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Tuesday, October 30, 2007, 05:25 am PT (08:25 am ET)

An Introductory Mac OS X Leopard Review: Address Book and iChat

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard comes with a selection of entirely new or greatly improved applications. The new system is designed to be flexible to fit your needs, so you can import the data from existing apps you currently use into Leopard's, or alternatively continue to use your own preferred alternative apps on the new OS. It also exposes new functionality for developers to allow them to extend upon, replace, or collaborate with Apple's supplied applications. Here's a look at how the new versions of Address Book and iChat work.

Leopard Address Book

Apart from the mention of new links to Google Maps and sync features with the Yahoo! online address book, Apple didn't feature the new Address Book at all. At first blush, the only thing new here is the removal of the brushed metal appearance. However, there are new features related to Address Book (and applied to other apps as well) that weren't even featured in the "300 new features" of Leopard.

The first is the new Picture Taker Panel. If you go to the System Preferences/Accounts pane (below top), you have the option to set up your User Name and photo there. If your Mac has a camera attached or built in, you can click on the photo and select Edit Picture from the drop down menu. The typical sheet drops down (below bottom).

Leopard


Leopard


However, the new Address Book gives you some hidden options to get more creative with your system account photo, as well as the pictures you set for your contacts. Here, I dragged in a photo and used the typical crop and adjustment controls to fit it. But there's a new button in the Picture Taker Panel that Address Book uses: that Effects Gallery icon swirl (below).

Leopard


If you're down with the swirl, click it and up pops a panel with the familiar effects from Photo Booth (below). There is one more thing....

Leopard


Actually several more things, with six pages of effects you can use (below).

Leopard


Leopard


Leopard


These are produced by Quartz Composer composition files, and you can add you own, too. Apple's included effects are in the System domain, but you can add new ones into your Mac's /Library/Compositions or a user's Library (Users/username/Library/Compsitions) to expand your options, just as you would install fonts. QC Composition files show up throughout Leopard, in iChat, Photo Booth, and any other applications that take advantage of them. Any Core Graphics savvy application can use these effects plugins to style and enhance photos and video, just as Core Audio units are used in audio music applications. If you're keeping count, that's another system wide feature that didn't receive much mention at all.

Leopard


Address Book also incorporates photos the system discovers attached to incoming emails. As Address Book help explains, "A picture can appear in a contact’s card even though you haven’t added a picture yourself. If a picture whose filename matches the contact’s email address and whose file extension is .tiff (such as tclark@mac.com.tiff) is located on your computer in a folder named Library/Images/People, or is located on a computer or server you’re connected to in a /Library/Images/People folder, the picture will automatically appear in Address Book, Mail, iChat and other applications where the contact’s email address is used."

This feature is based upon one that appeared in NeXTMail. If you set your photo in Address Book and send emails from .Mac, the system attaches a .tiff file and your recipient will see this in email programs that support it, similar to Buddy List icons in iChat. If you don't want to use your photo, you can use one of the generic icons instead.

On page 2 of 2: Leopard iChat; iChat Interface; Video Conferencing and Screen Sharing.