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October 30, 2007

Top Ten Leopard Tips


Here are the top-ten Leopard tips from my friends, Adam Engst et al, at Take Control Books. They’ve already released five ebooks to help people upgrade to Leopard. These books cost either $10 or $15, but you can save 30% if you buy all five. Take Control publishes minor updates for free, so the authors can revise their books on the fly.

  1. Back up first! Time Machine may or may not turn out to be everything you ever wanted in a backup program. But even if you’re going to have a full Time Machine backup after you upgrade to Leopard, don’t forget to back up your Mac first. Your best bet is a bootable duplicate to an external hard drive, using a program like SuperDuper.

    Not only does this provide insurance in case something goes wrong with your upgrade, it lets you use the cleaner and safer Erase and Install upgrade method, at the end of which the Leopard installer can migrate your user data, applications, and other files from your duplicate. From Take Control of Upgrading to Leopard

  2. Update third-party software first. Some of your favorite third-party applications and utilities may already have been updated for Leopard compatibility. It’s worth going through your software and checking for any such updates before running the Leopard installer - especially for things like plug-ins for Safari and Mail, and any other system enhancements that may hack into your system in ways Apple doesn’t officially sanction. Many such programs may break under Leopard, but if you upgrade them to compatible versions beforehand, you’ll have a better chance of smooth sailing once Leopard is installed. From Take Control of Upgrading to Leopard

  3. Opt out (not in) for additional fonts. In Tiger, if you wanted the forty or so additional foreign-language fonts installed, you had to ask for them specially during the installation process, or try and find them later. (Why would you care if your foreign language skills don’t include Chinese, Thai, or Tibetan? Many of the Asian fonts have wonderful Roman-based characters, such as numbers up to 100 and letters inside circles, squares, and rounded rectangles, both white-on-black and black-and-white.)

    Leopard, however, includes all the fonts by default, so if you don’t want your Font menus cluttered or the chore of removing the extras manually, decline the fonts during the installation process: Choose your installation method, and then on the Install Summary screen, click Customize. In the Custom Install pane that appears, uncheck Additional Fonts in the list of options. From Take Control of Fonts in Leopard

  4. Reconsider Spotlight. In Tiger, many users found Spotlight a disappointment: it failed to find files; finding invisible files didn’t work; and the interface for dealing with the found files was just plain weird. Leopard fixes all this.

    There are only two Spotlight interfaces: the Spotlight menu, and the Finder search window. To use the Finder search window, choose Show All in the Spotlight menu, or press Command-Option-Space, or just start typing in a Finder window’s search field. You can work with the found results just as in any Finder window. Even better, you can refine the search as much as you like. Click the + button at the right side to summon a “criteria bar.” Click it again to summon another.

    If the criterion you want doesn’t appear in the leftmost pop-up menu, choose Other; especially useful “Other” options include “System Files” (which makes Spotlight search everywhere) and “Spotlight items” (which makes the results include non-file things like iCal events). Option-click the + button to make a criteria bar that can modify addition criteria using Any, All, or Not. Oh, and finding invisible files works. From Take Control of Customizing Leopard

  5. Welcome guests to your Mac. When your friends or family want to use your Mac “just for a minute,” to check email, to surf the Web, or to play a game, you can do so more safely now by letting them log into the new Guest Account in Leopard. This account, which recreates a virgin home folder each time its activated, gives them standard user’s rights, and keeps them from prying into your personal files. From Take Control of Users & Accounts in Leopard

  6. Capitalize on the Finder font previews. You don’t have to open Font Book, or the font manager of your choice, to see what a font looks like. With Icon Preview turned on as an option for any Fonts folder window, a font icon appears as a tiny, two-letter sample of its font. In a Column view window, the Preview column shows a small, but full alphanumeric sample of a selected font file. But, for a quick, big Finder font sample, just select a font file and take a Quick Look: choose File > Quick Look (Command-Y), or simply hit the spacebar. From Take Control of Fonts in Leopard

  7. Share and share alike. Like a scent on a breeze that reminds us of older days, File Sharing in Leopard brings back a feature missing since Mac OS 9: folders that can be shared as network volumes. While third-party software could add back this behavior in Tiger, it’s not the same as having it built in. Sharing folders lets you choose which projects or parts of a hard drive to expose to others. This limits risk and makes file sharing simpler, too.

