Tag Archives: Launchpad

OS X Mountain Lion: A Full Review

After getting my computer back on Saturday, I immediately upgraded to OS X Mountain LionOne of the first changes many Mac fans have noticed is that “Mac” has been dropped from the title. This has led many to speculate that there will be more to the marriage between iOS and OS X, but more about this later.

Since I have lived with Mountain Lion for about a week, I thought I would share my thoughts on the OS.

INSTALLATION

This is the second OS X release Apple has distributed through the Mac App Store. With Lion, a number of people complained about how the update slowed their system and there have been similar complaints about Mountain Lion.

Installation is actually really easy if you want the OS to install around your files. Backup your machine, download OS X from the Mac App Store (approx. 4.5 GB), and follow the instructions on the screen. After approximately 45 minutes, you will be Mountain Lion. Like many, I wish Apple made it easy to do a fresh install of the OS, but I opted for the simple install.

With my machine, an early 2011 15” MacBook Pro, I did not experience a decrease in speed. In fact, my system feels quicker. But, as I posted Monday, I had my hard drive wiped in May and just had a new logic board installed. That could certainly account for my seamless transition.

MINOR UPDATES

While there are some new features that are important to highlight, one thing I wanted to discuss first was how stable and polished Mountain Lion feels. Mac users who transitioned from Leopard to Snow Leopard a few years ago understand what I mean. The whole OS has been optimized for the Retina MacBook Pro and the detail does make a difference on lower resolution displays. Details of the icons and OS are crisper.

As for minor updates, all the multi-touch gestures are smoother, inertial scrolling is now a part of Stacks, and the dock has an aluminum surface. In addition, LauchPad and Dashboard have received minor updates, and all OS X updates are now handled by the Mac App Store.

There are a number of improvements to existing apps as well. Mail has some minor updates. Preview now has access to iCloud and more detailed editing tools. There are updates to the Image Capture app that make scanning and printing even easier. Other minor changes include a change in app names. iCal is now called Calendar and Address Book is now Contacts, much like their iOS counterpart, but this is only the beginning of Apple’s marriage of iOS and OS X.

NEW FEATURES

Apple says that there are over 200 new features in Mountain Lion. Most of them are not immediately noticeable, but there are several that are substantial and are very usable. As with Lion, the marriage of iOS and OS X continues. There are a number of apps added to OS X to match their counterparts in iOS. These apps then sync wirelessly using iCloud.

New to OS X: Reminders and Notes 

Two news apps from iOS includes Notes app and Reminders. Both apps are virtually identical to the iOS equivalent, and they both work very well. There isn’t much else to say! As Steve Jobs said about iCloud in 2011, it just works. iCloud syncs your Notes and Reminders automatically so you can accesses them on all your devices.

Notification Center

Another useful addition from iOS is Notification Center. Similar to Growl, Notification Center is one place for all your apps’ reminders, Calendar events, Reminders, Mail, and Twitter updates. With a two-finger swipe from right to left on the Trackpad, Notification center comes up on the right side of the screen. Notification Center is completely customizable in System Preferences and will certainly become more and more usable as developers continue to integrate it into their apps.

iMessage works on iOS and OS X

The most popular new app on Mountain Lion is iMessage. Like Facetime in Lion, iMessage in Mountain Lion allows for seamless communication between Macs and iOS devices. With iOS 6, however, Apple is will integrate users’ Apple ID and phone number. This will enable text messaging via the Mac! iMessage supports texts, photos, and videos. iMessage replaces iChat and works with other online messaging systems.

Game Center

Game Center is yet another iOS app added to Mountain Lion. Game Center allows Mac users to play games against other Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. This cross platform play is unique to Apple and will certainly be interesting as more iOS games are brought to the Mac.

Safari received a number of updates including Tab View

One of OS X’s apps to receive a major update is Safari. Users will notice the unified address bar, but there is also a new Tab Viewer that makes seeig all open tabs even easier. Apple has also integrated Share Sheets which has been added throughout the OS. It allows users to share websites, photos, videos and a variety of media via email, Twitter, Vimeo, Flickr, and Facebook (coming this fall). One interesting development with Safari is that it appears to be exclusive to the Mac. Safari 6.0 has yet to be created for Windows, and with the wholesale changes in Windows 8, an update is doubtful.

