It has now been two-weeks ago since Apple opened the cage doors and let out a roaring lion to the masses. We’re hopeful that we prepared you enough to get all set to install OS X Lion onto your Macs and welcome the bucket loads of new features that it brought along. Here at Smoking Apples, the team has spent the last several days immersed in curiosity and excitement exploring everything that Apple’s latest and great OS had to offer and have taken some time to outline our thoughts about OS X Lion.
When Apple released the Magic Trackpad back in July ’10, it made little sense to get one until Apple took the wraps off Lion at the ‘Back to Mac’ event in Oct ’10. While some might say Magic Mouse does the job just fine, it only offers a peak into the glorious world of Lion filled with multi-touch gestures, natural scrolling, iOS-type scrollbars and other neat tricks lifted straight from iOS. These are best enjoyed using a Trackpad and I cannot emphasize this fact enough.
I’ve had access to Lion on my iMac all along the releases of the Developer Previews and I have had a love-hate relationship with it. I’m not a big fan of the rubber-band scrolling. It is intrusive and slows down your productivity as content takes time to roll into position. iOS-style scrollbars or scrollers have also intruded into Lion. These monochrome narrow lozenges appear only when scrolling action is taking place and disappear few moments after it completes. Yes, they do save space but they are overlap the content and that annoys the <redacted> out of me. What’s worse is that there is no way to turn either of these effects off. Moreover, I struggled getting accustomed to natural scrolling; but the Magic Mouse isn’t the right device to take the plunge anyway, in my opinion.
Moving on, Lion has way more good stuff to counter all that I’ve outlined above and it begins with Mission Control. I’ve never been a pro-active user of Spaces but Mission Control has been a game changer for me. It has simplified Space and window management so much that is has forced me to accommodate Spaces in my workflow. Some of the other Lion features that have caught my fancy include Auto Save and Versioning. Cmd-S shortcut has lost its mojo with Auto Save feature that automatically creates a snapshot virtually every time you make a change to a document. Versions maintains the track record of all the changes that have been made and you can go back in time to restore a particular version of a document. What’s really impressive is that all this stuff takes place in the background without the folder getting cluttered with multiple copies of the same file.
A lot of apps have gotten substantial upgrades and Safari is my favorite among them. Full screen mode, integrated Downloads window and much better memory management are good enough to prevent me from embarking on the Chrome ship. The Reading List feature might interest a few but Instapaper users like me will dismiss it in a single glance. Mail has risen like a phoenix with a revamped look and dozens of new features but I prefer Sparrow Mail as it offers better Gmail integration. Being an ardent Fantastical user, the new iCal does not impress me either. Preview too has received several subtle changes and I absolutely love the refreshed look that it dons. Finally, Finder too has received some love from Apple and it ditches the archaic look to flaunt a monochrome sidebar. The ‘All My Files’ is a nice addition that aggregates files in a single place. There are always subtle changes that blow your mind away. One such thing is the transformation of multi-item selections into a neat compressed list-view representation from the earlier near invisible image of the source. Also, the new ‘Arrange By’ option that neatly sorts files into groups is more than handy. One quirk that remains in Finder is the completely random view-state that a folder is presented in. Finder behaves like a truant providing no clue what view to expect leaving you with no option but to manually set things right.
Lion replaced Snow Leopard a week ago on my primary system, but I’m still adapting to it. With Apple incorporating so many changes, Lion presents a learning curve even for seasoned OS X users. I had to toggle some switches back to Snow Leopard state to feel comfortable with Lion and it will be a while before I can convince myself to turn them back to their original state. Lion with full screen app support opens a whole new world of opportunity for developers and it will be interesting to see what they make of it. With Lion one can almost sense that touchscreen Macs are going to be the next big thing from Apple. OS X Lion (or OS X Monochrome as I like to call it) is a big step by Apple and I’d like to believe it is in the right direction.
Mac OS X Lion is undoubtedly the most important OS upgrade in Apple’s history. With Lion, Apple has taken quite a few bold steps.
To begin with, the only medium through which Lion was made available to the public was via the App Store, to be downloaded as an “Upgrade” to your current OS. I think it’s great that Apple took this decision. I may have used the SuperDrive on my MacBook Pro only once in the last two years. It’s time for Optical Media to go away, and Apple has hammered the first nail in the coffin. The upgrade process was smooth as it has always been, and I was playing around with Lion and its features about an hour after the download started.
Back to the Mac:
The second major step was the merging of iOS elements into OS X — what Apple likes to call ‘Back to the Mac’. Today, iOS devices make up the majority of Apple’s sales and customers. For many a customers, their iOS devices are also their first Apple product purchase. The popularity of iOS has also sparked interest in other Apple products, the most important of them being the Mac. More and more iOS users are switching to the Mac and with Lion, Apple is doing its best to make these users feel at home. The ‘natural’ scrolling, autocorrect, Resume may feel odd to old-time Mac users, but these new converts will feel very comfortable with all this. Personally, I love all the new system features. AutoSave and Versions will specially come handy while writing those long papers in school. Autocorrect annoys me a bit right now, but I am getting used to it. The other big feature is the Mac App Store. iOS users love that they can install applications with a single tap, and now the same is possible on OS X too. Launchpad is another addition to Lion catering specifically to the converts. Personally, I have a lot of apps installed, and Launchpad actually makes my app launching experience more difficult.
