What to Expect in OS X Snow Leopard

There has been a great deal of recent talk about the new version of OS X, scheduled for release in September. Called Snow Leopard, it aims to offer a range of speed and performance improvements, improve the architecture upon which your applications run, and offer better Exchange support for businesses.

Due to the lack of many new end-user features, it’s set to be the cheapest upgrade to date – priced at only $29. This article will go into detail about the improvements to expect in Snow Leopard, along with offering a few reasons to upgrade.

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard

Front-End Features

Many users (including myself) are mildly interested with changes to the underlying structure of an operating system, but more concerned with new features that will make the OS more useful on a day-to-day basis. We’ll start by looking at a few of these new refinements, but Apple also offer an exhaustive list of everything that’s changed.

Dock Exposé

Dock Exposé

Dock Exposé

One interesting new feature is the integration of Exposé into the Dock. If you click-and-hold over a Dock icon, the open windows for that application will arrange themselves on the screen. Exposé also looks far more organized, displaying windows in a better aligned grid.

Exposé has long been one of my favorite OS X features, and I find it completely invaluable. Further integration of Exposé into the operating system is a welcome addition.


The idea of Stacks debuted in OS X Leopard as a simple way of navigating a folder in the Dock. One major feature lacking was the ability to drill down through folders when viewing a Stack. This now works as expected, and makes Stacks far more usable.

Installation Speed & Space

Free 6GB of Space

Free 6GB of Space

Two impressive claims have been made about the installation process for Snow Leopard: (1) installing the operating system will be up to 45% faster than Leopard, and (2) you can save up to 6GB of disk space by upgrading. Both of these claims come with disclaimers, but certainly illustrate improvements across the board. I could certainly use the additional 6GB of free space!


Not much has changed with Finder over the past few years, and no enormous alterations are planned with Snow Leopard. A few changes you may notice include significantly improved speed, and more interactive icons (allowing you to browse through PDF documents or preview a video right in the icon).

QuickTime X


QuickTime is another OS X app that has remained fairly static in recent years, other than the addition of the H.264 video codec in Leopard. Snow Leopard will see a new icon, several user interface refinements (including a gorgeous border-less window), the ability to better stream video over the Internet, and impressive speed increases.

Disk Ejection

One gripe I’ve always had with OS X (and I expect you have too) is that un-mounting a disk image often produces a fairly vague error, often due to an application using a file within the image. Snow Leopard will attempt to prevent this happening and, when a disk cannot be unmounted, will offer a far more useful error message detailing which application is using a file.

Underlying Technology

If you’re an application developer, changes to the underlying technology of OS X are vitally important. If not, you’re likely to notice their effects through improved speed, security and reliability.

64 Bit Speed

All the latest Macs come with 64 Bit processors and are capable of performing at greater speed. Whilst OS X has taken advantage of this capability to some degree in Leopard, the next incarnation offers a fairly extensive re-write of system applications to better take advantage of 64 Bit computing.

Speed Increases with 64bit

Speed Increases with 64bit

It also reduces the amount of memory that can be handled by an application, allowing a theoretical maximum of 16 billion gigabytes of memory (almost enough to coax decent performance out of Microsoft Office!)

The speed increases aren’t phenomenal, but should add up to produce a noticeably snappier system (providing you have a 64 Bit Mac).

Grand Central Dispatch


Along with 64 Bit capabilities, most new Macs also offer multiple processor cores (i.e. Intel Core Duo). The unusually named Grand Central Dispatch makes OS X better aware of these multiple cores, offering further speed increases for those on new machines. How GCD works is fairly complex, but you can safely take our word that it’s very cool!


This technology makes better use of the impressive graphics processor on board your Mac, allowing it to be used for a wider range of tasks. It’s no longer limited to use in the latest games, but can assist with increasing the speed of more ever-day apps.

Exchange Support

It’s difficult to ignore the prevalence of Microsoft Exchange in corporate environments, and Snow Leopard represents Apple’s first step towards making Macs better suited for use in enterprise. It integrates all the features of Exchange into local OS X applications such as Mail, iCal, and Address Book.

Kiss that aging Dell goodbye and get on the phone to your boss!


Apple have really taken an industry leading position with the new accessibility features offered in Snow Leopard, making it far easier for disabled users to navigate around the operating system.




VoiceOver is the OS X speech technology, capable of reading the contents of your screen and assisting with navigation around applications. Better use is made of the multi-touch trackpad for flicking through different areas of an app, and there’s an improved introduction to VoiceOver for those getting used to it the first time.

Web Browsing

Improvements to VoiceOver make browsing the Internet a simpler process, particularly when coupled with new keyboard and trackpad commands for moving around a page easier. “Auto Web Spots” allow you to specify certain areas of a website which should always be read first (such as the “breaking news” section of a site).




Snow Leopard brings in support for a whole range of different braille hardware devices, including several wireless Bluetooth models. Another feature known as “braille mirroring” allows multiple devices to be connected to one machine – particularly useful in a classroom setting.

