What is Snow Leopard?

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Snow Leopard, also known as Mac OS X Snow Leopard, is the current release version of Apple's Mac OS X operating system.  Mac OS X is the operating system that runs on Apple's Macintosh computers.  Snow Leopard was released on August 28, 2009 twenty-two months after the release of Mac OS X Leopard (version 10.5), the prior generation of the operating system.  Snow Leopard has been designated a version number of 10.6 and is the seventh iteration of the Mac OS X operating system.
snow_leopard_box.pngSnow Leopard contains several refinements, enhancements and new features when compared to Leopard such as:

  • Finder - has been rewritten in 64-bit Cocoa to better take advantage of the operating systems as well as other improvements such as Grand Central Dispatch.  It also operates more efficiently and faster.
  • Grand Central Dispatch - Is a new feature in Snow Leopard. Mac OS X's multicore awareness has been enhanced via this feature and can better leverage today's muticore processors thereby improving the performance of your recent Macintosh.  Mac OS X can now optimally assign tasks to multiple processors and cores which results in overall better performance for the built-in Mac and third-party applications
  • OpenCL - Is a new technology introduced in Snow Leopard that allows developers to utilize the processing power in today's graphics processors and leverage it for general purpose / application use.
  • QuickTime X - an enhancement to Quicktime that provides a newly designed player and support for modern codecs.  It offers better playback and Internet video streaming in addition to running faster than the prior versions. Be sure to read What is QuickTime? and What is QuickTime Player?
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 support - Is a new feature in Snow Leopard.  Windows systems (XP, Vista, 7) most often access Exchange environments via Outlook (can also use IMAP or POP client with limited.  The Mac OS X Mail application provides out-of-the-box support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 thereby allowing Mac users to be better positioned to use their Macs across a wider range of environments such as at home or work. Mac users can easily access their Exchange Server email, calendar, address book, tasks and notes all within Mail.  You'll have a holistic view as you can readily view your personal email, calendar, and contacts alongside your Exchange-centric work environment and still leverage key Mac OS X technologies such as data detectors, Spotlight, and Quick Look.
  • Expose - Has a more refined look, better window display, and can now be launched via the Dock
  • Stacks - Dock items are available as folders can now be easily scrolled, a win-win for ease of use and productivity.  
  • iChat - Now supports up to 640 x 480 pixel resolution at one-third the upstream bandwidth for video chats and iChat Theater. iChat's reliability has been enhanced with intelligence to use the AIM relay server when a direct connection cannot be established.
  • Safari - Offers better performance for the Mac OS X built-in Internet browser.
  • Universal Access - Snow Leopard offers improvements, enhancements, and new features to those with disabilities.  A Mac portable's trackpad can now tie back to the screen allowing users to better use VoiceOver, Mac OS X's advanced screen reading technology.  There's also better web browsing and VoiceOver integration.  Snow Leopard includes support for over 40 braille displays.  Many other improvements are available in Snow Leopard.
  • Improved Time Machine backups - Backup speed is improved so your backups will complete in a shorter period of time
  • Smaller hard disk footprint - Snow Leopard has been optimized and slimmed down to utilize up 7GB less hard drive space.  This will allow users to preserve space for more applications and files.
  • Faster wake from sleep and shutdown - A clear productivity enhancer!
  • Auto Time Zone detection - Is a new feature in Snow Leopard that auto detects and sets your Mac's time zone.  It's an ideal for travelers because Snow Leopard taps into the OS X Core Location technology to locate known Wi-Fi hotspots to determine and subsequently auto set the time zone.
  • Automatic printer drivers updates - Is a new feature in Snow Leopard that checks and downloads the latest printer driver(s) for printers used by your Mac. available over the Internet.  It can also work with Mac OS X Software Update to download the latest drivers.
  • Better Security - Is a function of Snow Leopard's 64-bit architecture and applications.  Mac OS X Snow Leopard's applications will are more secure and better protected from malicious programs and hackers due to more advanced security techniques.  Memory protection is enhanced using more advanced mechanisms to prevent memory from being corrupted.
For an overview and history of Mac OS X, please read What is Mac OS X?

Upgrading to Mac OS X Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard will only run on Intel-based Macintosh computers.  PowerPC Macs cannot upgrade to Snow Leopard.  The upgrade version of Snow Leopard is officially supported for users of Mac OS X Leopard (version 10.5) "Leopard".  The official way to upgrade a Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X Tiger (version 10.4) is via the Mac Box Set, a packaged offering of Snow Leopard, iLife '09, and iWork '09.
Created: 12:00 AM on Aug 28, 2009
By: switchtoamac