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The grumbling about Leopard started before its arrival. After all, it was, ahem, late. Apple had originally wanted to release it at 2007’s Worldwide Developers Conference in early June, but had to borrow some personnel from the Mac OS X team to help get the iPhone finished for its big coming-out party on June 29. Then when the cat was finally out of the bag on October 26, early reports of install problems, performance hits, bugs, and even the dreaded blue screens of death put a damper on all the great things about Leopard.
We dig a lot about Leopard, but plenty of little touches (it’s always the little things, isn’t it?) in the interface have always seemed odd. While minor issues with the aesthetics and functionality of Leopard’s interface hardly represent major problems, they can still be incredibly frustrating.
And we here at Mac|Life were annoyed right along with you. But as the Beatles used to sing, it’s getting better all the time. The Mac OS is now up to version 10.5.2, and a lot of the little annoyances have been cured, either by Apple in its software updates, or by third-party apps, Terminal hacks, and other workarounds. One by one, all the pieces to customize Leopard to your exact liking are falling into place.
Never say that Apple doesn’t love us. Need proof? The things we howled about the loudest when Leopard debuted are no longer issues, thanks to fixes in the Mac OS 10.5.2 update. But just in case you swore off updating after being burned by 10.5, or you just haven’t poked around 10.5.2 enough to notice all the welcome tweaks, we’ll show you around.
The problem: Stacks was universally reviled in the Mac|Life offices because the feature felt like the interface version of cotton candy: fluff without substance, and rather messy to boot. You got a grid view or a fan view. And if you told fan view to put the items in alphabetical order, the A items would be at the bottom while the Z items were at the top. It sort of makes sense if you’re willing to admit that the stack does fan up from the Dock on the bottom of your screen, but it’s still totally backward for finding things easily in the list.
Right-click or Control-click a stack to change how it displays.
The fix: Luckily, the 10.5.2 update fixed this, and now you can customize your stacks how you like. Control-click or right-click a stacked folder in your Dock, and you’ll see a contextual menu that lets you customize how your stacks behave.
Under “View content as,” you can select Grid, Fan, Automatic, or the new choice, List, which behaves like docked folders did in Tiger, letting you navigate through folders and subfolders to open files or launch applications. In the “Display as” options, you choose whether to view the docked folder as a stack (which changes the look depending on what’s on inside) or as simply the folder’s icon. You can even have the stack display as a folder but behave as a fan- or grid-view stack.
We tend to keep our docked folders in List mode to navigate through them in a hierarchal list view. But it’s nice to keep one grid-view stack in the Dock for hot projects, dumping files and folders in there as we create them to keep the Desktop free of icon clutter.
Use the Terminal command in “Terminal Tweaks” (p5) to add a Recent Applications stack, and then right-click it for more options.
What should come next? Hopefully, Apple will continue to refine stacks in future updates—we’d like to be able to select multiple files in the Finder and right-click them for a “Create new stack” command in the contextual menu. Being able to keep a stack on the Desktop would be interesting, too.
The problem: The menubar is such a simple thing, but it’s the only element on your Mac’s screen that you can’t get rid of (without installing extra software). But Leopard’s menubar is transparent by default, so if you use a photograph with a lot of detail as your wallpaper, the menu items can be incredibly hard to read. The Mac community quickly figured out fixes using Terminal commands or third-party software, but it seemed like such a misstep for Apple not to include a checkbox somewhere for turning it off.
Turn off the translucent menubar with this checkbox in System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver.
The fix: Apple to the rescue again. With 10.5.2, the Desktop & Screen Saver panel in System Preferences includes a checkbox for Translucent Menu Bar (under the Desktop tab). What’s even better, the solid menubar is a nice muted gray, easier on the eyes than the stark white menubar of Tiger.
Get easy access to Time Machine via its new menubar icon.
What should come next? How about a way to hide the menubar when it’s not in use, bringing us one step closer to our goal of a totally uncluttered Desktop? A haxie called Menufela let you hide the menubar in Tiger, but as of this writing it’s not Leopard compatible.