5 Reasons to Upgrade

Whilst I would recommend taking a look at the full set of Snow Leopard information provided by Apple, here are the five reasons I’ll be upgrading in September:

  1. Price – $29 is an absolute bargain
  2. Speed – So many different technologies promise improved performance, I expect the overall effect to be very noticeable (particularly as I’m using a relatively new MacBook Pro)
  3. 6GB of Space – Freeing up 6GB of hard drive space just by installing Snow Leopard is particularly welcome
  4. Faster Backups – I haven’t mentioned this as a major feature, but 50% faster Time Machine backups would be very useful
  5. Future-Proofed – I’m excited to see the impact of these new underlying technology changes on third party apps, and I expect developers will have some great ideas for improving application performance.

So… Will you be upgrading in September? I would be very interested to hear your reasoning either way.


Add Yours
  • I can’t wait! I’m really looking forward to all of the back-end upgrades that have been made. I mean, who doesn’t want a snappier, less-bloated computer?

  • Can’t wait either! Only the price makes you wanna buy this new version :D

  • I’ve been waiting for its release, sadly it come on September, last time I heard that they would launch on June, but the official release is September. :D, when will September come?

  • I will upgrade for sure… Especially the new Finder seems to be interesting.

  • I’m perfectly happy with Leopard, but for $29, it’s cheap enough to upgrade to Snow Leopard and bring along all of the improvements. Apple has really priced this right.

    • Me too. Although SL seems more like a service pack, the improvements and added interface features are worth the price. Preview documents inside the icon? Awesome;

      • You can already preview documents such as .TXT and .DOC files inside the icon if you use Leopard…

  • Visually there will be “no enormous alterations” to the Finder, but you might want to mention that it has been *completely* rewritten in Cocoa, which will improve speed, flexibility and stability. It’s something I’m looking forward to!

  • September is right around the corner so the time frame for this is dwindling fast. I have a 17 and 13 inch uNi MBP and even though these things are already super nice to use, SL will make them just that much better. Needless to say, with the speed upgrade, 6gb of ppc code gone, and the expose tweaks, I am definitely in the moment it is released. There definitely will be some bugs but they will be worth it. I am also currently running win 7 and am also excited to see the populace’s response to something that is actually ok for a MS windows product.

  • Looking forward to seeing Snow Leopard released. Hopefully it wont break as many things as the upgrade from Tiger to Leopard did. It took companies like Epson months to release compatible drivers for printers and scanners. I don’t think I could tolerate that much disruption again. But a least I’ve got two Macs now, so I can keep one as a Leopard machine for safety!

  • I will definitely be updating in September, staying off school to go get it :P How will the upgrade thing work? I have Leopard on my MacBook but I don’t have the official disk, will it just be an upgrade disk?

    • I would expect that it’s a simple upgrade disk, yes. You can purchase a full version (if you don’t already own Leopard), but that’ll cost more than $29.

  • Unfortunately the ‘Exchange Support’ I was looking forward to is only for Exchange 2007. So unless your company is currently running ’07, I wouldn’t get too excited over that one yet, as it’s massively expensive to upgrade from ’03 to ’07 with all the hardware requirements.
    Everything else looks pretty awesome though.

    • Thanks! I didn’t know that… It worth mention that Exchange 2007 is out for couple of years now and it’s a very solid release (just like 2003…).

      Anyhow, I will be most definitely upgrade my MacPro (Audio Studio Machine). I bet that there will be lots of 3rd party plug-ins problem with the new upgrade so I will probably do it in october or so.

      For my MB, I think Leopard is enough.

  • Will definitely upgrade, I hope the speed will be noticeable. However, I am anxious about break applications, any word about this?

  • I know I will, speed, 6gb more space resuts in even more speed, hell yeah. Curious about the new quicktime to!

  • I have already upgraded my MacBook Air… Snow Leopard is much faster indeed!

  • It’s sad that is no support for Intel Macs in OpenCL, I hope it will be maybe in the future.

  • I’m absolutely upgrading. As a developer, the new features are extremely useful, and working in a corporate environment, I find the Exchange integration particularly beneficial.

  • Considering it’s only $29, I will definitely be upgrading. Personally, I’m looking forward to the speed improvements, the OpenCL technology, and the Dock Expose. But I also am curious as to how the upgrade process will work, and whether I’ll be able to keep all my data.

  • Apple’s smart pricing for the upgrade at $29 makes this almost a no-brainer for a lot of people. Maybe there aren’t any huge new features on the surface, but the backbone of this upgrade make it a very enticing upgrade option.

  • It certainly seems like you’re all very happy about the $29 price point. I concur!

  • I am considering upgrading as well, I just dont know if it is worth the price for me: I am still using Tiger, so the upgrade will be more expensive…
    Moreover I dont know how my rather old iMac 2.16 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1Go RAM (soon to be 4Go hopefully) can stand the upgrade, and if it won’t simply slow down my computer…

  • For sure!

  • A huevo que si!!

  • Laughing that anyone who purports to be a “techy” uses the term “Future Proof”. Thats a term for Tech Salesman and Rag Writers.

  • just like the iPhone.. the upgrades aren’t that extremely big.. but buy do I want to upgrade :P … creapy…

  • Absolutely yes, will order it the second it’s available.