    Leopard provides a neat interface (in the Sharing preference pane, under the File Sharing service) to choose which folders or volumes to share, and to set which users may access and modify files. But it can be even simpler. In the Finder, select any folder or volume, choose Get Info, and check the Shared Folder box to share that item; it’s automatically added to the Shared Folders list in File Sharing. From Take Control of Sharing Files in Leopard

  8. Control your kids! A great way to keep your kids from using their Macs too much is to set time limits with Leopard’s significantly enhanced Parental Controls. You can set limits for school nights and weekends, and this prevents them from logging in between the morning and evening hours you set, or playing games or chatting after bedtime. From Take Control of Users & Accounts in Leopard

  9. Lock down FTP. Apple is still hiding its secure FTP (SFTP) light under a bushel. FTP as a protocol is insecure: passwords and data pass in the clear, visible to anyone on a Wi-Fi hotspot or other untrusted network at a college or elsewhere. SFTP protects you by encrypting the entire FTP connection. You won’t find the option connected with FTP in the File Sharing preferences though.

    The trick is that Leopard enables SFTP when you turn on Remote Access in the Sharing preferences pane. Unfortunately SFTP can’t be limited in scope as to what files a user with a Mac OS X account can see, so SFTP is a better tool for a computer owner’s remote access. All well-known Mac OS X FTP clients support SFTP. From Take Control of Sharing Files in Leopard

  10. Become a Spaces cadet. You’ll get the hang of using Spaces right away (and you should definitely use it, as it is a really easy and very cool way to handle window clutter), but one or two major features might escape your notice. An important thing to be able to do is to move an already open window from one space to another. Since you are always in just one space, how can you possibly do that? If you’re in All Spaces mode (which you get to by clicking the Spaces icon in the Dock, or by pressing F8), you can drag a miniaturized window directly from one space to another!

    Otherwise, hold the mouse down on a window’s title bar and switch directly to another space with a keyboard shortcut (such as Control-Right arrow); the window will travel with you to the new space. Or, drag the window to the edge of the screen and pause with the mouse still down and at the screen’s edge; you’ll switch spaces automatically, bringing the window with you.

    And here’s another tip: When you’re in All Spaces mode, you can use Exposé triggers. It’s particularly useful if you enter All Spaces mode and then activate your All Windows Exposé trigger. The result is quite spectacular: you can now see all your windows in all your spaces, simultaneously! Click a window to switch to that space and bring that window frontmost, all in one amazing move. From Take Control of Customizing Leopard

These guys are the experts, but I have two Leopard tips too. First, switch to Safari. I swear it renders pages faster than any browser that I’ve used. This means sacrificing some Firefox plug-ins, but the tradeoff is worth it even if Safari didn’t enable you to create widgets (see next).

Second, roll your own widgets. My favorite feature of Leopard is the ability to create widgets with Safari. I made widgets out of the site traffic reports that I track. Now I just go to Dashboard and see four widgets instead of going to four web pages. Here’s how: Safari—>File menu—>Open in Dashboard. I’ve used Dashboard more in the first twenty-four hours since upgrading to Leopard than during all the years Dashboard was available prior to Leopard.

Please add your favorite Leopard tips by adding a comment to this posting.


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This post has certainly been a very informative one. My boyfriend, who deals with graphics and advertising on a daily basis, has set his eyes on updating to Leopard. He would appreciate reading this entry and I thought the bits about fonts would be very helpful. He has millions (of course, I exaggerate) of fonts stored in his Mac and to have them all scattered in a mess is very annoying. And he also has family members who (every now and then) sneak into his room to use his Mac when he's off at work. The heads up on the guest account feature is great.
Thank you very much for sharing this article with us!

interesting discussion, once was a techie with mac, but not now (in Jakarta) u sure need to update with mac.. compare to safari though, i try netscape greasemonkey, which is awesome! a nice added feature for those with programming background...

A friend of mine bought the latest MAC OS on the 26th Oct and found it extremely cool. Check out her review on my blog.. I must admit that she a great fan of Apple. :D

I agree with Tony that Firefox is still the best browser around .. and it is a shame that Apple does not help to optimize its performance on Leopard.


Safari was the first browser to pass the Acid2 test case. It certainly is no slouch in the web standards arena.

