Early Thoughts on Snow Leopard

by Chris Howard Sep 02, 2009

Well, like many folks on the net, I too am going to tell of my experiences upgrading to Snow Leopard. And, like most things Apple, the process was straightforward. However, I was surprised that in the customise page of the install, the additional languages were checked by default. Unchecking these reduced the install by nearly 700MB.

More and Less Space
I was curious about just how much space Snow Leopard was going to recover for me. On my kids' computer, space is at a premium, so this is of interest. Therefore, I noted the used space before and after the install on my MacBook Pro (the first of my two Macs to get the upgrade).

I had forgotten that Apple was changing OS X to report disk space the same way drive manufacturers report capacity. So, my 500GB HDD now reports under Snow Leopard as 500GB, whereas under Leopard it was reporting as 467GB.

What it meant for me though was: Snow Leopard used an additional 4GB of disk space, jumping from 179GB to 183GB used. It was the same on my kids' iMac — an extra 4GB.

Though, on my MacBook Pro, the free space before install was 288GB and after install it had risen to 316GB. So, Snow Leopard had used more space and reclaimed more space!

If you do the maths on that though, you can see my free space actually changed by Apple's claimed 7GB. That is, 316 - (288*1.024^3) = 7GB

To understand the change more easily, look at my kids' iMac's Bootcamp partition. The before-Snow Leopard used space was 10.3GB or 11,056,955,392 bytes. After Snow Leopard, it is 11.06GB or 11,056,955,392.

So, as you can see, the number of bytes hasn't changed, just the way OS X converts them to gigabytes.

I have seen way too many bloggers excited about 15 to 20GB of extra free space, and many of them should know better.

Apple caught a few developers off guard by releasing Snow Leopard earlier than expected. Consequently, some didn't have their Snow Leopard compatible releases ready.

On my system I've found the following incompatibilities:

1Password: You can go to their website and download a version 3 beta which is Snow Leopard compatible and which seems to work so far.

iStat Menus: I'm suffering without this one working. I had become quite reliant on seeing its info in my menu bar. Hopefully a Snow Leopard compatible version isn't far away.

CyberDuck: A Snow Leopard compatible beta is available.

iPhone: iTunes no longer detected my iPhone. Checking Software Update revealed a fix for that.

Third Party QuickLook Plug-ins
: Just last week I'd installed a few third party Spotlight plugins in Leopard. These do things like preview Adobe Illustrator files, show the contents of zip files, show the contents of folders and so on. They are very useful. None of them work under Snow Leopard. Hopefully that will be rectified soon.

Third Party Preference Panes
: Some of these have to relaunch before use. Growl did it once, but SteerMouse does it every time.

While I'm discussing some of the incompatibilities, it's a good time to mention some of the things that still need improving.

Grid Stack Scrolling
: First off, the idea to allow Grid Stacks to scroll is good. However, the execution is less than desirable. The big problems are: it's not optional and the icons are not resizable. I have been using a grid stack of my applications as my application launcher. In Leopard, as the number of icons increased, they'd decrease in size so all could be displayed at once. For application launching that was ideal—two clicks. Now I have to click and scroll and click. Consequently, I'm finding myself retraining to use command-spacebar to open Spotlight and typing the first few letters (e.g. "saf" for Safari). Actually, I think it's a faster way to launch apps anyway.

Put Back: Put back (i.e.restore a file from the trash to its original location) is good, but it would be nice if it told you where it was going to put the file back to and gave you the option to put it somewhere else. Also, if in the meantime you've created a file or folder with the same name, you have to choose to "Stop" or "Replace".

: The International preference pane has been renamed Language & Text and contains a new item for Text which includes auto-correction. I'm not having a lot of success with it though. I've turned on auto-correction (right-click in an editing area), but it isn't working for everything listed in its preference pane for substitution. I had hoped to be able to shorthand a few commonly used words or phrases eg. snowl for Snow Leopard. But as I say, it didn't work.

I'm also not a fan of having to turn auto-correct on to get it to work, as it also attempts to autocorrect spelling mistakes. So it could be changing words that are right but not in the dictionary. For example, I typed Emaline and it changed it to malice. (Emaline was the wrong spelling anyway - should have been Emmaline—but better close to right than totally wrong, at least when I come back later and find the error I'll know what I was trying to type.)

Easter Eggs Galore!
Snow Leopard is packed full of goodies. It's more like a basket of Easter eggs, than a tree full of Christmas presents. The term, Easter eggs is appropriate as it's used in computing for unexpected surprises. Apple has provided very little detail of what new features are in Snow Leopard (whereas, normally it likes to provide an extensive list of "150 new features" no matter how small), so yes, it is a bit of an Easter egg hunt.

Screen Shots Renamed
One that quickly becomes apparent is the renaming of screen shots to "screen shot" plus the date and time. This means every screen shot has a unique name, which is useful at times. However, there's still no way to change where screen shots are saved to.

Holy Moly, It Recognises Proper English spelling!
As I was typing this piece something very strange happened. The red squiggly underlines appeared under words spelt the American way. Eg Customize. This is the first time ever this has happened on a Mac for me. I've waited years for the localised spell checker. Although, I must admit, it has been useful to have an American spellchecker when writing for Apple Matters.

The settings for this can be found in System Preferences, under Language & Text, and then Text. Here you can select what spelling dictionaries to use.

Localised spelling dictionaries is a feature I'd not heard was coming to Snow Leopard, so it's a nice surprise.

