SAN FRANCISCO, 26 AUGUST 2009 - Snow Leopard may be a "minor" update to Mac OS X, with a $29 upgrade price and a focus on improved speed and reliability, but it's still bursting at the seams with tweaks, changes, and improvements--as well as a few modifications that might well be quite controversial. Here's a look at some of the biggest changes due to arrive with Snow Leopard on Friday, August 28.
The biggest new feature in Snow Leopard is support for Exchange, Microsoft's popular e-mail, contact, and calendar server. The iPhone got support for Exchange last year, and now it's the Mac's turn to join the party. (Ironically, Windows doesn't support Exchange out of the box.) As a result, it has become that much easier to integrate the Mac into businesses that have standardized on Exchange.
The way Exchange support works in Snow Leopard is pretty simple: once you add an Exchange account in Mail, you'll start receiving e-mail messages in Mail, you'll be able to view Exchange contacts in Address Book, and Exchange calendars and tasks will appear in iCal. iCal will even perform tricky tasks like scheduling meetings based on the free/busy status of invitees; you can accept or decline meeting invitations right from Mail. If you're syncing your iPhone to the same Exchange server, all those calendar events will sync up automatically.
As any IT manager will tell you, Exchange can be a deep and complex subject. We've asked an IT expert to discuss Exchange in Snow Leopard in detail, and will be posting a separate article on the subject soon here at Macworld.com.
Apple's not trumpeting the feature, but Snow Leopard does actually include a certain degree of built-in protection against dangerous software. The same system that Leopard employed to warn you before you open programs or mount disk images downloaded from the Internet now also checks those files for known dangers.
It's a testament to the limited number of Mac OS X malware threats that Apple's stock list of dangerous files contains all of two entries. However, that list can be automatically updated via Software Update, so it definitely provides a first line of defense against unwittingly infecting your computer with evil software. However, once you're infected, Snow Leopard doesn't have a system for removing that malware. As a result, we expect that there will still be a strong market for third-party virus-checking and -removal software.
Snow Leopard offers a few improvements to Exposé, the window-management functionality originally introduced in Mac OS X Panther. In previous versions of Mac OS X, when you used Exposé to display every window in your current application or all the windows on your screen, the arrangement of the windows could be a bit haphazard. With Snow Leopard, windows are aligned on a grid, so most people will find it a little easier to quickly scan through their screen and find the window they want. Press Command-1 to rearrange the windows alphabetically or Command-2 to group windows by application.
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