Snow Leopard is the code name for the operating system Mac OS X version 10.6 developed by Apple. Its predecessor was Mac OS X v10.5, code-named Leopard. Apple's CEO Steve Jobs first announced Snow Leopard at WWDC on June 8, 2008.
Snow Leopard shipped on August 28, 2009 and in the USA, an upgrade will be available for existing Intel-based Macintosh computers for $29 (£25/€29/￥3300), or up to five computers with the family pack at $49 (£39/€49/￥5600). For a qualifying computer bought after June 8, 2009, the upgrade will cost $10 (with proof of purchase).
While operating system releases usually pack a lot of highly visible changes, the upgrade from Leopard to Snow Leopard has more changes under the hood than ones users will see.
System Requirements for Snow Leopard vs Leopard
- Snow Leopard (Mac OS X v10.6) only runs on Intel-based computers and not the older PowerPC chips.
- An upgrade from Leopard to Snow Leopard frees up about 7GB of hard disk space. This has more to do with removing redundant components like printer drivers (which are downloaded on demand in Snow Leopard) than removing code specific to PowerPC.
Speed and Performance in Snow Leopard
Apple has made operating system components faster with Snow Leopard. Performance improvements include
- Faster startup, shutdown, installation, Time Machine backup and connection establishment.
- Faster PDF and JPEG icon refreshes.
- Improved performance of Finder, which has been rewritten in 64-bit Cocoa
Refinements to the user interface in Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)
There was no major overhaul of the existing Leopard interface when Apple introduced Snow Leopard. Minor UI refinements include:
- Stacks in Snow Leopard allow viewing a subfolder without launching Finder. Stacks have also been modified to include scroll-bars for folders with many files.
- Contextual menus which come out of Dock icons have more options and have a new look, with a semi-transparent charcoal background and white type.
- Exposé can display all windows for a single program by left clicking and holding its icon in the dock.
- Selection of columned text in PDF documents by analyzing the page layout.
- Prefixes for bytes are now used in strictly decimal meaning when describing disk space, such that an indicated file size of 1 MB corresponds to 1,000,000 bytes.
- There’s now a Put Back command in the Trash, just as in Windows’ Recycle Bin.
- You can page through a PDF document or watch a movie right on a file’s icon.
- When you click a folder icon on the Dock, you can scroll through the pop-up window of its contents.
- Buggy plug-ins (Flash and so on) no longer crash the Safari Web browser; you just get an empty rectangle where they would have appeared.
- Snow Leopard also has an impressive trove of tools for blind Mac users, including one that turns a Mac laptop’s trackpad into a touchable map of the screen; the Mac speaks each onscreen element as you touch it.
- When you rename an icon on an alphabetically sorted desktop, it visibly slides into its new alphabetic position so you can see where it went.
New Features in Snow Leopard vs OS X Leopard
- WiFi signal strength: AirPort in OS X Snow Leopard displays the signal strength for all available WiFi networks so you can choose the strongest possible connection.
- Sortable search results: Snow Leopard adds the ability to sort Spotlight search results by name, date modified, date created, size, type of file, or label.
- Annotations in Preview: New annotation tools in Preview allow users to annotate and markup PDF files, including comments, links, highlighting, strikethrough text, shapes, text, and arrows.
- Cisco VPN support: Snow Leopard has built-in support for Cisco VPN connectivity. This allows users to connect securely with corporate networks (if the network uses Cisco VPN) without needing any additional software.
- Automatic update for printer drivers: When connecting to a printer, Snow Leopard downloads the most current device driver for the printer from the Internet. The new OS X also periodically checks for updates to the printer driver via Software Update.
- Nearby printers: When printing Snow Leopard displays the printers that are detected nearby, enabling you to identify and configure the best available device for printing your document.
- HFS+ read in Boot Camp: When using Windows (via Boot Camp) users can now access (read-only) files on the "Mac side" without rebooting.
Support for Microsoft Exchange
Mac OS X Snow Leopard includes out-of-the-box support for connecting to Microsoft Exchange 2007 servers for access through Mail, Address Book, and iCal. Neither Microsoft Windows nor older versions of Mac OS X included this feature.
Mac OS X Snow Leopard and most Mac OS 10.6 built-in applications have been rebuilt to leverage the 64-bit addressing space (excluding iTunes, Front Row, Grapher and DVD Player applications), since Apple has started shipping each Mac as a 64-bit system. Snow Leopard supports up to 16 terabytes of RAM.
Grand Central Dispatch in OS X v10.6
Grand Central Dispatch utilizes multiple processor cores for more efficient performance. Due to the technical difficulties involved in making multi-core-optimized applications, the majority of applications do not effectively utilize multiple processor cores. As a result, processing power often goes unused. Grand Central Dispatch includes APIs to help programmers efficiently use these cores for parallel programming.
Introduced in Snow Leopard, OpenCL (Open Computing Language) addresses the power of graphics processing units to leverage them in any application, and not just for graphics-intensive applications like 3D games. OpenCL automatically optimizes for the kind of graphics processor in the Mac, adjusting itself to the available processing power.
In Mac OS X v10.6, Apple has redesigned the QuickTime user interface to resemble the existing QuickTime full-screen view, where the entire window plays only the video and all controls including the title bar fade in and out as needed.
QuickTime X supports HTTP live streaming. Thus, QuickTime X streams audio and video using any web server instead of a special streaming server, and it works reliably with common firewall and wireless router settings.
QuickTime X uses Mac OS X technologies such as Cocoa, Grand Central Dispatch, and 64-bit computing to deliver higher performance and enables QuickTime Player to launch up to 2.8x faster than QuickTime. QuickTime X also takes advantage of ColorSync to provide high-quality color reproduction.
There is a "Send to YouTube" command built in when you play movies. Users can also record their screen activity as a movie.
CUPS (the printing system in Mac OS X and Linux) has been updated to version 1.4 which provides improved driver, networking, and Kerberos support along with many performance improvements. CUPS 1.4 is also the first implementation of the Internet Printing Protocol version 2.1.