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  • Productivity "Enhancements" in Leopard

    This is a mini-review for those interested in the new release of Apple's OS X operating system, version 10.5 (Leopard). I have installed it on 3 machines, all three non-Intel, over the past week. All 3 computers use multiple IMAP mail servers, including Apple's .mac service.

    Overall, my impression of Leopard is not particularly positive. Although Time Machine looks like a good thing, I believe that many of the user interface changes are useless, ugly, or even a step backward. However, I want to focus here on the changes in Mail and iCal which were touted as improvements in workflow and task and information management:

    * Event recognition in Mail for easy entry into iCal

    * Todo's in Mail integrated with iCal

    * Notes in Mail

    Date recognition appears to work as advertised. Mousing over a date in an email gives the option of entering an event on that date in iCal. The event information in iCal has a URL which links back to the email. In my tests, this link survives as both the email and the event are sync'ed to different machines via IMAP and .mac iCal sync'ing respectively.

    Todo's can be set from any mail message or directly within a new "To Do" mail folder. Todo's are linked back to mail messages, with an icon within mail, and a URL within iCal. The updating between mail and ical is very fast. Warning: if you delete a mail message with an embedded todo, you will delete the todo as well. Where a todo resides is important: a todo "On My Mac" will only sync to other macs with .mac (an extra cost subscription service). Todo's associated with IMAP accounts will sync through those mail services. Oddly, you cannot currently view todo's on the web email viewer of Apple's .mac service. On other IMAP clients, the todo's live in a folder called "Apple Todo's"

    Of the new productivity features, Notes is the least robust. In my tests, any attempt to use the Notes feature in any realistic workflow met with severe problems of data duplication, data mishandling, and data loss. Notes are special emails that function as, well, notes. You don't explicitly send them, and you can update them, but they are really email messages. Most of the time, a new note on one machine will show up on the others in the special Notes folder, but every once in a while, they are treated as regular emails. In that case, all the special features of Notes are lost on that machine. I have been able to fix this problem by modifying the note on the original machine, which resends it. However, there is danger lurking here. When a note is modified on one machine, the original note (email) is deleted on all machines, and a new version is (re-)sent. Sometimes this process goes bad, and I end up with multiple copies of the same note on a machine, with different versions of the text. If I delete any of the copies, they are all deleted, everywhere. Any embedded todo's are lost, and embedded todo's in notes seem to increase the possibility of problems. Notes may or may not show up on other IMAP clients, depending on settings and how they are created.

    Todo's and Notes that are associated with an IMAP account will show up as more-or-less normal email (read-only) on PDA's with IMAP clients. I have tested this on an iPhone and a Palm T|X. You don't really have much functionality on either. You can't filter by category to just look at errands while out and about, for example.

    Overall, I would have to consider the implementation of these new features to be average to poor. Some of the new features appear to work as advertised, but are neither new nor transformative. The Notes feature is unreliable and untrustworthy. Overall, there is a lack of the integration, uniformity, and elegance usually associated with OS X software, and documentation is rudimentary at best. My advice: do not incorporate any of these new features into your workflow at this time.
    Last edited by mcogilvie; 11-04-2007, 12:57 PM. Reason: grammar

  • #2
    Leopard on MacBook

    Thanks for your comprehensive review.
    I installed Leopard on a MacBook and PowerBook. Installation was painless.
    Time Machine on-line documentation claims to offer complete disaster recovery. For me, this is an essential feature that is worth the price of the upgrade - it it works. Trouble is, I don't know how to test it!
    I agree that usability seems to have suffered in Leopard. But, I'll wait a few weeks before deciding.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for the review. There are some definite bugs in the Notes/ToDo's in email features which are being discussed over on the Apple discussion boards. Some of these seem to relate to have a Smart Mailbox with a filter that picks out all the ToDo's in a given calendar (eg all the ToDo's in the calendar @Work).

      Time Machine seems clever but it is getting email wrong at the moment. Again various people are reporting this on Apple's boards. If I look at my Mail app in Time Machine and go back in time I see emails appearing unread from months ago. I am using it with a 750GB Lacie drive but I am planning to continue my present policy of weekly clones with SuperDuper and weekly DVD burns of the bare essentials that I can't replace (2 DVD's worth). A whole clone on an external fire wire drive is a wonderous thing if you come in and your hard drive is hosed. Just boot with the option key and begin work.

      The best enhancement I have found on my macbook is the virtual desktop implementation called Spaces.

      A warning for anyone who is a MarkSpace customer their sync software is not Leopard compatible yet.

      If anyone wants a detailed albeit technical review I recommend the one at www.arstechnica.com.

      Michael

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      • #4
        I synced my Treo with Missing Sync and lost calendar events and maybe tasks. Beware!

        Comment


        • #5
          Info on MissingSync Leopard compatibility is here

          http://www.markspace.com/leopard.html

          Michael

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          • #6
            There is a beta of a Leopard compatible MS out now. I haven't tried it --- I'll wait until the final release.

            Michael

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            • #7
              In case anyone else is interested here is what I am trying to do for GTD using Leopard Mail and a Palm TX. Bear in mind that previously I have been doing GTD on the Palm using lists created in the Tasks/ToDo's much along the lines of what David Allen suggests.

              So the ToDo's which are context related all carry across to Mail. Each context is a calendar. I have set up a Note for each Project (or Pending or Someday/Maybe) and recreated the ToDos so they are written on the corresponding note and you then have the link back from the ToDos to the Note. As you can turn off and on the ToDoness of any bit of text in the note I have the notes setup up as lists of actions with the n/a a To Do. Links to material and other supporting stuff can also go on a note.

              How to review the ToDos as reviewing them in iCal is cludgy and was before Leopard. You can look in the ToDo mailbox and sort by calendar to see them by context. This is like having a list view of ToDos in iCal. A better solution would be to have a smart mailbox for each category. I tried this and there are bugs I hope will be resolved in 10.5.1.

              How to get Notes on the Palm ? The Notes don't sync to the Palm. The guys at MarkSpace who make Missing Sync say they are planning to have a look this but right now they are busy making all their Missing Sync applications Leopard compatible. So I went via the email route. The Notes sync to my IMAP server and I can look at them in VersaMail on the Palm TX. But now there is a catch. VersaMail won't look inside nested folders on the IMAP server and I have a GTD folder with Projects, Pending etc sub folders. So I am trying out Agendus SSL Mail at the moment which does handle folders and looks quite good.

              There are some cludgy things: I haven't sorted out how to create notes on the Palm and sync back via email and the notes when you create them on the mac have to later be dragged into projects from the Notes folder.

              A work in progress but it is interesting what you can do.

              Michael

              PS: Yes I know messing with one's GTD implementation is not `getting things done'

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