Discoveries in Mac OS X Snow Leopard: It’s The Little Things (And What Have You Found?)


This discovery article is about things that, frankly, would make for a short post if written about individually. But there are a number of thoughtful touches sprinkled throughout Snow Leopard that make your work nicer, or more efficient, and I want to mention some of them here…

Text Substitution

The system-wide text substitution is great. Go to the Languages and Text control panel to select the ones you want, or add your own:


I’ve already added a few of my own, and they work perfectly in the Snow Leopard version of apps like Mail and TextEdit.

ShowSubMenuOne thing to note, however. Text replacement may not be enabled by default. Applications handle this differently, so you may need to turn it on for a given app. In an application’s Edit menu you’ll see a menu for Substitutions. Just check the ones you want to turn them on.

ShiwSubDialogAlternatively, select Show Substitutions on the menu to display a dialog box where you can control them all at once. Either way, check Text Replacement and you’re in business.


It took only the addition of a few features to vault TextEdit to my default word processor of choice:

  • Text replacement, as explained above
  • Correct spelling automatically
  • Smart dashes

These are all available in Pages, but with TextEdit I have them in a faster environment for most of my writing.

TextEdit Page

Keep in mind TextEdit already had plenty of desirable word processing features. Things like simple styles, lists, line spacing, tabs, paste and match style, find/replace, hyperlinks, hyphenation, and more. Heck, it even has kerning and ligatures.

Further, as an RTF editor it can contain graphics, and makes nice use of the new streamlined Services menu in Snow Leopard:

TextEdit PicServices

No, I’m not giving up Pages anytime soon. Sometimes I need columns, headers, TOCs, etc. But most of the time I don’t. TextEdit is fast and uncluttered, with more than just the basics, and yet so lightweight I think nothing of leaving it running all the time. With the latest improvements its become my word processor for blog posts, and where I’ll start most other writing projects as well.


My favorite new feature in iCal, and it practically brings tears to my eyes, is this:

iCal Prefs

Now when I double-click an existing event I don’t see this dreadful thing:


Instead, I get the thing of beauty below. Imagine that, an actual window I can type in, and move around, and everything.

Windows Event

Sadly, this only works for existing events. If you double-click a date to add a new event you still get the “talking” editor, which you need to drag off if you want a window. Still, this feature makes me very happy.

For other people, their favorite new feature might be this:


You can now sync your Mac calendar with Google or Yahoo! calendars. The Address Book has a similar capability, so your contacts can be in sync between these services as well. I used Yahoo! for years and this would have been great, but I’m on MobileMe now.


Exchange support could be huge (I love it on my iPhone), but my company does not use Exchange 2007 so I cannot try this or comment on it.

Mail_SidebarHowever, the text substitutions mentioned above are extremely nice. So is the speed increase.

And I love that I can re-order the sidebar categories. For me, this means banishing Reminders to the bottom of the list.

QuickTime X

So much has been written about the new QuickTime X player that I won’t dwell on it other than to try to define a little bit better what this thing is:

  • QT XDo not confuse QuickTime X player with the actual QuickTime X technology. The player is the tip of the iceberg you see. QuickTime X is a refinement and tuning of Apple’s media technology as ambitious as Snow Leopard was to Leopard.
  • QuickTime X player is not QuickTime Pro. Pro allowed editing in the middle of a movie, combining multiple movies into one, better output options, and more.
  • QuickTime X player is more than the QuickTime 7 player it replaces. You can trim movies and then upload directly to YouTube or MobileMe. You can also output them to iPod, iPhone or Apple TV devices. It can also record your screen actions, and the performance is better.

The number of QT Pro users is relatively small. For the vast majority of Mac users what they’re getting is a sleeker, faster movie player than what they had before. One that also allows them to trim footage and upload it for sharing, as well as recording on-screen actions. That’s a pretty nice bonus as part of only a $29 software package.

And Even More…

Password GraceYour Mac goes to sleep, you immediately grab the mouse but it’s too late, you have to enter a password to get back in (if you’ve chosen that option). Well, in the Security preferences panel you can now set a “grace period” between sleep and requiring a password.

Network WakeYou want to be Green. Really, you do. But you can’t let your desktop Mac sleep because you might want to grab a file, or see a shared photo, or play a shared song, from your MacBook. Well, if you use an Airport Extreme or Time Capsule as your router you can set an option to Wake for Network access. Let the desktop get some sleep, knowing it’ll wake if you need it.

Day, date and time in the menu bar. You could do this before, but had to jump through hoops. Now you just check a few boxes:

Day Date

Where Does It End?

In this discovery series I specifically avoided the advanced technologies in Snow Leopard like Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL. These are very important, but I wanted the series to focus on what most people could see and make use of immediately.

Yet there are more, many more, things to discover. I couldn’t begin to list them all. QuickLook now works in iChat for received a file. Safari now has “plug-in protection” so Adobe Flash (and others) won’t crash the browser. And on and on…

What about you? What have you found? I’d love for others to leave their own Snow Leopard discoveries in the comments below.

Previous Articles in the Snow Leopard Discovery Series:

3 thoughts on “Discoveries in Mac OS X Snow Leopard: It’s The Little Things (And What Have You Found?)

  1. Some of the little things I like are:
    1. Finder – Now you can set the scroll bar to jump to place that is clicked.
    2. Finder – Setting minimized windows to sit in icon instead of on Dock.
    3. iTunes – Previewing songs in the music store no longer buffer, they play instantly!

  2. I’m behind the times, since I have yet to upgrade ….. I’m waiting for the next iMac model. However, text substitution really impress’s me and is just the type of thing that I love! Thanks for pointing this out… now I really can’t wait to get to play with this new kitty cat!

  3. Audio/Midi setup in Utilities is much more nicely layed out.

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