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    Snow Leopard was the only release of OS X / macOS that was monotonically better than the previous one. Every other release has had some improvements and some regressions. In the early versions the improvements massively outnumbered the regressions. For the last few versions, they’ve been around the break-even point.

    The Safari review misses the big one: The address and search bar are distinct. This change was pushed by Google in Chrome because they wanted everything to go to Google but it’s a terrible choice. It was trivial to search for something in old Safari by doing command-t, tab. Now I’m in the search bar. Since they merged (and in other browsers), I’ve wasted a load of time where I’ve typed a thing into the unified bar that looks like it might be an address and had the browser try to go there. Sometimes it even is a valid address and so then I have to get into the habit of typing a space at the end of my search so that the browser knows I mean a search term (because URLs don’t normally end with a space). I have to type the same number of key strokes (space at the end vs tab at the start).

    iCal in Snow Leopard let you mark things as ‘tentative’ or ‘confirmed’. In the following version, this was gone from the UI and that property could be set only via email. Any events that had the ‘tentative’ flag set had the state lost in the upgrade. In spite of this resulting in data loss for customers, the bug was closed as ‘works as expected’ in Radar.

    My pet peeve in the newer UI is that the shadow difference between the active window and the others is far less visually distinctive. On Lion I suddenly started typing into the wrong window, something I never did on earlier versions of OS X, because the subtle visual distinction between active and background windows crossed a threshold to being too subtle.

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      The address and search bar are distinct.

      Strong disagree here. Firefox held on to the separate search bar for what felt like ages and I hated it. I love the “omni” bar because it just does the right thing 99.9% of the time, at least for my use cases. I can’t remember the last time I searched for something that could be mistaken for a URL (although, in fairness, it has definitely happened before). I can press Cmd-T to get a new tab and immediately start typing, regardless of whether I’m doing a search or typing a URL. As a bonus, my history comes along for the ride as a kind of quasi search. If I’m done with the current tab, I don’t bother reusing it, I just do Cmd-W, Cmd-T in one smooth motion.

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        I love the “omni” bar because it just does the right thing 99.9% of the time, at least for my use cases.

        On the other hand, the separate search and address bar does the right thing 100% of the time, for everyone’s use cases :-).

        I don’t know if Safari has this but now that I think about it, I’m going to check it out – I’m trying to get used to Safari because I got one of them M1 MBPs and Firefox eats battery the way I’d eat hamburgers after having nothing but salad for a week and the omnibar is driving me nuts. There is one browser that got the omnibar right, in fact it got pretty much everything right: Opera.

        Opera had this neat feature where you could just type “g ” and it would Google for instead of trying to figure out on its own if what you typed is an address or a search term. I’m not sure if Safari supports this but it would be cool if it did.

        (Edit: FWIW, Vivaldi had this time last time I tried it)

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          On the other hand, the separate search and address bar does the right thing 100% of the time, for everyone’s use cases :-).

          This only worked for me about half the time, though. Sometimes I want to search, sometimes I want to type a URL, and sometimes I want to fuzzy search through my history (this is probably the most common case). I couldn’t do this with separate address and search bars. To be clear, I’m not saying my workflow is somehow “correct”. I just see a lot of hate aimed at the omni bar and wanted to point out another perspective.

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            Opera had this neat feature where you could just type “g ” and it would Google for instead of trying to figure out on its own if what you typed is an address or a search term.

            I can imagine this is perfect for tech-savvy people, but too intricate for almost anyone else.

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              When auto-detecting something is involved, the toughest point with people who aren’t tech-savvy is the recovery action – i.e. what happens when auto-detection fails – so that’s the most useful reference point for a comparison. For people who find it too intricate to type G for Google, figuring out that you need to put http:// before an intranet link that was incorrectly detected as a search term, for example, is going to be hopeless.

              Also, I really think we should upgrade our image of people who aren’t tech-savvy. 1998 was 23 years ago. Even people who aren’t tech-savvy have heard of Google, even if they’ve only heard of it from watching news on TV or seeing the commercials. They know what Google is.

              Otherwise we’ll keep building UIs that people would have found friendly 25 years ago and everyone hates today – including its historical target audience.