  • I’ll definitely upgrade too, but one question… when I did the upgrade from Tiger to Leopard, it seemed to bog down my computer a bit. About 6 months later, I did a clean install of a full version of Leopard, and everything just seemed better. Maybe my imagination? Would it be beneficial at all to get the full version of Snow Leopard and clean install? Thanks guys :)

    • I would think that you’ll have the option of doing a clean install with the upgrade disk, providing you have a copy of the Leopard DVD to hand.

  • Under 64 Bit Speed you have “reduces the amount of memory that can be handled by an application”. I think you mean it _ increases _ the amount of memory apps can handle

  • Is there any particular functional reason you use ‘whilst’ in your article? I assume since you’re using a word like ‘whilst’ in place of the common ‘while’ you must have a reason. The two aren’t interchangeable since one is a conjunction and one is a noun.

    • ‘While’ and ‘whilst’ can both be used as conjunctions. ‘Whilst’ can be used interchangeably if one is going for a certain feel. There’s your problem. Don’t get stuck on function (though functionally you’re wrong also). Enjoy style. Look it up. Dictionary.com. LOL! Now.. let’s stop wasting time on stuff like this and concentrate on… I dunno…. Snow Leopard?!

  • Snow Leopard sound so cool!! Too bad I can ‘t upgrade! I still have a PowerPC and Snow Leopard doesn’t support it. Oh well… I’m just gonna have to buy a new mac! What a drag!! (Sarcastically)

  • Definitely be upgrading, no doubt. There’s nothing not to like, and for $29 it’s an easy buy.

  • How can you say nothing is changing in Finder? Sure, it should look and function the same, but its been completely re-written in cocoa. That is fairly big news.

  • The increased speed alone is worth the upgrade..and saving up to 6GB on a laptop is yet another. And for USD29 it sounds like a bargain.

  • Heck yes I will be upgrading! $29 bucks, how can you go wrong?

  • We will probably give it a month or 2 just to make sure there’s no major issues – we jumped straight on Leopard when it first came out and wished we’d waited just a little while.

  • Hell yea im gonna upgrade..All the new features and the re-written apps and finder in 64bit is for sure a reason to do so..And its great thats coming at the same time that my MacPro will come!

  • 100% upgrading!

  • New Finder is nice, but no more support for contextual menu plug-ins. So if you use any of those, say good bye to them. Services architecture, which is much improved in Snow Leopard, is aimed to replace CM plug-ins, but in its current status it leaves a lot of things to be desired, things which could be easily done with CM plug-ins.

    Also, no Input Managers for 64-bit apps. I find this to be a good thing, but it will eventually break tons of application plug-ins, especially those made for Safari (about 90% of the things you can find on PimpMySafari will be broken).

  • In QuickTime X Apple dropped support for QTVR technology. A real shame… :-(

  • Will definitely be upgrading! If only Apple was so aggressive with the pricing of upgrades for iLife and iWork!

    • You got the point!

  • I’m going to upgrade, but not immediatly in september. I’ll wait a while for the first bugs to appear and be resolved. So, when 10.6.3 is out, that’s the time to update for me.

  • A very nice article and you’ve covered the things we users would like to know more about. Thanks! A couple of truly minor and meaningless things:

    1. Unless you’re British, “whilst” is viewed as an affectation and that’s the only “feel” it gives to the masses.

    2. While we’re on the subject, way up toward the to you write, “…but Apple also offer an…” Since Apple is a company (singular) it should be written, “…but Apple also offers an…”

    3. IL above noted; “Under 64 Bit Speed you have “reduces the amount of memory that can be handled by an application”. I think you mean it _ increases _ the amount of memory apps can handle.”

    Which statement is true?

    4. And yes, I’ll be upgrading as soon as it hits the streets.

  • Of course, I’ll be upgrading!

    I hope the first release is already very stable unlike Leopard, *facepalm*.

  • I’ll most likely upgrade, if it’s that affordable! I’m a little wary as to upgrades because I’m the kind of user that tends to lose important files in the process. I’m not too worried about upgrading I’Life or I’Work because I don’t use those applications, haha.

  • I will definately upgrade my system for just 29 $.

    One question: Will I have to install my Apps again? (I am new in the MAC-World)

    • I don’t think so, but I’m not really sure either, haha.

  • I’ll be upgrading when Snow Leopard is released.

  • No, you won’t need to reinstall any apps.

  • There’s no doubt I’ll be upgrading! I’m using a Psystar Open (3) and have used up most of my hard drive, so 6GB free is something to look forward to.

  • I’m sure it will be great!

  • I’ll be upgrading my mac pro for sure; does anybody know whether I can install more ram on the nehelam quad core above 8gb?

  • hope the first release is already very stable unlike Leopard, *facepalm*.

  • In case anyone has a MB air that needs 10.6 upgrade, but without a drive, here’s a solution i found on the web.


  • Snow crashes pages, keynote and screws up your fonts with adobe design apps.. its a horrible mess for many… just cruise the apple support forums,,,, This is a snowjob from jobs! beware

  • ok thanks….

  • thank articles…