Snow Leopard upgrade barely noticeable, but OK

Nothing wrong with the new OS, but no fireworks, either

With 3/5ths of a family pack installed, Apple's Snow Leopard has not changed my family's lives. In fact, if you didn't know Snow Leopard was on-board, you might not notice.

Nothing wrong with the new OS, but no fireworks, either. Regained some disk space, like the change to the dock. End of story.

Well, almost.

When I didn't sufficiently love Snow Leopard on Thursday, some Apple fans told me the "speed increase alone" was worth the upgrade. And maybe it is, but it's not startling. I have this vague sense that Snow Leopard has made my MacBook Pro more responsive, but I could not tell you by how much. (Macworld has the numbers).

My disc savings seem to be in the 5GB range, which is substantial on my laptops and meaningless on the iMacs, because of their larger hard drives.

The most noticeable feature of Snow Leopard is the new behavior when you click-and-hold an open application in the dock. Previously, this gave you a menu of various choices (remove from doc, open at login, hide, quit, etc.) and a list of windows in the open program.

In Snow Leopard, the screen clears and you see the actual windows the program has open and can select from among them. I'd always wondered what the Expose feature could do that I'd find useful. This is it.

While I think such a minor upgrade should be free, if you have to assign a value to Snow Leopard features--and don't need to talk to an Exchange 2007 server--then the dock change and reclaimed disk space are worth the $10.

That's what each machine costs with the five-machine "family pack" upgrade. The one-machine $29 upgrade still seems steep.

Of course, if Snow Leopard makes Exchange useful for you, then even $50-a-machine might be an excellent value.

I had one problem with the upgrade. This will be minor to most people, but bothered me.

The upgrade seemed to turn on all the options in MobileMe Sync. This meant that Preferences and my Keychain, which I had been avoiding synchronizing across the various Macs I use were synched before I knew what happened. Hasn't caused a problem, so far, but it was a surprise I didn't need.

If you want to upgrade right away, Apple will appreciate it. If not, you'll keep a few dollars in your pocket for a little while longer.

Still, as applications begin to take advantage of Snow Leopard's "under the hood" improvements, the new OS will become more important and having upgraded already will save having to do it later.

That may seem like a weak reason to upgrade, but it beats one of my colleagues' #1 reason: Snow Leopard costs less than previous upgrades. Of course, it also does a lot less. No must-have features here.

My recommendation: There is no reason that I've found not to upgrade, unless you have an older pre-Intel Mac that cannot be upgraded. (And I still have several). If we have to pay for such a minor upgrade, at least Apple is charging a friendly price.

On the whole, I'd recommend the upgrade just to get it out of the way. If nothing else, it saved me from having to clean off a very full MacBook Pro, at least for a while longer. And the new Dock feature is nice.

Veteran Apple watcher David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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David Coursey

PC World (US online)
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