Apple has also taken significant steps in addressing user privacy. Mountain Lion features a new security feature called Gatekeeper, which allows users to choose the types of apps that are installed to their machine. Users can choose to only allow apps from the App Store, allow apps from the App Store and trusted developers, or allow all applications. The goal of Gatekeeper is to protect the computer from Malware and Spyware. Other privacy features include a clearer option panel for users to control the apps that can access their Calendar, Contacts, Key Chain, and location data.

Airplay Mirroring connects your Mac and TV via Apple TV

One of my favorite additions to Mountain Lion is Air Play Mirroring. Many Mac users already use Air Play for their files and music, but Air Play Mirroring allows users to wirelessly view their computer screen on their TV using Apple TV. This feature is certainly a welcome addition in many homes and classrooms. However, this feature only works on machines released in 2011 and 2012.

An interesting addition to Mountain Lion is Siri-like dictation. Dictation can be accessed using the user’s choice of hot keys. While it is useful, it can be problematic because only the MacBook Pro with Retina Display has a dual microphone system built in. This is a feature that will certainly improve over time, but if you have an external microphone, it can be really handy. As of right now, most third-party apps do not support this feature, but it is one of many great accessibility features added to OS X.

CONCLUSIONS 

Mountain Lion is certainly an improvement to OS X. While it may not be a major shift like Microsoft is planning for Windows 8, Apple is focused on the marriage of OS X and iOS via iCloud. The merging of Apple’s operating systems is working well for Apple and will take another leap forward when Apple releases iOS 6 this fall.

For only $20 in the Mac App Store, Mountain Lion is a must have for all Mac users. If you are using Snow Leopard, now is really the time to upgrade. Lion users should consider upgrading to access this polished OS. While there are sure to be bugs in this release, I have yet to experience any. In addition, I have yet to find a third-party app that is incompatible. My transition has been seamless, and I encourage all Mac user with eligible hardware to download Mountain Lion and enjoy the latest and greatest Apple has to offer.

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Mac OS X Lion Review

I decided to push my review of Lion back a week so it could be post number 100!  So, here it is….POST 100:

Apple released Lion on July 20 through the Mac App Store for a reasonable $29.99.  There are some who have complained about the lack of a disc option, but Apple is planning to release USB flash drives with Lion for $69.  Clearly it is cheaper to purchase the OS through the App Store, but not everyone has high speed internet and the file was a hefty 3.75GB.  That being said, the download is worth the wait as Lion’s features are a more noticeable transition from Snow Leopard then the Leopard to Snow Leopard upgrade in 2009.  Where Snow Leopard was a rewrite of the OS, Lion focuses more on end user features.  Apple has publicized this as iOS meets Mac OS X, but has it worked?  Lets find out.

Multi-Touch Gestures

Many people are probably wondering why this is such a big deal.  Apple already used Multi-touch with the Mac, but the experience has been taken to the next level.  Users using a MacBook or iMac with a Trackpad will find multi-touch very useful.  From swiping between desktops/full screen apps, pinch to zoom, short cuts, the user experience has been greatly improved with these simple gestures.  While there are many gestures available, users can customize gestures and can even view short demos in System Preferences>TrackPad.  The one annoying change Apple made is scrolling.  You can still use two figures, but it is the opposite of what we are used to.  They claim it is more natural, but I hate it.  Luckily, this can also be disabled in System Preferences.

Full Screen Apps

This is one of the simplest features of Lion, but also very useful for power users and those using 11″ or 13″ MacBooks.  All of Apple’s built in Apps have a new button at the top right corner of the screen to open the app in full screen mode.  When an App is place in full screen, its enters its own space.  Using a simple 3-finger swipe, the user can swipe between all open full screen apps and desktops.  This makes switching between Safari, Mail, and iTunes (the apps I use most) very quick.  What has amazed me is how fluid the system switches between apps.

