Mac from other computers over a network, you either had to support guest access (in which anyone could connect) or create specific user accounts for them. Those user accounts, however, allowed users not only to browse your shared folders over the network but also to log in and use your computer.

Leopard's new file-sharing user account type lets you restrict access to shared files to specific people for whom you create user accounts, and it allows you to prevent those users from actually sitting down and using your computer. With a file-sharing account, friends and family members can access your computer's shared files remotely, but they can't log into your computer.


Setting up file and CD/DVD sharing.

Click to view larger image.

This makes sharing documents, music and other files easy but keeps full access to your computer limited to just you. You can even create file-sharing accounts quickly and easily on the fly while setting up file sharing in the Sharing pane in System Preferences.

Remote CD/DVD sharing

Right up there with file sharing is the new CD/DVD sharing feature. No doubt created with the MacBook Air (which lacks an optical drive) in mind, this feature allows you to share any inserted CD or DVD with a single check box.

Not only is this new in Leopard, but it doesn't require you to explicitly share each disc as it is inserted. Just click the appropriate check box in the Sharing System Preferences pane, and CDs or DVDs will be automatically shared whenever they're inserted.

Scrolling in background windows

Apple long ago made scrolling easier by supporting scroll wheels on multibutton mice (including the company's multidirectional scrolling Mighty Mouse) as well as by moving two fingers in unison on the track pads of most Mac laptops. In previous releases, scrolling affected only the active window, but in Leopard, you can easily scroll through background windows as well.

Simply position the cursor near a background window's scroll bar, and it will scroll -- a great way to save a few clicks (especially if you don't want to switch to that background application).

Tabs and window groups in Terminal

It's hard to think that Apple could do much with Terminal, its utility for accessing the Mac OS X command line. But the company introduced two useful Terminal features in Leopard. The first is the tabbed Terminal windows. Like tabbed Web browsing, this lets users open multiple sessions from the command line without cluttering the screen with additional windows.

The second is window groups, which allow users who would rather work with multiple windows to save a collection of Terminal windows (complete with window styles and size, titles and positions) that can be automatically restored all at once when Terminal is launched.


A Terminal window group. Click to view larger image.

Both features help to organize Terminal use and make the command line a more easily used component of Mac OS X.

Safe application relaunch

Applications crash. While Mac OS X is a very stable operating system that prevents a crashing application from taking down other apps or an entire Mac (as they could in the bygone era of Mac OS 9 and earlier), applications themselves can still occasionally crash and freeze.

Leopard's safe-launch feature allows the operating system to know when an application has crashed or been forced to quit after freezing and to respond with the option to ignore the crash or relaunch. If the application repeatedly crashes, Leopard will offer to restart the application with a default preferences file -- often the first step in troubleshooting application crashes -- thus saving you some steps in dealing with crashes.

Selecting and copying PDF text in Preview

Adobe Acrobat or PDF files have for years been considered a great way to share data with people when you want to include formatting and graphics elements and ensure that all users can open a document and see it the way you intended. One problem has always been that users can't easily select text from a PDF and paste it into a text file such as an e-mail, contact or Word document. Preview, Mac OS X's native image and PDF viewer, now allows text selection in PDFs, making it not only possible but easy to copy and paste text from a PDF.

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