Leopard Apple’s latest desirable

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Offering better integration of e-mail with syndicated Internet news updates, a new backup feature likely to decrease the impact of hardware failures, and snazzy display features by the bushel, the $129 Apple Mac OS X Leopard upgrade is more than a reasonable purchase.

It’s something any Mac user will want to have.

The new release, a couple of years in the making and delayed about six months so Apple could bring out the IPhone, is billed as being able to “put a new Mac in your Mac.” Here are some initial impressions in less than 24 hours of use.

There’s a new sheen to the interface, including the menu bar atop most windows. Press the F9 key along with Function on a MacBook Pro, and your open windows array themselves to allow you to see how many programs, documents or items you have open. You can set up spaces in which selected programs will run; Function and F8 will array these workspaces for you and let you select the one you desire.

Open a file folder and highlight a file; press the space bar and you get a quick view of the file, whether a picture, a document or an audio clip, the latter playing through the computer’s sound system.

The arrival of a new Mac OS also means the updating, usually, of two key applications: Mail.app and the Safari Web browser. Mail.app is a very good e-mail program, now enhanced with the ability to incorporate really simple syndication, or RSS, feeds into a mailbox.

That’s how I can get any one of the millions of other RSS news feeds out there. It’s a common-sense place for such items, and it’s good that Mail.app now incorporates this. There are some other nice tweaks to the program, such as including a notes and to-do item as options. You can also click to find an address contained in an e-mail via Google Maps, as long as you are connected to the Internet.

The one option Mail.app’s developers have, as far as I can tell, omitted is the ability to request a return receipt for sent e-mail: If I send you a note and you read it, I’d like your computer to send an acknowledgment.

Despite years of requests from this writer, and, I presume, others, Apple has turned a deaf ear. They probably think I’m a crank, but surely I can’t be the only person on Earth who might benefit from such a feature, which is found, by the way, in competitor Thunderbird. Maybe next time.

Safari’s tweaks, on display since June as a public Beta from Apple, are more subtle but just as welcome. Several different Web sites display better in this version 3 of Safari, and I appreciate that.

It’s a good Web browser and is pretty much standard for Mac users, which means developers should be current with it as well.

Fortunately, there’s also a Windows version.

Time and location, ironically, did not permit an examination of Time Machine, the new backup program. But just having an automated backup system in the OS is a rather good idea, I think, and your reviewer will examine this feature here or in the Tech blog.

Most important about Leopard is that its installation is swift and easy, less than one hour in my case, and that the underlying OS doesn’t crash.

That’s a key to Mac’s superiority, and a reason why, in the past quarter, Apple’s hardware sales have skyrocketed.

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