I adopt a Snow Leopard

I’m very pleased with the Snow Leopard release of Mac OS X. I bought it at the beginning of the month, but put off installing it until I had reached a milestone with my dissertation.

By now it seems safe for anyone with an Intel Mac to install Snow Leopard, which was released last August. Developers have had plenty of time to work out any bugs. The price is very reasonable, probably because most of the benefits are “under the hood.” There’s little in the way of toys or eye candy. Just improvements.

Pleasant surprises

There’s been a lot of verbiage about Snow Leopard from all the usual suspects. To me, one of the most useful offerings is this video:

For those who like the command line, this article was a good introduction to some hidden settings in Snow Leopard. I used about one in three of the suggested commands, including the pretty if useless “X-ray folders.”

AFAIK no one has mentioned a very welcome addition to Finder Preferences. You can now limit Finder searches to the current folder, by default, instead of the entire computer. The old default setting had often annoyed me in Leopard.

TextExpander, a utiity that saves keystrokes and fixes frequent typos, has switched from a preference panel (in 10.5 and earlier) to a freestanding application in 10.6. The developers have a rationale for this, but I think the key reason was probably to distinguish their work from the new built-in “Symbol and Text Substitution” feature in the Language & Text preference pane.

TextExpander has several advantages over the built-in feature, including compatibility with many more applications. A welcome surprise in the 3.x Snow Leopard versions of TextExpander is the ability to automatically correct one of my frequent typing mistakes: TWo INitial CApitals.1

I knew Snow Leopard reduces the overall size of the operating system. But I didn’t expect to get so much space back on my hard drive.

Space savings

I recovered 8.3 gigabytes of space on the hard drive. The typical space savings is said to be about 7 GB. I think I did better because:

  1. My last major upgrade (to 10.5 Leopard) was done by a repair shop, leaving behind some pieces of the Tiger (10.4) OS. This upgrade seems to have found and replaced all those pieces.
  2. Under Tiger I had installed the extra Developer components. Many of these had not worked well since the Leopard upgrade, even after I obtained a legit install disk and ran it. Since then I had removed as many components as I felt I safely could; the Snow Leopard installer seems to have cleaned up the rest.
  3. I had a Cisco VPN client for my university, with files in the root directory. The Snow Leopard installer cleaned all that out. (A Good Thing®.)

It may have mattered that I booted from the install disk before running the installer. This wasn’t necessary — Apple instructs users to just pop in the disk and run it — but I guessed that booting from the disk, instead of my hard drive, might make the upgrade slightly more efficient. A fully clean install would have taken more time and attention than I had to give. So I struck a compromise between ease and rigor.

I could free up still more space by excising all the PowerPC code from my applications, now that there’s no turning back. This occurred to me when I was using the ditto utility the other day, and discovered that it can do that job while creating archive files. Brought back memories of the ’90s transition from 68K to PowerPC architecture, when “fat” applications ran in either environment.

1 I would like this feature better if it worked everywhere, not just at the beginning of sentences. I’ve also seen some unexpected behavior from TextExpander “snippets” that worked reliably under 10.5, but I expect this will be worked out before long.

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