Sneaking in a few days before its promised September release, the tune-up for Mac OS X Leopard costs $29 for current Leopard users, and packs just enough punch to be worth your money. Apple is careful to point out that Snow Leopard isn't a complete system overhaul, but rather a collection of hundreds of smaller refinements to make Leopard run more gracefully. Hidden among smaller tweaks are some technical improvements that result in a smoother, easier-to-use Leopard with plenty for Mac fans to be excited about. The user interface and everyday tasks feel faster in general, although we didn't notice a substantive improvement in application performance.
Even if you're not a current Leopard user, the $169 package that includes Snow Leopard, iLife, and iWork is a steal for the system upgrade and two of Apple's major software suites, not to mention the long-pined-after inclusion of Microsoft Exchange compatibility. Finally you will be able to connect with Exchange Servers (without using Microsoft's Entourage), but only if your company is using Microsoft Exchange 2007; many still aren't. Snow Leopard is offered on a single install disk--there are no separate, tiered pricing structures to worry about--and you're getting every feature and technical enhancement available in a single install. Unfortunately, for those on PowerPC systems, Snow Leopard only works with Intel Macs.
Installation Installation of Snow Leopard is dead simple and (according to Apple) up to 45 percent faster than Leopard using a newly designed installer that asks only one question during the process. On our test machine, the process took about an hour, including two automatic restarts. The default setting installs Snow Leopard without tampering with any of your saved files, music, photos, or documents. Mostly we had no problems, but on one test machine we needed to reinstall the OS when it had trouble rebooting. Fortunately the new installer is designed for safely reinstalling the OS in the event you encounter any hiccups during your initial installation. On our second try, the OS installed perfectly on our test machine and no files were harmed. PowerPC Macs are no longer supported
One of the main roadblocks for Mac users in a primarily Windows workplace was the inability to connect with Microsoft Exchange servers. Most Mac users used Microsoft Entourage or available open-source options as a work-around, but it was never as smooth as connecting from a Windows machine with Microsoft Office. Snow Leopard now supports Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 out of the box so you can easily connect using Apple's Mail app, grab global address lists in the Address Book, and create meetings with contacts using iCal.
Apple did more than simply give you the ability to connect, however. Common tasks like creating meetings, for example, are incredibly easy with intuitive controls. iCal lets you view work events and personal activities all in the same window (with easy controls to include or not include the information you want). The Apple Address Book works seamlessly across Mail and iCal so you can quickly bring up global address lists, add people to a meeting (including predesigned groups), and invitations will automatically be sent to each attendee. As an added bonus, if some attendees have scheduling conflicts with your proposed meeting time, iCal will automatically figure out the earliest available time that everyone is free. These are features already available in Microsoft's Outlook for Windows, but in Snow Leopard the process feels much more intuitive.