I agree 100% with Percy, I use Camino every day and love it. It does look a little bit funky in Leopard with it's "Aqua White" appendige instead of the new default "Burnt Aqua" but that's easily fixed with some quick modding which I've outlined on my blog if you're interested. In any event its much zippier than Firefox even though it also uses Gecko. Amazing what a difference coding in Cocoa makes :-)

(Just as an aide, does anyone else think the new dark "embossed" bookmark bar in Safari is hard to read? If I'm at a Starbucks outside in Singapore with lots of glare sometimes it can be a bit much.)

I also suggest taking a closer look at Stacks, not one interface enhancement since Quicksilver has had such a positive effect on my productivity. I've got my Applications, Utilities, Downloads and Documents folders all as stacks in the dock... for want of a better comparison it's almost like having a Start Menu that doesn't look cheap and is really usable!

My only suggestion would be to always use the "Grid" setting instead of the "Fan", the novelty of the latter wears out pretty quick, it doesn't hold much and the way it's slanted just doesn't look that good on LCD monitors which demand straight lines.

I use KDE on FreeBSD half the time and a MacBook Pro with Leopard, and I tell you what Quicksilver + Spaces + Stacks really makes it that much harder for me to go back the other machine sometimes! I'll be interested to see how KDE 4.0 *stacks* up in comparison. Pun intended ;).

There seems to be a lot of debate on clean intsll vs upgrade, which one should i go with?

I agree with Tony, it's hard when you're involved in web work to switch over to Safari so easily especially when you've come to be dependent on firefox extensions. I end up using Safari for most browsing since its so fast, and took the plunge making it my default browser... but I am still forced into using Firefox for a few microsoft web based apps.

I did reconsider Spotlight and ended up uninstalling Google Desktop Search. Spotlight is much faster and useful for me now.. and since I discovered Cmd+Space I haven't looked back. Since the Leopard upgrade, I haven't found GDS to be very helpful.. For me, its slow and stalls a great deal when looking up files, and ends up finding emails more often than anything else (even with emails unchecked in search criteria).

Also GMAIL + IMAP owns. Add to that .Mac and Spanning Sync I can stay consistent across all macs and online.

The new networking features make life so much easier when trying to copy files and use another computer's dedicated printer.

No. 5. is NOT recommended. http://www.matasano.com/log/981/a-roundup-of-leopard-security-features/
Guests can do a lot of stuff to your computer....

Another Spaces Tip:

Try dragging a window you're using to the edge of the screen and hold it there. I should move the space over and bring your window with you.

Nicely done GK!!!! I really enjoyed reading it.

I would disagree on the issue of not installing the additional fonts. Many web sites, such as Wikipedia, is using Unicode fonts to display various words in native languages, so you could get an idea of how the words look like in their native language -- and disk space is cheap nowadays.

Thanks for the tips, especially how to clone a boot disk. Just what I needed; suffered bad disk errors on a 4 month old iMac and don't want to go there again. Have restored a lot of data but not all. I tried for a few days to restore from backups and/or Disk Warrior repaired backup and then upgrade but wound up having to do a clean install. Have an extra external disk now just waiting to become an alternate boot disk and now have the way to do it! Yea!!!

Thank you for that list. It has changed some parts of my mind on Leopard. In a positive way, I guess. Keep up the good work.

Use gmail IMAP with Apple Mail, it rocks!


You say upgrade is not a good option yet you give me no quantifiable, valid reasons. And you don't address the issue I mentioned which is what is really the difference between an Upgrade and a Clean Install & Migration? Maybe I should try that out and so a FileMerge comparison of the two outcomes. But otherwise people are just spitting our empty words as far as I can tell. I did an upgrade and did not have any issues.

One of the biggest advantages of a clean install I fully agree upon is that of not having to re-install applications that you don't use. However, deleting the .app in /Applications gets rid of 99% of the hard drive space used by the app (in most cases). Certain apps like Garage Band type apps that have huge amounts of data in the various Library folders are different. But most apps just have a tiny preference file here and a cache file there. However, the number of apps I would have to re-install (and the amount of time to do so) is far more significant than the number of apps I would not re-install, so in my scenario, I would not do a clean install.