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              Opera had this neat feature where you could just type “g ” and it would Google for instead of trying to figure out on its own if what you typed is an address or a search term. I’m not sure if Safari supports this but it would be cool if it did.

              I use DuckDuckGo’s bangs with the unified bar; it’s even better than that.

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              I can’t remember the last time I searched for something that could be mistaken for a URL

              Ditto, but I have often ended up in fights with the browser when it would intentionally misinterpret an address as a search string. Some fake “domains” like foo.dev just don’t seem to register as a domain. So you get a search results page, then you have to go back and manually type the http:// in front (and even then it still sometimes starts off searching).

              You might say “well then don’t use fake domains”, but for example my modem uses fritz.box as its hostname and I’ve even had times where localhost:1234 (without prefix of the URI scheme) would trigger a search. This really feels like the browser is actively being hostile to what I’m trying to do.

              I really don’t mind pressing the extra keystroke of C-k to go to the search box after pressing C-t for opening a new tab if that prevents this nonsense.

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                I can’t remember the last time I searched for something that could be mistaken for a URL

                This got a lot worse for me recently, because the address bar autocompletes with URLs that I’ve previously visited and so will often find things in my history if I have a short search term and will jump directly to those, rather than searching.

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                  For me it happens most often with bare hostnames on my local network. If I type “foo” into the address bar, I want it to do a DNS lookup, not a web search.

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                Snow Leopard was the only release of OS X / macOS that was monotonically better than the previous one.

                Tiger and Leopard were rough. They added new features and brought intel support to the public, but they broke things.

                Snow Leopard was a very good operating system, and I’d still be using it if that were reasonable, but part of why it was so loved is just how broken things had gotten over the previous two releases. And Lion picked up that mantle again. (I’d say Leopard and Lion were neck-and-neck for my least favorite modern Mac OS releases up until Catalina firmly resolved the “what’s the worst Mac OS ever” question resoundingly, only to be blown out of the field by Big Sur.)

                So in my opinion, it stands out as the only release of OS X and macOS that was monotonically better than both the previous one and the subsequent one.

                I’m sure that’s not the only reason, but it certainly contributes to my love of Snow Leopard.

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                  I keep hearing how terribly broken various releases of MacOS are, but I haven’t been experiencing breakage myself and I’ve not seen any details as to what’s actually breaking for people.

                  Do you know if there’s a collection of problems listed somewhere? I’d like to see if I’ve been affected by any of them.

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                    Tiger had the most annoying bug I’ve ever seen. If you had File Vault (your home directory was an encrypted disk image) enabled in Panther then everything worked fine after the upgrade when you rebooted. The first time you rebooted Tiger, your home directory became unmountable and unrecoverable in Tiger. If you managed to get it to a machine running Panther, you could extract the files. The fact that Apple QA didn’t involve upgrading to 10.4 from 10.3 with a security feature that they’d been shouting a lot about and then rebooting told me a lot about Apple ‘quality’ at the time. 10.6 was properly tested before release.

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                  Snow Leopard was the only release of OS X / macOS that was monotonically better than the previous one.

                  At least to me, it was very incremental over Leopard but dropped PPC support. If you’re on Intel that’s a good thing because it’s so much smaller; if you’re on PPC it kind of sucked. Without this, Snow Leopard could have been a series of 10.5.x releases, because the other changes were very small.

                  The Safari review misses the big one: The address and search bar are distinct. This change was pushed by Google in Chrome because they wanted everything to go to Google but it’s a terrible choice.

                  I can’t agree enough with this. Chrome got a lot right but it’s sad to see the cargo-culting over this point. It was a step backwards for usability driven by Google’s business interests, which other browser makers didn’t have but they were too busy copying Chrome to pause and think. IE9 did it too, and that kept me on IE8. I still use Firefox mainly because it allows me to configure these to be separate again. And IE11 quietly added an option to split them again in some obscure update years after it shipped.

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                    At least to me, it was very incremental over Leopard but dropped PPC support.

                    That’s a strong point. Leopard was good on PPC. I happily used my 12” PowerBook (with Leopard on it) for a solid 9 years after Snow Leopard shipped. The experience was very different for Leopard on Intel, AFAIR.

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                    Snow Leopard was the only release of OS X / macOS that was monotonically better than the previous one. Every other release has had some improvements and some regressions.

                    What about the loss of creator codes?

