Life With Snow Leopard: One Month Later


Installing a new operating system on Day One is often a foolish undertaking. Yet, there I was, installing Snow Leopard the night of the 28th.

I took the plunge day one for two reasons: as a tech journalist specializing in the Mac, I felt I owed it to our readers to offer timely insight on Snow Leopard from the perspective of one who has actually used it. After all, someone needs to be able to report back if it’s a smart idea to strap a jet engine to a Ford Pinto. The other reason was timing. I knew I wanted to install it. I was going away the weekend after, and my night classes started a week later and I wanted to be able to allow a couple of weeks to smooth out any issues.

Leaving plenty of time to resolve any issues appeased the karma gods and my installation went very smoothly with no issues. Another friend of mine angered the gods by installing Snow Leopard at 1 am the night before a business trip — ask her how her Snow Leopard install went.

I’ve been very happy with SL over the last month. After I installed Leopard before the first patch, I quickly realized it was bad news. My gaming performance — admittedly meager on a Macbook with a GMA 950 chipset — took a nose dive. I had odd crashes, application incompatibility, and a nightmare getting my printers working again that was reminiscent of Vista’s printer issues.

Snow Leopard has been a joy and I have zero regrets about upgrading. I’m going to break down my experiences in terms of positive and negative experiences.


My Snow Leopard install has “just worked.” All my printers work, even our ancient HP Color Laser at work. The only major incompatibility issues I had were with Launchbar, but upgrading to the latest version and waiting for it to index cleared the problem.

Dock Expose and Minimize to Dock Icon have become Features I Wonder How I Was Able to Get Through the Day Before™. It’s so intuitive and so hard to believe it’s taken Apple this long to implement it.

The new Automator is really amazing. I wrote about it already, and I stand by that article. Automator alone has been worth the upgrade fee for me.

Being able to drag off selected pages of PDF file in Preview is proving to be godsend. Every now and then, I’ll need to grab a few sections from 200+ page PDFs, and dragging them from the sidebar to my desktop is very efficient.

As an aside, while this isn’t really a Snow Leopard feature, a week ago I upgraded my aging 2006-era Macbook to a new Macbook Pro. I was able to just swap out the hard drives with no reinstallation needed. I’ve heard conflicting reports on how this worked in Leopard, but the only painful — and I use that term loosely — part of the hardware swap was re-pairing my Bluetooth devices and resetting up Time Machine.

While there’s been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Photoshop compatibility issue, my ancient copy of — wait for it — CS1 is working fine. I really should get around to upgrading that one of these days, but I’ve moved most of my image editing needs over to Pixelmator. The only thing I really use Photoshop for these days is cutting masks with the pen tool, so it’s possible other features aren’t SL happy.


I haven’t really had any negatives. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought while composing this article to make sure I’m not being a total fan boy, but the only negative I have is Microsoft Word crashes a lot on exit. It’s not affecting any data. It’s not crashing while I’m using it; just when I quit. According to this tweet by David Pogue, reinstalling Office solved that problem. When I went to reinstall it, I was having media issues with my internal drive so I can’t test the validity of his statement.

As I mentioned in my Automator piece, Word 2008 isn’t context services aware, but that’s not really a Snow Leopard problem; Word is still a Carbon app.

I guess if I wanted to, I could complain that items in stacks aren’t context sensitive…but that’s reaching.

Would I recommend upgrading?

After my glowing words of praise, you’d probably expect me to join the chorus of pundits proclaiming, “It’s a no brainer! Make haste to the Apple Store!” but my verdict is instead one based on reason. Therefore, I can definitively  answer this thusly: kinda, sorta, maybe. I know, it’s hard to get people to make a stand for their beliefs; I’m glad I could fall on that sword for you.

The Word crash on exit issue is enough for me to tell heavy Office users to hold off. It may well be that a reinstall fixes it, and I’ve had no issues with Word other than the exit crash, but apps that crash quitting don’t fill me with confidence, even if it’s just cosmetic.

If you work in the design business, I’d definitely say let others test the waters and wait a few app upgrades before upgrading the OS. Actually, that statement works for anyone who considers their Mac to be mission critical. If it’s working just fine now, and you rely on it working just fine, don’t upgrade.

One of the problems with Snow Leopard is while I can come up with reasons like these not to upgrade, until applications are updated — and in some cases rewritten — to take advantage of Snow Leopard, you’re likely to not see a big upgrade.

Sure, the new cat is faster than the old one. Even on my old 2006 MacBook I could tell they patched in more snappy. While I love the new Expose and Stacks, and would miss them if I had to go back to Leopard, right now I’m still having a hard time recommending people make a change for the sake of change.

I can’t think of many reasons for you not to upgrade. However, unless you want the new UI improvements, until we see apps take advantage of Grand Central and Open CL, I can’t really think of many reasons you should upgrade.

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