My favorite apps on OS X have always been TextEdit and Preview and in Lion, both these apps have received great updates. TextEdit has a much cleaner interface and the formatting bar got a well deserved makeover. Preview on the other hand now has fullscreen support, which is great for reading PDF notes without any distraction. The notes and highlight features have also been updated. The updates to other system apps on the other hand haven’t impressed me much. Mail has received an update and it is much better than before, but like Ankur, I decided to stick to Sparrow. The apps that have received the most amount of criticism have been iCal and Address Book and I find myself agreeing here. While the calendar views in iCal look fine, it’s the window that annoys me. I find myself clicking on the bits of torn paper at the border, trying my best to get rid of them. Address Book on the other hand is even worse. Remember the last time you scrolled on page in a real life book? No? Well, someone at Apple did. Address Book UI makes no sense to me. Also, why does clicking on a book-mark flip the page? Yes, I know it brings me to the group view, but the clicking on bookmark part makes no sense. If the two pane view wasn’t bad enough, there is another single pane view which is even more ridiculous. I understand that Apple is using real life metaphors in UI to make the experience easier for users, but they should work on matching the actions for real life use too. The Address Book was just fine in Snow Leopard and I was quite disappointed by this part of the update. Safari feels much faster. Most of the Safari updates have been under the hood, and the improved performance is quite evident. iTunes 10.4 is now a 64-bit Cocoa app which is a very welcome move, but I haven’t noticed any improvement in Performance. iChat was largely ignored in the Lion update with unified contact list being the only feature worth mentioning.
Mission Control essentially unifies Exposé and Spaces. I never used Spaces on Snow Leopard, and I don’t find myself using Mission Control either. The Dictionary app got an update, and now includes a British Dictionary and Thesaurus. This might not be important to you, but as a guy who puts petrol in his car and not gas, this is a very welcome move. Finder got a few updates too. Search has been improved, but my favorite feature has to be ‘Group selected files in a folder’. Lion also includes system wide support for full screen Apps. I don’t see myself using full screen apps regularly, but full screen might work great for production/editing apps like Aperture and iMovie so I am going to give it a try.
Lion is just the beginning though. iCloud is set to launch this fall, and I think that is going to change a lot of things. Lion marks a very important step in Apple’s history where it began unifying it’s platforms, and if this is the direction we are going in, I am extremely excited to see what we have for store in us in the future.
I have been a Mac user for 5 years now. My first purchase was a Mac Mini running Mac OS X Tiger. Since then, I’ve spent many hours working with OS X always powering my primary machine and have had the privilege of almost never bothering to work on a Windows machine. OS X has been a remarkable resource of some of the most fantastically developed apps. Whenever I’ve felt that something’s missing in my workflow, there’s always an app for OS X that fills that gap.
Of course, when iOS came into the picture, it was a different story altogether.
Even though I’m a technology writer by profession, I still consider myself to be an “Apple enthusiast” at heart. So every Apple event has always been like Christmas where Santa brings us gifts. So like I have always done, this time too, I made sure that I unsubscribed from most of the Apple feeds in Reeder — I like to enjoy every bit of announcement that’s made on the stage. And boy was it worth it.
As Ankur and Chaitanya have already outlined above, OS X Lion brings a lot of features, ideas, technologies and UI elements from iOS to the Mac. I love the subtle overhaul the OS has received in different places. The aqua scrollbars had started to annoy me in Snow Leopard, so I welcome the new iOS-style scrollbars in Lion. Unlike Ankur, I am not bothered by the Rubber Band scrolling.
Even though I own a MacBook Pro, it’s permanently connected to a 24″ Apple Cinema Display. I also use a Magic Mouse (Or a Logitech Performance Mouse M950 at times), so I’m missing out on the goodness of Mutitouch Gestures that everyone has been raving about. But is that bothering me? Not at all. I like what the Magic Mouse is capable of and I’m happy using it. Even if I did have a trackpad, I’m sure I’d have never used most of the multitouch gestures.
The other most-talked-about feature in Lion is Fullscreen Apps. The only app I seem to really use in that mode is Safari. May be it’s the big Cinema Display, but nothing makes me want to push my apps to fill up the entire screen. The same is also true for Mission Control and Launchpad — I never use it. I wasn’t a user of Spaces, so this shouldn’t be surprising. But having talked to my non-techy friends, this seems to be the “OMG this is so cool” feature of Lion, along with the wonderful Mac App Store and its ability to download apps with a couple of clicks.
Autosave, Versions and Resume are wonderful features though. I like the fact that three of my favorite features in Lion are also the ones that do their thing in the background, without bothering the user. This has made working in TextEdit, Preview and iWork apps a wonderful experience. I wouldn’t want to think about going back to pre-Lion machine ever again.
If you ask Team Smoking Apples, I’m considered to be the ‘Email whore’. I seem to have a thing for emails, and love receiving and responding to them. I had briefly converted over to Sparrow Mail app, but I’m back to using the native Mail.app in Lion. The interface overhaul along with the brilliant new features were impossible to resist.
All that said, I think OS X Lion has to be one of the most fantastic piece of software to come out of Cupertino and yet, it just lays the foundation for some wonderful things to come our way. The amount of thought and handwork that has gone into the OS is commendable. Lion has received a lot of flak for oversimplifying things for power users, but we tend to forget that these power users form only a minor part of the Mac user base. If you look around, or spend 45 minutes at your local Apple Store, you’ll find out that to the majority of Apple’s user base, what Apple has been doing with its products is nothing short of incredible.