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Leopard was released 2007 and Snow Leopard was released 2 years later in 2009. They both look pretty much the same, with a few minor GUI exceptions. They almost work the same, again with a few minor exceptions. I know that the whole Finder was re-written, but I want to know more detail about the differences between the two. What are the major difference between Leopard (10.5) and Snow Leopard (10.6)?

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If you have some time, read this great review on Ars Technica: That will answer your question. – Peter Štibraný Feb 8 '12 at 8:36
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I remember watching the keynote when Snow Leopard was introduced: Steve Jobs pointed out how fast MacOSX was being improved and new features were added. Several major upgrades have been shipped, while Microsoft took years to ship Vista.

From the beginning, Snow Leopard had the focus on improving the overall system performance and optimizing already implemented features. Also, cleanup was required as PowerPC support was dropped.

Because no major enduser related features have been added, it's been widely assumed that this is why the price dropped from $129 to $29.


  • support for 64-bit applications (you can also boot the kernel in 64-bit mode if supported)
  • Grand Central Dispatch helps to get more out of your multi core processor.
  • OpenCL offers GPU hardware acceleration for any application.
  • PowerPC support was dropped.
  • Microsoft Exchange Support for Mail, iCal, Address Book.
  • QuickTime X (full screen view, http live streaming...)
  • Safari introduced Top Sites, Cover Flow and sandboxing for plug-ins.
  • Anti-malware alers.
  • Finder rewritten in Cocoa.
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Subjectively, I remember Snow Leopard having some rough spots in the first two releases (10.6 and 10.6.1) but even then it felt tighter, more response, and much more cohesive than Leopard did. Aesthetically, Snow Leopard also fully did away with Carbon, did it not (no more hideous metal UIs)? – user10355 Feb 8 '12 at 8:18
@cksum Apple did not port the Carbon library to 64-bit. Therefore applications that wanted to run 64-bit had to migrate to Cocoa. iTunes for example was still Carbon as it was still 32-bit when SL was shipped. Only in Lion iTunes is finally 64-bit and using Carbon. – gentmatt Feb 8 '12 at 9:48
Yep. I remember Adobe whining about them dropping Carbon64 (saying it was totally arbitrary; okay). And iTunes has always pushed a progressive UI compared to OS X. Only now does it truly blend with the OS (Lion) :) – user10355 Feb 8 '12 at 9:51

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