This is a mini-review for those interested in the new release of Apple's OS X operating system, version 10.5 (Leopard). I have installed it on 3 machines, all three non-Intel, over the past week. All 3 computers use multiple IMAP mail servers, including Apple's .mac service.
Overall, my impression of Leopard is not particularly positive. Although Time Machine looks like a good thing, I believe that many of the user interface changes are useless, ugly, or even a step backward. However, I want to focus here on the changes in Mail and iCal which were touted as improvements in workflow and task and information management:
* Event recognition in Mail for easy entry into iCal
* Todo's in Mail integrated with iCal
* Notes in Mail
Date recognition appears to work as advertised. Mousing over a date in an email gives the option of entering an event on that date in iCal. The event information in iCal has a URL which links back to the email. In my tests, this link survives as both the email and the event are sync'ed to different machines via IMAP and .mac iCal sync'ing respectively.
Todo's can be set from any mail message or directly within a new "To Do" mail folder. Todo's are linked back to mail messages, with an icon within mail, and a URL within iCal. The updating between mail and ical is very fast. Warning: if you delete a mail message with an embedded todo, you will delete the todo as well. Where a todo resides is important: a todo "On My Mac" will only sync to other macs with .mac (an extra cost subscription service). Todo's associated with IMAP accounts will sync through those mail services. Oddly, you cannot currently view todo's on the web email viewer of Apple's .mac service. On other IMAP clients, the todo's live in a folder called "Apple Todo's"
Of the new productivity features, Notes is the least robust. In my tests, any attempt to use the Notes feature in any realistic workflow met with severe problems of data duplication, data mishandling, and data loss. Notes are special emails that function as, well, notes. You don't explicitly send them, and you can update them, but they are really email messages. Most of the time, a new note on one machine will show up on the others in the special Notes folder, but every once in a while, they are treated as regular emails. In that case, all the special features of Notes are lost on that machine. I have been able to fix this problem by modifying the note on the original machine, which resends it. However, there is danger lurking here. When a note is modified on one machine, the original note (email) is deleted on all machines, and a new version is (re-)sent. Sometimes this process goes bad, and I end up with multiple copies of the same note on a machine, with different versions of the text. If I delete any of the copies, they are all deleted, everywhere. Any embedded todo's are lost, and embedded todo's in notes seem to increase the possibility of problems. Notes may or may not show up on other IMAP clients, depending on settings and how they are created.
Todo's and Notes that are associated with an IMAP account will show up as more-or-less normal email (read-only) on PDA's with IMAP clients. I have tested this on an iPhone and a Palm T|X. You don't really have much functionality on either. You can't filter by category to just look at errands while out and about, for example.
Overall, I would have to consider the implementation of these new features to be average to poor. Some of the new features appear to work as advertised, but are neither new nor transformative. The Notes feature is unreliable and untrustworthy. Overall, there is a lack of the integration, uniformity, and elegance usually associated with OS X software, and documentation is rudimentary at best. My advice: do not incorporate any of these new features into your workflow at this time.