MaCinJay’s Musings

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Posts Tagged ‘Spaces

Mac OS X Leopard: Finder

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Stacks and Spaces are entirely new applications in OS X. The Finder on the other hand is the most venerable Mac application, going all the way back to the original 128k Mac. Essentially it is the Mac equivalent of Windows Explorer (although there are of course many differences between the two). I won’t bore you with a history of the Finder but those interested can read about it in this Wikipedia article.

Instead I’ll concentrate on the major changes made to the Leopard Finder. First of all the sidebar has been redesigned. It now looks a lot like the sidebar in iTunes, as can be seen from the screenshots below.

itunes-sidebar.jpgfinder-sidebar.jpg

In fact the changes to Finder’s sidebar form part of a unified theme that Apple has established for the operating system with Leopard. Which is not to say that the change is purely cosmetic; as you can see the Finder sidebar is now divided into discrete categories i.e. devices (cameras, disk drives etc), shared resources, folders (Places in Leopard parlance) and searches. It is still possible however to add folders to the Places section in the sidebar. In the searches category Apple has thoughtfully included some useful smart folders out of the box, but these can also be added to.

Incidentally, accessing shared resources has become a lot easier in Leopard. When a resource is available on the network it automatically appears in the sidebar. Connecting to the resource is now just a matter of clicking on the resource icon. A big improvement over Tiger here in my opinion, where connecting to other resources on the Network always seemed to be a hit-or-miss affair.

Other significant enhancements to the Finder are Cover Flow and Quick Look.

Cover Flow

cover-flow.jpg

In the past the user was restricted to three views in the Finder: icon, list and column. In Leopard there is now another view to choose from, namely Cover Flow. Along with the new sidebar this is another feature that the Finder has borrowed from iTunes and one that many non-Mac users will be familiar with. It enables the user to browse documents, images, folders and applications as if flipping through album art in iTunes. Some purists have questioned its usefulness, preferring the traditional finder views. Personally I think that Cover Flow is a useful addition, especially as an alternative to iPhoto for browsing photos.

Quick Look

This provides a convenient way of previewing a document without having to open its application. Simply select the document in the Finder and press CTRL and the mouse button, then select Quick Look from the contextual menu. Alternatively you can select Quick Look’s icon in the Finder toolbar. (If it isn’t there by default select Customise Toolbar in the Finder’s View menu and drag the eye-shaped icon into the toolbar.)

That concludes my brief review of Leopard’s new Finder. While it wasn’t completely overhauled as some wanted I think that overall the changes represent a significant improvement over the Finder in Tiger.

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Written by macinjay

December 2, 2007 at 9:36 am

Mac OS X Leopard: Spaces

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The other day I shared my impressions of Stacks, Apple’s new addition to the Dock. Now it’s the turn of Spaces that, in a sense, is to Exposé what Stacks is to the Dock. (For those not familiar with OS X, Exposé allows the user to review all open windows on the system with the click of a button.) In fact Apple has paired the two applications in its System Preferences, as shown in the screen-shot below:

spaces-preferences-pane.jpg

The reason for this is that Spaces provides another way of handling open applications by bringing virtual desktops to OS X. Virtual desktops have been around a while for the Mac in the form of third-party applications but this is the first time that Apple has included this functionality in the Mac OS.

Spaces allows the user to sandbox applications, thereby making it easier to manage them when there are multiple applications open at the same time. This is achieved by assigning applications to different spaces, as shown in the screen-shot, but it is also possible to allocate an application to work in every space. There are four spaces by default but it is possible to create sixteen in total, although I’m not sure that it would be practical to effectively manage so many (more on that presently).

Leopard provides several ways to activate and manage spaces. Firstly there are the keyboard shortcuts, which can be changed in System Preferences as shown above. (Strangely the default settings in System Preferences indicate a combination of SHIFT with arrow and number keys to switch to different spaces but the default on my MacBook Pro is actually the CONTROL key.) Secondly there is an option to access spaces from the menu bar.

Pressing F8 activates the following view:

spaces-f8-view.jpg

It is then possible to reassign applications by dragging them between the different spaces.

So far I have found Spaces to be an excellent way of managing my work-flow. For example, now when I am surfing the Internet and want to check my email I simply press CONTROL and my right arrow key, then CONTROL and the left arrow key to go back to my browser.

I do have a couple of gripes though. First up, switching spaces from the menu bar would be a lot more useful if it was possible to give my spaces a name. I imagine that this would also make it more practical to manage a larger number of them. Secondly it would be nice if applications assigned to specific spaces launched automatically upon switching to that space; sometimes I find myself switching to a space only to find an empty desktop because I forgot to open the application in the first place.

Notwithstanding these small criticisms I believe that Apple has scored a hit with Spaces, which will no doubt become even better with future updates.

Written by macinjay

November 29, 2007 at 8:37 am