Here are the top-ten Leopard tips from my friends, Adam Engst et al, at Take Control Books. They’ve already released five ebooks to help people upgrade to Leopard. These books cost either $10 or $15, but you can save 30% if you buy all five. Take Control publishes minor updates for free, so the authors can revise their books on the fly.

  1. Back up first! Time Machine may or may not turn out to be everything you ever wanted in a backup program. But even if you’re going to have a full Time Machine backup after you upgrade to Leopard, don’t forget to back up your Mac first. Your best bet is a bootable duplicate to an external hard drive, using a program like SuperDuper.

    Not only does this provide insurance in case something goes wrong with your upgrade, it lets you use the cleaner and safer Erase and Install upgrade method, at the end of which the Leopard installer can migrate your user data, applications, and other files from your duplicate. From Take Control of Upgrading to Leopard

  2. Update third-party software first. Some of your favorite third-party applications and utilities may already have been updated for Leopard compatibility. It’s worth going through your software and checking for any such updates before running the Leopard installer – especially for things like plug-ins for Safari and Mail, and any other system enhancements that may hack into your system in ways Apple doesn’t officially sanction. Many such programs may break under Leopard, but if you upgrade them to compatible versions beforehand, you’ll have a better chance of smooth sailing once Leopard is installed. From Take Control of Upgrading to Leopard

  3. Opt out (not in) for additional fonts. In Tiger, if you wanted the forty or so additional foreign-language fonts installed, you had to ask for them specially during the installation process, or try and find them later. (Why would you care if your foreign language skills don’t include Chinese, Thai, or Tibetan? Many of the Asian fonts have wonderful Roman-based characters, such as numbers up to 100 and letters inside circles, squares, and rounded rectangles, both white-on-black and black-and-white.)

    Leopard, however, includes all the fonts by default, so if you don’t want your Font menus cluttered or the chore of removing the extras manually, decline the fonts during the installation process: Choose your installation method, and then on the Install Summary screen, click Customize. In the Custom Install pane that appears, uncheck Additional Fonts in the list of options. From Take Control of Fonts in Leopard

  4. Reconsider Spotlight. In Tiger, many users found Spotlight a disappointment: it failed to find files; finding invisible files didn’t work; and the interface for dealing with the found files was just plain weird. Leopard fixes all this.

    There are only two Spotlight interfaces: the Spotlight menu, and the Finder search window. To use the Finder search window, choose Show All in the Spotlight menu, or press Command-Option-Space, or just start typing in a Finder window’s search field. You can work with the found results just as in any Finder window. Even better, you can refine the search as much as you like. Click the + button at the right side to summon a “criteria bar.” Click it again to summon another.

    If the criterion you want doesn’t appear in the leftmost pop-up menu, choose Other; especially useful “Other” options include “System Files” (which makes Spotlight search everywhere) and “Spotlight items” (which makes the results include non-file things like iCal events). Option-click the + button to make a criteria bar that can modify addition criteria using Any, All, or Not. Oh, and finding invisible files works. From Take Control of Customizing Leopard

  5. Welcome guests to your Mac. When your friends or family want to use your Mac “just for a minute,” to check email, to surf the Web, or to play a game, you can do so more safely now by letting them log into the new Guest Account in Leopard. This account, which recreates a virgin home folder each time its activated, gives them standard user’s rights, and keeps them from prying into your personal files. From Take Control of Users & Accounts in Leopard

  6. Capitalize on the Finder font previews. You don’t have to open Font Book, or the font manager of your choice, to see what a font looks like. With Icon Preview turned on as an option for any Fonts folder window, a font icon appears as a tiny, two-letter sample of its font. In a Column view window, the Preview column shows a small, but full alphanumeric sample of a selected font file. But, for a quick, big Finder font sample, just select a font file and take a Quick Look: choose File > Quick Look (Command-Y), or simply hit the spacebar. From Take Control of Fonts in Leopard

  7. Share and share alike. Like a scent on a breeze that reminds us of older days, File Sharing in Leopard brings back a feature missing since Mac OS 9: folders that can be shared as network volumes. While third-party software could add back this behavior in Tiger, it’s not the same as having it built in. Sharing folders lets you choose which projects or parts of a hard drive to expose to others. This limits risk and makes file sharing simpler, too.

    Leopard provides a neat interface (in the Sharing preference pane, under the File Sharing service) to choose which folders or volumes to share, and to set which users may access and modify files. But it can be even simpler. In the Finder, select any folder or volume, choose Get Info, and check the Shared Folder box to share that item; it’s automatically added to the Shared Folders list in File Sharing. From Take Control of Sharing Files in Leopard

  8. Control your kids! A great way to keep your kids from using their Macs too much is to set time limits with Leopard’s significantly enhanced Parental Controls. You can set limits for school nights and weekends, and this prevents them from logging in between the morning and evening hours you set, or playing games or chatting after bedtime. From Take Control of Users & Accounts in Leopard

  9. Lock down FTP. Apple is still hiding its secure FTP (SFTP) light under a bushel. FTP as a protocol is insecure: passwords and data pass in the clear, visible to anyone on a Wi-Fi hotspot or other untrusted network at a college or elsewhere. SFTP protects you by encrypting the entire FTP connection. You won’t find the option connected with FTP in the File Sharing preferences though.

    The trick is that Leopard enables SFTP when you turn on Remote Access in the Sharing preferences pane. Unfortunately SFTP can’t be limited in scope as to what files a user with a Mac OS X account can see, so SFTP is a better tool for a computer owner’s remote access. All well-known Mac OS X FTP clients support SFTP. From Take Control of Sharing Files in Leopard

  10. Become a Spaces cadet. You’ll get the hang of using Spaces right away (and you should definitely use it, as it is a really easy and very cool way to handle window clutter), but one or two major features might escape your notice. An important thing to be able to do is to move an already open window from one space to another. Since you are always in just one space, how can you possibly do that? If you’re in All Spaces mode (which you get to by clicking the Spaces icon in the Dock, or by pressing F8), you can drag a miniaturized window directly from one space to another!

    Otherwise, hold the mouse down on a window’s title bar and switch directly to another space with a keyboard shortcut (such as Control-Right arrow); the window will travel with you to the new space. Or, drag the window to the edge of the screen and pause with the mouse still down and at the screen’s edge; you’ll switch spaces automatically, bringing the window with you.

    And here’s another tip: When you’re in All Spaces mode, you can use Exposé triggers. It’s particularly useful if you enter All Spaces mode and then activate your All Windows Exposé trigger. The result is quite spectacular: you can now see all your windows in all your spaces, simultaneously! Click a window to switch to that space and bring that window frontmost, all in one amazing move. From Take Control of Customizing Leopard

These guys are the experts, but I have two Leopard tips too. First, switch to Safari. I swear it renders pages faster than any browser that I’ve used. This means sacrificing some Firefox plug-ins, but the tradeoff is worth it even if Safari didn’t enable you to create widgets (see next).

Second, roll your own widgets. My favorite feature of Leopard is the ability to create widgets with Safari. I made widgets out of the site traffic reports that I track. Now I just go to Dashboard and see four widgets instead of going to four web pages. Here’s how: Safari—>File menu—>Open in Dashboard. I’ve used Dashboard more in the first twenty-four hours since upgrading to Leopard than during all the years Dashboard was available prior to Leopard.

Please add your favorite Leopard tips by adding a comment to this posting.