Mission Control

Before Mission Control there was Expose and Spaces.  Mission Control combines these features along with Full Screen Apps to give users quick access to all open programs on their machine.  Again, a multi-touch gesture can be assigned to access Mission Control or by pushing F3 on the keyboard.  No only does this show all open apps, but you can add more desktops and arrange the apps between these desktops, much like Spaces.  What is annoying, however, is that I cannot rearrange full screen apps.  They are arranged in the order you opened them or the system will also order them by the number of times you use the app, but you cannot drag them around.  I hope this will be a change Apple will make in one of its early updates to Lion because I want to order the apps by my priorities.

LaunchPad

Launchpad is the most obvious carryover from iOS.  The iPad/iPhone like layout allows users to organize apps and place them into folders.  Again, this is accessible using multi-touch gestures, but I find the whole idea to be pointless.  What is wrong with the Dock?  Most users will probably skip this option….I know I have.

Resume

Resume is one of the most clever and useful of the changes in Lion.  It is probably one of the most simple as well.  How many times has your computer asked you to restart after an update and you skipped it because you were working in an app?  Of course, if you had restarted you would have lost where you were.  That is no longer the case with Lion.  Resume does two very important things.  First, it remembers where you were and what you were doing in an app.  If you were writing a paper in Word and quit, when you come back later, Lion will take you back to where you left off.  It will even remember your preferred screen size and layout.  The second thing feature of Resume comes when you are asked to restart or simply shutdown the computer at the end of the day.  When you turn the computer back on, all apps that were running when you shutdown are reopened and brought back to where you left them.  Both Apple and Microsoft had a feature where you could assign apps to open when you started the computer, but they would always default to the opening screen.  Resume carries out these two functions very well and it can do them both at the same time!  This feature is built into Lion and will work with any app, including third party apps.

Auto Save

Another simple and very useful tool in Lion is Auto Save.  After the initial save, you never have to tell the system to save the document again.  There are several new options you have with this feature.  The most useful of which is quickly duplicating the document.  This allows the user to save a locked version to use as a template.  You can also lock the document when you are finished with it and no longer wish to make changes. All these options are found in a new menu located at the top of the window next to the document’s title.  For now, Auto Save only works with Apple’s iWork and Text Edit document editors.  Third party developers need to be sure they take advantage of this feature.

Versions

Along with Auto Save comes Versions.  As the system auto saves, it also keeps a log of the changes made to the document.  If the user needs to pull a previous version of the document out, they get a simple, Time Machine like, interface that allows them to restore any version of the document.  As with Auto Save, this only works with iWork and Text Edit for now.  Microsoft says their next update to Office will take advantage of these features.

Mail

One of the apps that received a major overhaul was mail.  Not only can it be viewed in full screen mode, but it is now more iOS like with threaded messages and a more convenient reading pane.  Those familiar with Apple’s mail service will be comfortable with the button layout at the top of the screen, but with the messages on the left and the optional folder bar to the left of the messages, the new mail is even more user friendly.  It also is great for managing multiple email accounts.

Air Drop

Air Drop is a great new features for businesses using Macs or for a household with multiple Macs.  Air Drop allows users to quickly and securely share files between computers.  Air Drop is locoed in the new Finder and will search for all Macs on the local WiFi network.  You can then drag-and-drop files between Macs.

Other new Features

Many of the favorite apps from Snow Leopard remain and work better than ever.  The Finder has been updates and Spotlight search is now more inclusive.  Safari has a built in Reader option to save articles from websites and takes advantage of multi-touch gestures with pinch-to-zoom and two figure swipes to go back and forth between sites.  Dashboard has been placed in its own space to the left of the desktop in Mission Control.

Verdict

After using Lion for nearly two weeks, I have found very few bugs.  The release is remarkable stable.  It is obvious Apple has worked hard to bring all these new features to Mac OS X, but what is most surprising is how well they work together.  Individually, they are impressive features, but what is important for any OS is how all the features work together, and that is where Apple has always succeeded.  Apple has proven yet again that when an Operating System and the hardware are designed by the same people, they work together seamlessly.  Lion has already sold well over 1,000,000 copies and is truly the greatest release of Mac OS X yet, and at $29.99, Lion is a no brainer.

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