Honestly, I haven't noticed any speed improvements in most usage. My MacBook Pro does not feel any faster. However, some tasks clearly are quicker. All the Apple apps definitely open faster than before. And one very noticeable speed enhancement is when you are scrolling folders of images. Even in CoverFlow it's really quick to update the preview image. And even RAW format files, which from my camera are 10MB, the lag is still only less than a second.

Emptying Locked Files from the Trash

If the system encounters locked files when emptying the trash, it now prompts and ask if you want to remove all items or just the unlocked ones, leaving the locked ones. Previously the message was "Stop" or "Continue" (if my memory serves me right) and it would then skip the locked file, but you would get prompted at every locked file.

Snow Leopard is an incremental improvement on the surface, but under the hood has some major changes. We won't see the benefits of those (outside of Apple's own apps) until other developers take advantage of the new technologies, such as Grand Central.

On the downside, some of the changes (like Auto-correct and Put Back) do feel a little token and half-hearted. Hopefully they'll be refined in one of the dot point upgrades.

Apple is lucky. The large number of incompatible applications that people around the web are identifying highlights the risk of launching Snow Leopard early. It could have turned into a public relations disaster. That said, it has certainly gone more smoothly than previous OS X upgrades.

Do you need Snow Leopard? No, you don't need it, but for such a small cost and a few of those nice Easter Eggs, it's worth it anyway.


  • “Honestly, I haven’t noticed any speed improvements in most usage. My MacBook Pro does not feel any faster. However, some tasks clearly are quicker. All the Apple apps definitely open faster than before.”

    You don’t notice a speed improvement in most usage, but ALL apple apps are definitely faster. Which is it? Or do you not use apple apps so for you it doesn’t matter?

    insertclevernamehere had this to say on Sep 02, 2009 Posts: 8
  • Sorry if that’s not clear, teamryan.

    Most of the time I don’t notice any speed improvements, but I still listed it here as a benefit because of those two cases it is noticeable - especially the browsing of images. BTW I didn’t say the apps seem faster, just that they open faster.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 02, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • One thing I can’t believe I forgot to mention is my XBench scores.

    Before Snow Leopard: 136.48
    After Snow Leopard: 106.00

    And, yes, higher is better. So, it would seem Snow Leopard is significantly *slower* than Leopard.

    However, I suspect that’s a reflection on underlying changes to OS X that are have caused problems with XBench’s test processes, especially for OpenGL graphics.

    I have contacted XBench to verify this suspicion, and that they need to release one with Snow Leopard compatible tests, but haven’t heard anything back yet.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 02, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • Upgraded my iMac from Tiger to SL.  No real problems.  Some nice changes.  Havn’t had time to go through all my apps yet to see if they work but what I have used seems OK and definitely snappier feeling than with Tiger.

    VMware’s Fusion will have to be fixed as it will not open but that can wait for a rainy Sunday.

    Total download of SL took a few minutes more than an hour.

    I am, however, going to wait with installing it on my MacBook Pro (Tiger) until some of the developers get caught up.

    WetcoastBob had this to say on Sep 03, 2009 Posts: 29
  • I first had lots of problems with my KeyRings after upgrading to Snow Leopard on my two MacBooks.

    Now MobileMe has been giving me grey hair for three days.

    Aanon Ymaas had this to say on Sep 05, 2009 Posts: 2
  • Found another Easter Egg!

    In the print queue there’s now a little arrow beside print jobs. If you click it, it shows a QuickLook of the print job’s first page.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 08, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • oops, it actually shows all pages

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 08, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • iStat working.  Also Menu Meters.  Yayyy!
    Now waiting for Cleardoc and Menushade to catch up.

    WetcoastBob had this to say on Sep 10, 2009 Posts: 29
  • Keep me posted, Bob, coz I had to turn off the updated iStat because it was freezing up and so hanging my menubar.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 10, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • Just updated my early ‘07 MBP to SL.  Went smoother than the late ‘08 iMac.  Asm works on the MBP but not on the iMac.  Nothing works 64 bit on the MBP but lots runs 64 on the iMac.

    Definite speed boost all around.

    Some minor irritants with airport ( needing passwords again ), can’t find my “Junk” folder and it looks like I have to retrain junk recognition.  Your follow-up comment was labled junk and was buried in a common mail folder along with my other folders.

    I am using iStat pro in my dashboard and Menu Meters in my menubar and it works fine.

    I am very pleased with SL

    WetcoastBob had this to say on Sep 15, 2009 Posts: 29
  • Seems like I have noticed a slight improvement in speed.  Overall I have been very pleased.

    ggannon had this to say on Sep 19, 2009 Posts: 1
  • Localised spelling dictionaries is a feature I’d not heard was coming to Snow Leopard, so it’s a nice surprise.web advertising|jobs|importing from china

    jun12 had this to say on Jun 29, 2011 Posts: 44
  • Oh, I haven’t upgraded my Macbook, so the setting must be different. Good that you write about it here because I didn’t know about the 5S before.

    Willis had this to say on Jul 19, 2011 Posts: 7
  • I like snowpard pattern. I have a bag and laptop cover with that pattern.
    bhutan tourism

    helix.sampson had this to say on Jul 21, 2011 Posts: 15
  • Anyway, we can’t say that early. I don’t think that way. I feel it’s a perfect and fit, so what’s the problem? Do you really know how to do it?
    Commission domination

    nindun had this to say on Jul 21, 2011 Posts: 4
  • Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 >
You need log in, or register, in order to comment