My first Mac was a PowerBook with Panther. I bought Tiger when it came out, did an upgrade. Then I bought first-gen Intel iMac the day it came out. Bought a firewire cable and transplated my PowerBook to my iMac. Now I've upgraded to Leopard. So, all in all my current system has gone through 3 major OS versions and 2 physical systems and I have never had any issues from upgrading. I recently bought a MacBook, but decided against the transplant, mainly because the HDD wasn't big enough to do a straight copy, so I just started from scratch with the MacBook.

So I see several people on this thread simpling spitting out words that Upgrade is a bad idea from all of their experience. Well, maybe you guys had bad experience, I can't say anything about that. But in my experience I have not had any problems. Maybe these "Fortune 500" companies rely on Enterprise software that have less frequent updates or use older software that don't work as well with upgrades, but for the most part, the software I use is almost always up to date, and I don't rely on old technology for my business (being a web developer, it's nearly impossible to do so and stay alive in this market).

Just my $0.02 CAD, so it's worth more than your USD $0.02... :p (I'm just joking, BTW, so don't anyone take that personally or make something stupid out of it)

The real problem with using Safari is that you're really just supporting a substandard browser. I don't use Safari for the same reason why I don't Internet Explorer on a PC - they both are just substandard browsers in the way that they support XHTML and CSS standards.

Having acted as a Managing Director of IT for 2 Fortune 500 Companies in the last 5 years, that relied heavily on macs (including numerous xserv's) I can categorically tell you that you are wrong. Had you perhaps the experience in the field that some others here obviously have, you would think otherwise. Sorry, but it's true. Upgrade is NOT a good option.

You made made some good points but a lot of what you say could have been achieved in Tiger directly like making a full backup of your hard drive (you could just use disk utility in Tiger and do a cc backup of your HD to an external hard drive) or the guest account (this has been around for a while in Tiger)...


Spaces - set up a hotspot in SysPrefs for lower right corner. Drag the mouse to the corner, and POW! same as pressing F8. Click on another window and away you go. Fast. Slick. Awesome!

Used 2 virtual desktops in VirtueDesktops in Tiger - click on screen edge to switch. This hot corner thing in SPACES is lightning fast, and slick! Now I use 6 desktops!

I use Camino 95% of the time. Safari very rarely. Firefox only when I need to do some serious debugging (my custom framework provides 99% of the debugging I need, only need Firefox when I get some kind of weird XML error or something).

Great article, thanks for posting.

I like Stacks. If I really do want to have it open something in a Finder window, I just right-click and it's the first option. I have a couple shortcuts-only folders that I added to the Stacks section, and that helps keep my dock nice and tidy while still give me two-click access to all my frequently-used applications.

A tip for notebookers and people that really like their keyboards is to install Quicksilver (make sure you get the latest version). Very, very handy both for launching apps and for directly accessing items inside of apps (bookmarks, email addresses, playlists, etc.). I want to see if I can get it to replace some of the things I lost switching from Firefox to Safari (like the drop-down box that let me pick what search engine to use).

Thanks for sharing bro !!! ....

i'll try some of those ! ....


I know a clean install is better than an upgrade, but what really would be the difference between Clean Install & Migration and just straight Upgrade? Especially if I'm just going to have Migration Assistant copy over all my custom Apache, PHP, MySQL stuff anyway. Really, what would the difference be?

Sure Windows might be a big difference between Upgrade and Clean Install, but this is OS X. No DLL hell. No Registry Hell. I have to disagree with you, "A". I think you've managed 1,000s of WINDOWS computers, not Macs. If I wanted a clean start on my Mac and "selectively" copy things over as I need them, that's something entirely different. But I honestly thin you're going to get about 99.99% the same result on a Mac if you do Upgrade vs. Clean Install & Migration Assistant. What would be the point of Migration Assistant if it wasn't at least 99% the same as before?

Amazing... dashboard actually loads in a few seconds. In Tiger, it would usually take 5-10 seconds to load all the widgets. I'm sure a widget was slowing it all down, but that should affect the rest of them.

Leopard fixes this... very nice. It has a bunch of other small but awesome fixes too like VPN & EV-DO which are way way better.

Too bad Apple forced that Stacks crap on us. I like the functionality, but I want the option to have a folder exhibit the old behavior as well. That and not allowing us to disable mouse acceleration (total bullshit!), are the only thing holding the os upgrade from greatness.

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