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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.