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Leopard interface tweaks continue in latest builds

The most recent pre-release build of Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X Leopard operating system began making its way into developers' hands this past weekend, carrying with it a number of interface tweaks and a lengthy list of recommended testing suggestions.

Screenshots and video clips taken of the new build, labeled Mac OS X Leopard build 9A527, show Apple to have reduced the transparency of the Mac OS menubar from previous builds, making it more opaque. Some developers had argued that level of transparency in previous builds gave the software — and Mac OS desktop in general — a cheaper, more rugged look.

Meanwhile, Apple also used build 9A527 to introduce both a new startup movie (below) and desktop picture. Both pieces of media sport a galactic motif that coincides with the theme of the company's Time Machine backup software — one of Leopard's trademark features.

Other interface changes apparent from leaked Leopard screenshots include a refined toolbar in and new preference pane icons for Appearance, Desktop & Screen Saver, Sharing, and Parental Controls.

Developers who install the latest build are being asked by Apple to test the release rigorously. For instance, the company asked that new features — such as .Mac syncing of Dashboard widgets, Dock items and preferences — be evaluated alongside such common and long-established functions as printing and Spotlight Mail searches.

In addition to any quirks that may be discovered in build 9A527, Apple also informed developers of nearly a dozen known issues with Leopard that they hope to isolate in the coming weeks. Those weeks, however, are numbered; the Cupertino-based company has said it plans to release the software in the October timeframe.

In order to meet the self-imposed deadline, Apple in the next six weeks will need to completely rid Leopard of known issues, then seed several final candidate builds before declaring one Gold Master. Once declared Gold Master, Leopard will be released to manufacturing for duplication and retail packaging.

Alongside Friday's seeding of Mac OS X Leopard build 9A527, the company also seeded Mac OS X Leopard Server build 9A528a.