A first-hand evaluation of the latest Mac OS X 10.5 build provided to developers reveals steady progress has been made with the operating system in the past number of months, but significant stability issues persist, all but arresting any hopes for an early release at or around Macworld Expo San Francisco next month.
The new build, 9A321, is the first to feature an updated installer as well as images during the installation process touting Leopard's new features. Help files and other documentation have yet to be updated to reflect new changes in Mac OS X 10.5.
New to build 9A321 is support for Sun's ZFS file system, a 128-bit open source file system introduced with Solaris 10 that offers support for vastly larger drives and arrays than 64-bit file systems. ZFS also delivers additional options for administrators.
Other new features to emerge in recent Leopard builds include new screen saver modules and options, expanded Parental Controls with support for logging, and refinements to Safari. In addition, a new Quick Look feature added in the previous build makes it quicker to view media files directly in the Finder without launching QuickTime or Preview. Index sheets or slide shows of multiple photos can also easily be viewed.
The new Preview application brings various improvements to the media browser, including a new smooth zooming effect when resizing images and the ability to specify how large and how many thumbnails appear in the preview drawer.
Time Machine, one of the more highly touted features of Mac OS X 10.5, is functioning on a consistent level in build 9A321, but the interface and concept of browsing various states of your hard drive depending on date remains curious, as does the feature's unconventional interface.
Overall, performance feels improved with the latest build of Leopard but stability remains a significant issue, even with such basic items as System Preferences or Preview. Apple has also curiously removed keyboard navigation from Spaces in 9A321, suggesting bugs remain to be ironed out with that feature, as well.
Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard is expected to have a large presence at Macworld Expo San Francisco, which begins January 9, 2007. For more screen shots of Leopard, see our galleries from build 9A241 and 9A283.