This is shaping up to be the autumn of new operating systems. The latest version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, ships to customers this Friday. Windows 7, the follow-up to the much-maligned Windows Vista, hits store shelves in late October. Neither operating system is going to drastically change the way you work.
Managing Your Files
Snow Leopard’s Finder and Windows 7’s Explorer have strikingly similar interfaces: Both have quick search fields in the upper-right corner, path bars (OS X’s is optional and can be switched on in the View menu), and sidebars giving you easy access to various common locations on your computer.
Windows 7 introduces a new feature to the mix: Libraries. A library is best defined as a way to view the contents of several folders all in one place. For example, the Pictures library pulls together the contents of the My Pictures and Public Pictures folders by default. You can add or change the folders tied to any particular library, of course.
Nothing in Snow Leopard directly compares with Windows’ libraries. The closest OS X feature is saved searches (known as Smart Folders), but a saved search pulls together files based on search criteria, not location. You can’t, for example, create a smart folder containing all photos from only two folders. On the other hand, Windows 7 libraries can’t be combined with saved search results.
Both Snow Leopard and Windows 7 allow a large icon view. Windows 7 supports icons up to 256-by-256 pixels. Snow Leopard one-ups Windows 7, though—the Finder can display icons up to a seemingly absurd 512-by-512 pixels (512-pixel icons were around in 10.5, but the Finder could not take advantage of them outside of Quick Look and Cover Flow view).
Some OS X apps can use the Dock’s pop-up menus to display application-specific information and provide easy access to frequently used commands. For example, if you right-click
Tunes’ Dock icon in Snow Leopard, you’ll get a menu that lets you see what’s playing, play or pause your music, assign a rating to the current song, and control other simple iTunes commands.
With Windows 7’s re-tooled taskbar, Microsoft introduces a similar feature called jump lists. Jump lists can not only provide access to common commands (Windows Media Player‘s jump list has a Play command, for example), they also let you “pin” items to a specific list. For example, you can pin commonly-used folders to the Windows Explorer jump list and important documents to the WordPad jump list.
Snow Leopard doesn’t have any features that directly compare to the jump list’s pinning feature; instead, Mac users can use stacks in the Dock to provide quick access to folders and files (drag any folder to the Dock to create a stack). Stacks get a refresh in Snow Leopard: You can now view unlimited items in a stack using Grid view (thanks to the addition of scrollbars), as well as drill down into folders without having to open any Finder windows. You can also drag and drop any file into the Dock for quick access…………