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Photos: Ten views of Leopard

Latest Mac OS X operating system offers a range of updates, from new developer tools to backup and graphics applications.
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new developer tools

The next version of Apple Computer's Mac OS X operating system, code-named Leopard, will allow application developers to create 64-bit applications using Apple's Carbon and Cocoa development tools. Those 64-bit applications will be able to run alongside 32-bit applications created for older operating systems, said Scott Forstall, Apple's vice president for platform experience, during the first day of Apple's 2006 Worldwide Developer's Conference.

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Time Machine

Apple has created an automatic backup feature in Leopard called Time Machine. Time Machine allows Mac users to set priorities and preferences to automatically back up important files like spreadsheets, presentations or photos, which only 4 percent of Mac users currently do, Forstall said. The interface for Time Machine drew lots of appreciative noises from the crowd of 4,200 at San Francisco's Moscone Center. As the user scrolls back through "time" in order to find the last saved instance of a file, it looks like they are flying into a black hole.

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Boot Camp, Front Row, Photo Booth

Leopard will contain three pieces of software that currently ship separately from the operating system, said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Boot Camp, unveiled earlier this year, allows Intel-based Mac users to boot both Windows and Mac OS X on their systems. Front Row is a multimedia organizer that lets users file and store their movies, television programs and music while using a remote control from across the room. And the Photo Booth software will now ship standard with all new Macs and support more cameras than the current version, Jobs said.

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Spaces

Spaces will help Mac users organize their thoughts while working on several different types of applications at once, Jobs said. Leopard can group Mac applications into different categories, such as multimedia tools or Web page creators. Rather than having 15 different applications open on a single desktop, Spaces lets Mac users switch between four different application windows that contain like-minded applications in order to reduce the clutter in each individual window.

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Spotlight

Apple plans to improve Spotlight, the Mac OS X tool for finding files on the hard drive, with the release of Leopard. Users will be able to search for files on a network of Macs or on servers, in addition to searching their own machines. It will also add support for more-precise queries, recognizing Boolean expressions, for example.

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Core Animation

Developers will be able to use a new tool called Core Animation to create dazzling graphic effects in their applications, such as buildings made from album covers as seen here. The flying effect in Time Machine was created using Core Animation, which expands on recent Apple tools such as Core Audio and Core Image, which were unveiled in Tiger, the current version of the operating system.

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special-needs features

Mac users with special needs will have an easier time with Leopard as compared to older Mac operating systems, Jobs said. For example, Apple improved the text-to-speech capabilities so blind readers will have an easier time understanding the computer-generated voice that can read e-mails or Web pages. Jobs demonstrated how the voice and word-recognition technology has improved since the last version. Also, Leopard will come with improved support for Braille and closed captioning.

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Mail updates

Apple made sure not to slight e-mail addicts like Jobs with Leopard. Mail users can create personalized stationery with their personal photos or make to-do lists right from an incoming e-mail message. Also, certain e-mails can be labeled as "notes" and filed into a separate folder for later reference.

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Web Clip

Dashboard widget fans will now be able to create their own helpful programs with Web Clip. This feature can capture any frequently updated Web page and save the link as a widget, where Dashboard users can regularly refer to it for the latest installment of their favorite comic strip, for example. Apple's Forstall also demonstrated how Web Clip could help Mac users monitor eBay auctions or Webcams.

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iChat

Jobs and Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller's demonstration of some of the new features in iChat could have doubled as a comedy routine for most of the developers in attendance. iChat users can now use some of the same visual effects found in Photo Booth to create fun-house mirror images or to add color. Different backgrounds can be used behind the Web cam to make it look like you're chatting from the beach, and it also supports video backgrounds.

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