What you may not know
The Desktop's new look, Stacks, Quick Look, and Cover Flow have garnered most of the attention, but there are a few other Finder changes that may have slipped under your radar.
Striped List View The Finder's List view now sports stripes - rows in list view windows now alternate between white and light blue backgrounds (you can't customise the colour selections), making it much simpler to read across wide windows.
Changes in View Options In both Icon and Column view modes, there are changes to be found in the View -> Show View Options dialog. For Icon view users, the big news is the return of customizable grid spacing. That's right - you're no longer stuck with what the OS X default (really wide) columns setting.
For Column view mode, there's a very handy new Arrange By pop-up menu that lets you sort column windows by name, date modified, date created, size, kind, or label. Unfortunately, these settings are global in nature, so you can't have one Column view window sorted by name and another by date modified.
Speaking of global settings, things have changed in that regard for List and Icon view windows. Instead of OS X 10.4's two options (This Window Only or All Windows), OS X 10.5 includes a new Use As Defaults button. Unless you click on that button, changes are always for the current window only.
Finally, the Snap To Grid setting for Icon view windows has found a new home. You might think it's vanished at first glance, as the standalone checkbox is gone. Instead, it's hiding near the top of the Arrange By pop-up menu.
New Finder Preferences Hidden in the Advanced section of the Finder's preferences is the ability to disable warnings about changing a file's extension. If you'd rather not be warned every time you want to change .html to .htm, just make sure the box next to Show Warning Before Changing An Extension is unchecked, and you'll never again be warned. The other new check box here will force the trash to always empty securely, so you don't have to manually select this option every time you empty your trash.
Assorted Other Changes Leopard changes the Finder's file compression menu item from Create Archive From "file name" to Compress "file name", and from within the Trash window, there's an Empty button to remove its contents. The Finder's contextual menu has also received some attention. The entries found at the bottom of Tiger's contextual menu - Automator, Enable Folder Actions, and so on - have been relegated to their own More sub-menu. There's also a new option to send a selected file to a Bluetooth device. Any third-party contextual menu extensions will also appear in this sub-menu.
What we think
The rewritten Finder is fast, and it handles large folders much more easily than its predecessors. Quick Look, Cover Flow, and the other new features are all welcome additions, and the Finder is now a more functional place to spend your time. Whether that time is more enjoyable, though, depends solely on whether you like or dislike the new look that comes with the new features.
Some people may not care for the new look at all, however, and may seek help from third-parties to either replace the Finder (Path Finder), make it look different (ShapeShifter), or at least brighten up the standard icons (CandyBar). But regardless of how you feel about the Finder's new looks, there's no question this is a much improved application.
The new Finder works really well. The look is polarizing, however, and some may not enjoy the new "face" of the Finder. We don't think anyone will complain about its performance, however - the new Finder manages to add a number of really nice new features while actually getting faster at handling the typical file management tasks.