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                    The Mac OS X Snow Leopard was probably the best looking and polished Mac GUI.

                    The only thing that comes close was Solaris 10 at its peak: https://i.imgur.com/vyDd6lG.png

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                      This post has triggered me to reinstall Snow Leopard on my old Mac Mini, which I recently found. Still one of my favorite operating systems.

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                        I’m seriously thinking of a hackintosh. Something dual processors and tonnes of ram.

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                          I built a Hackintosh about 10Y ago, from a PC I was given on my local Freecycle group. Core 2 Extreme, 8GB of RAM, and everything else came out of my old PC.

                          At the time, Lion or Mountain Lion was current, I forget now, but I built it using 10.6 because I knew that security updates can break Hacktintoshes. I stayed on SL until 2014, and was very happy with it…

                          Happy side-effect: it ran MS Office 2004 like a champ, and as I really hate the Office “Ribbon” I didn’t want anything newer. But Office 2004 was PowerPC-only… so Snow Leopard was the last version it worked on.

                          I now use Office 2011 (well, Word 2011; LibreOffice for everything else) and don’t want any newer version, but Office 2011 won’t run on anything newer than 10.14…

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                        Snow Leopard was one of those rare software releases that we see only extremely rarely: a stabilization release. So while it was not completely devoid of new features over Leopard, I remember that at the time Apple presented it as a release that mainly upgraded the plumbing of the OS.

                        It is all too rare that software developers can come at a product manager and say “Look, for the next release you won’t be getting much on your desired feature list. But we’ll make the software cleaner, faster and a better base for what’s coming after.” and it gets accepted. But they did it that time. And it might have been the last.

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                          For me it’s Rosetta. I got a copy of Adobe CS4 in the box with legit license and original receipt.

                          It always nice to rebuild as big endian (PowerPC) have my choice of 32bit and 64bit apps, VMware, X11 and OpenGL.

                          MacOS “whatever” is just a cut down phone thing.

                          Snow Leopard is the last great PC operating system.

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                            It’s interesting because when I did get an older Mac Mini (having only run 10.11, 10.4, and 7.x on older/newer Macs) with Snow Leopard, I went “that’s it? that’s what everyone has been obsessed over?”

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                              I remember getting a new laptop with Lion on it and I desperately tried everything to get Snow Leopard installed on it because I hated Lion that much. I hated it so much I started doing absolutely everything in a Gentoo VM. Once I got a permanent Linux box, I reformatted the Mac with Windows and only used it for games.

                              The biggest problem I had with Lion (I didn’t see it mentioned in the article, maybe I missed it) was Mission Control.

                              Expose spread apart all your windows so you could see all of of them and select the one you wanted. Workspaces could have both rows and columns.

                              Mission Control would group all similar windows together and it was terrible compared to the full blow out of expose. You could also only have one row of workspaces.

                              To this day, KDE Plasma and other window managers on Linux allow for Expose type window expansion (the last reminisces of those old Compiz effects are still options in KWin) and multiple rows of desktops. Mac has never added these features back in as far as I know.

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                                For quite a while, I had a habit of acquiring used macs to run Linux on them.

                                [Snow] Leopard was the only OS X version I seriously considered using, when I saw they finally implemented real virtual desktops like any UNIX DE did for decades. I was really surprised when they removed that in Lion, and I’m glad I stayed with Linux.

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                                  They didn’t remove it with Lion? They still have workspaces (just renamed to “spaces”).

                                  They changed it from a 2D grid of workspaces to a 1D horizontal line of spaces, added a really nice touch pad gesture to switch to the workspace to the left or right, and let you switch workspace, add/remove workspaces and rearrange workspaces from Mission Control. Fairly similar to GNOME’s implementation of virtual desktops actually.

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                                    What GNOME3 and OS X do doesn’t allow using virtual desktops for organizing your workspace. Without an option to enable a fixed layout, that counts as a feature removal.

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                                      I’m skeptical about the usefulness of 1D workspaces. I think the 2D interface helps a lot with organization (this also goes for file management).

                                      On 10.5 and 10.6, I would have my main development environment on (1,1), my music player on (1,2) and my web browser on (2,1). Going from (1,1) to (1,2) and (2,1) was Ctrl-Down and Ctrl-Right.