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Mac OS X Services in Snow Leopard

Mac OS X Services let one application supply its powers to another; for example, a Grab service helps TextEdit paste a screenshot into a document. Most users either don't know that Services exist, because they're in an obscure hierarchical menu (ApplicationName > Services), or they mostly don't use them because there are so many of them.

Snow Leopard makes it easier for the uninitiated to utilize this feature; only services appropriate to the current context appear. And in addition to the hierarchical menu, services are discoverable as custom contextual menu items - Control-click in a TextEdit document to access the Grab service, for instance.

In addition, the revamped Keyboard preference pane lets you manage services for the first time ever. You can enable and disable them, and even change their keyboard shortcuts.

Submitted by
Doug McLean


New MacBook Pro Gains Multi-Touch Trackpad, MacBook Speed Bumped

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Let your fingers do more mousing with Apple's new multi-touch trackpad, which debuted in January 2008 with the MacBook Air and has now worked its way into the MacBook Pro line. Based on brief testing on a MacBook Air at Macworld Expo, I was impressed with the multi-touch trackpad, which uses easily learned gestures for a variety of common scrolling and clicking tasks. Even the simple two-finger scrolling on my older MacBook trackpad has become so ingrained that I find myself trying to use it on an elderly iBook that lacks the feature entirely.

The multi-touch trackpad supports two-finger scrolling, pinch, rotate, swipe, tap, double-tap, and drag capabilities, and you can control which gestures it recognizes (but not how they're mapped to system functions).

MacBook Pro -- Available immediately, the new MacBook Pro also gains the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processors running at a top speed of 2.6 GHz and the Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics chip with up to 512 MB of GDDR3 memory. The 17-inch model can also now take a 4200 rpm, 300 GB hard drive as a build-to-order option. The new processors are available in 2.4, 2.5, and 2.6 GHz speeds, and although the MacBook Pro gained a 2.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo back in November 2007 (see "Apple Releases Minor MacBook and MacBook Pro Upgrades," 2007-11-02), these processors use a new architecture that may provide a slight amount of additional performance with lower power consumption. Standard features on all MacBook Pro models include 2 GB of RAM (expandable to 4 GB), double-layer SuperDrive, 802.11n AirPort Extreme wireless networking, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, gigabit Ethernet, backlit keyboard, USB 2.0, FireWire 400/800, and built-in iSight video camera.

Pricing remains the same for the following base models:

  • $1,999 for the 15-inch model with a 2.4 GHz processor, 200 GB hard drive, 2 GB of RAM, and 256 MB of GDDR3 video memory
  • $2,499 for the 15-inch model with a 2.5 GHz processor, 250 GB hard drive, 2 GB of RAM, and 512 MB of GDDR3 video memory
  • $2,799 for the 17-inch model with a 2.5 GHz processor, 250 GB hard drive, 2 GB of RAM, and 512 MB of GDDR3 video memory

MacBook -- Unfortunately, the new MacBook does not get the multi-touch trackpad, but Apple did increase processor speeds and hard drive sizes across the line. Processors come in either 2.1 GHz or 2.4 GHz speeds, and hard drive options include 120 GB, 160 GB, and 250 GB sizes. Other standard features include 802.11n AirPort Extreme wireless networking, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and built-in iSight video camera.

Again, pricing remains the same, giving this lineup:

  • $1,099 for the white 13.3-inch model with a 2.1 GHz processor, 120 GB hard drive, 1 GB of RAM, and a Combo drive
  • $1,299 for the white 13.3-inch model with a 2.4 GHz processor, 160 GB hard drive, 2 GB of RAM, and a double-layer SuperDrive
  • $1,499 for the black 13.3-inch model with a 2.4 GHz processor, 250 GB hard drive, 2 GB of RAM, and a double-layer SuperDrive

More Multi-Touch in the Future? Overall, these new models are merely nice incremental upgrades that continue to make the MacBook and MacBook Pro highly desirable options for the ever-increasing number of people who rely entirely on laptops. It's unsurprising to see Apple putting the multi-touch trackpad in the MacBook Pro, although I'm surprised that they didn't include it in the MacBook in this revision, since it seems like the sort of thing that should be standard across the line. What I'd really like to see is a new keyboard for desktop Macs that also integrates a multi-touch trackpad.

I recently had to replace my Contour Designs RollerMouse Pro, and while waiting for the replacement unit to arrive, I discovered that I far preferred using my MacBook's trackpad to control both it and my dual 2 GHz Power Mac G5 via Abyssoft's excellent Teleport utility (see "Tools We Use: Teleport," 2007-08-27). Using a normal mouse or trackball with a standalone keyboard just wasn't as fluid as the MacBook's integrated keyboard and trackpad. That said, my favorite controller combination remains the Matias Tactile Pro keyboard - the now-discontinued original one, not the troubled 2.0 model (see "The Majestic Alps and the King of Keyboards," 2004-03-29) - and the RollerMouse Pro, which also places the pointing device in front of the keyboard, rather than off to the side (see "Rolling Faster, Farther with the RollerMouse Pro," 2006-12-11).


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