Leopard First Impressions

It seems to me that software design can spring from two opposing philosophies. One says, “We know what the machine can do. But we don’t really know much about what you want to do with it. We’ll spend our time making sure you have all the options you want.” The other says, “We know exactly what you want to do. We’re going to make the machine do that. We’ll spend our time figuring how to make it do the right thing intuitively, quickly and easily.”

Which brings me to Leopard. I haven’t tried it, and I won’t be able to until the MC works under it. That’s a shame, because after four major upgrades, Apple has demonstrated that the OS can still be markedly improved, to a new level of interface simplicity and intuitiveness. Leopard makes it easier to find stuff, easier to back up, easier to share files, easier to stay organized. And as nice as Tiger looked, Leopard looks better.

To see what I mean, check out Apple’s Leopard guided tour video. It’s a half hour long, but when you’ve watched it, I think you’ll agree that Apple has found plenty of room for innovation in the supposedly staid world of operating system design. What I find so exciting is that many of the improvements make routine tasks, things we’re completely used to, all of a sudden seem old — because the designers found a simpler, more aesthetic, more visual and more intuitive way to do them.

They accomplished this by first deeply understanding what their customers are trying to do, and then by innovating — creating new and more intuitive ways to do those things.

All this begs the question about what Avid’s been doing low these many years. Way too many of the problems I have with the Media Composer have been around for a decade — not just bugs, but features that didn’t work right from the beginning. Yes, we’ve seen many innovations, but most have involved visual effects and color correction. When it comes to basic usability, we’re still working with Media Composer circa 1997. Luckily for Avid, Final Cut’s basic feature set hasn’t evolved much in the last couple of years (innovations have come in the suite instead) and before that, they were playing catch-up. But if Apple starts innovating the Final Cut interface as much as it has OSX, the MC is going to look awfully tired very quickly.

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7 Comments on “Leopard First Impressions”

  1. Mark Burton Says:

    So far I love Leopard – lots of great improvements and tweaks, but the new dock, the way folders look and work in the dock and the new menu bar are beyond belief – lots of useless eye candy and a big step backwards in overall usability. Leopard is great in many ways, amazing in some and truly horrifying in others.

    For a proper Leopard review and in depth analysis check out this article, by far the most accomplished review I’ve read so far:
    http://arstechnica.com/reviews/os/mac-os-x-10-5.ars

  2. Robin Says:

    With Spotlight being so responsive I think the need of having a dock is slowly becoming obsolete. I find myself tapping “Apple-Space” and typing the program I want more often then using the dock for anything. It’s faster this way. This goes for everything else as well, not just programs.

  3. Scott Janush Says:

    To me, the largest portion of the problems that I have with FCP are specifically related to the interface rather than the functionality of the program. For all of Apple’s vaunted focus on useability, I find that sadly lacking in FCP. I for one very much like the interface in Shake, which, like AVID, has a neutral BG to look at all day long, 10-12-16 hours all day long. I never want to see chrome, shiny or burnished or whatever the hell they have done…it is just taxing on the eyes. Adobe has seen the light on this as have Discreet/Autodesk and others, including Apple with Motion, but not FCP. I guess the people cutting industrials in Dallas like it.

    Further, if I was 17, I might enjoy working on a hi resolution monitor searching for a teenie little off grey button somewhere, but frankly, I would rather have something larger that I don’t have to hunt and peck for. Great value for the money, but I would appreciate it if Apple accepted some real input on their products.

    -Scott

  4. Etienne Says:

    One big question for the next generation of editing applications is media management. The philosophy behind Leopard (with the stacks and all) is that it doesn’t matter “where” your stuff is… it’s about “what” you’re looking for (Google has that same philosophy with gmail). I tell you, when Apple will decide to intergrate some of this stuff on Final Cut, it opens a whole new approach to editing. Forget working with bins. This is too rigid of a way to find your material. Work with tags or events (much like iphoto already handles picture management). If you’ve seen the media library application on Vegas, you can see the possiblities of this way of working. An other thing is you can see (with the iphone and the Leopard interface) that they’re getting to a more “tactile” environnement… this is going to be incredible for editing, viewing your material, etc..

  5. Larry Jordan Says:

    Steve,

    Leopard is by far the most outstanding upgrade to the Mac OS in a very long time. The improvements in both functionality and GUI are stunning. It’s the kind of stuff that reminds you of why you love Apple in the first place. REAL INNOVATION. Has anyone tried Spaces yet? Time Machine? Stacks? the much improved Finder? The improved interoperability and consistency across Mac apps? That doesn’t even begin to talk about the speed improvements Leopard delivers.

    I just finished my second major studio based project in FCP and I loved it. Like any deep piece of software, it takes some time to learn the unique mechanics of how to get things done but I challenge anyone to “cut a scene” faster or better using another editing application. Although I do agree with Scott about the text getting smaller. (Is that Apple or just us getting old?) BTW, take a look at this article on how Apple, at its lowest point, and with its jerky little QuickTime technology, battled Avid/Microsoft/Adobe for dynamic media dominance.

    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/07/10/25/road_to_mac_os_x_leopard_quicktime_itunes_and_media_features.html&page=2

  6. Mark Burton Says:

    “I challenge anyone to “cut a scene” faster or better using another editing application”

    This is one of the least intelligent comments I’ve read in a long time.

  7. Larry Jordan Says:

    Mark, seems I hit a nerve. Can you possibly do something to kill the bug up your ass? Would you like me to break down your seriously depressed and somewhat unbalanced sounding post about Leopard?

    “So far I love Leopard” – “lots of useless eye candy and a big step backwards in overall usability”.

    You write a feeble, one sentence, contradictory opinion and then you link to the article you parrot. Oh, sorry Einstein, I was a little ebullient, sue me.

    And before you piss the fuck off, why don’t you learn some fucking netiquette and not flame people, particularly those you don’t know.

    http://www.dmoz.org/Computers/Internet/Etiquette/


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