Review: Mac OS X Leopard

Improved Security

Mac OS X and its users haven't yet felt the sting of a major hacker attack, but in the two years since the release of Tiger, Apple and other technology companies have come under increased scrutiny about the relative security of their products. And Leopard includes a large number of new features that specifically address security concerns.

Most regular users won't notice the fact that several Leopard applications are "sandboxed" with restricted access privileges that make them less likely to be used as tools in a hacker attack. Nor will they realize that Leopard now uses a shifting system of assigning memory spaces in order to make it impossible for hackers to bank on the presence of specific code in a specific area of a Mac's memory. What they will notice is that when they first attempt to run a program they've downloaded from the Internet, they'll be prompted with information about when they downloaded it and what program was used to download it. Apple has done a good job of making its security messages more understandable to regular users, which is good, since most users will simply click through a dialog box that makes no sense.

And hundreds more

It's impossible to detail the avalanche of new features in Leopard. Screen Savers and international spelling dictionaries aside, Apple's list of "300+ new features" isn't far off. If you use Photo Booth, Parental Controls, Image Capture, VPN, Terminal, or just about any other feature you can think of in Mac OS X, you'll find at least some changes.

Macworld's Buying Advice

So are 300-plus new features worth $129? That answer will vary, because no single user will ever take advantage of all - or maybe even half - of those 300 features. But given the impressive value of Time Machine and improvements to existing programs such as iCal, iChat, Mail, and the Finder, most active Mac users will find more than enough reasons to consider that upgrade cost money well spent. Despite a few interface missteps, particularly when it comes the menu bar and the Dock, Leopard is an upgrade that roars.

[Jason Snell is Macworld's editorial director.]

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