by J. Vegerano
I was able to download and test Mac OS “Lion” beginning on its release date of July 20th. I must say I am impressed with the over 250 features and additions. Overall, installation and general use was fine. There is a new “feel” to it, with much resemblance to the Apple iOS’s. So far, so good. Below I have highlighted a few features worth mentioning:
If you’re looking for iOS’s look and feel, look no further than the installation. It’s available as download through the Mac App Store, eliminating a physical disk install. The whole process requires just a few clicks to go from buying something to installing it on your system. The download/installation was a painless (for me) 33 minute process.
The first time you boot up Lion, one thing you will notice right away (besides the new login look) is this: Apple inverted multitouch scrolling. Yes. That’s right. Turned it on its head. Up is down and left is right, an unfamiliar function, but one I got used to. The option is called “scroll direction: natural.” If it’s not your thing, you can turn it off by un-ticking a box in System Preferences. The inversion seems inspired by iOS (flicking up a page will cause it to scroll). I personally did NOT like it one bit! But then again, I’m a Droid man when it comes to my phone.
Multitouch gestures are a noticeable part of this upgrade. They are integrated heavily in the Finder and many of the other apps. While in the Finder, for example, swiping three fingers from left to right brings up the Dashboard.
Not much has changed between Snow Leopard and Lion, looks wise, and I can totally see myself using the multitouch options on a regular basis. Windows opened in the Finder boast a new “All My Files” option at the top of the left-hand column, where you currently find system disks in Snow Leopard. I’m a huge fan of this change. It allows for finding files very quickly. When it comes to arranging your files and folders, you’ll find you are able to list them all according to category.
The Spotlight magnifying glass in the upper right hand corner now extends beyond system search, adding results from the web, Wikipedia, and dictionary results to the list. The web option pulls results from your recent history, along with a link that will bring you results from your search engine.
Resume, Autosave, and Versions
Resume, Autosave, and Versions will likely be the most important and interesting changes. Resume saves apps automatically, opening them where you left off, even after a restart of the system. This is pretty standard on browsers, which restore the tabs you were using when the program crashed, but Resume goes beyond that, working across applications. When you restart or shut down a system with applications open, a pop-up box will ask whether you would like to open all the windows intact when the system reboots.
Autosave builds saving functionality into the OS as “previous versions” did in Domain Windows (PC) so that when you have unsaved changes in a document, for example, Lion adds “Edited” to the title and saves changes, protecting you against the loss of all that hard work (and all that data) – if you, say, forget to save your work. Lion saves every change automatically, but it only folds these tweaks into a new version once an hour. That’s actually a good thing. You can also lock a document, duplicate it, revert to an old version, or view all versions, all by clicking the title bar. Clicking “duplicate” will pop up a carbon copy of your current document next to the one you’re currently using. Clicking “lock” protects your document against accidental changes. If you make changes once the document is locked, a pop-up box will remind you and then prompt you to unlock, cancel, or create a duplicate document.
Clicking “view all versions” launches Versions, which will show you the latest version of the document on the left and all your previous iterations on the right. You can bring back your previous versions by clicking on each one. If you want to revert back to that previous version, this is where you can do it. The cool thing here is that if you decided to revert to a previous version, the one you were just working on, with all its changes, is also saved in Versions, so you can reference it or go back to it completely.
I have not really tested this out yet as I am the only one in the office with Lion at this point, but from what I understand, one of the most exciting new features of Lion is AirDrop, a drag-and-drop file sharing system that allows you to swap files with other Macs over WiFi. Clicking AirDrop will activate a sonar symbol, indicating that the system is searching for other compatible “Lion” computers.
Activating AirDrop makes you visible on other people’s Macs, with your icon and user ID identifying you. Close out of it and you automatically appear unavailable. Dragging a file onto someone else’s icon, within the radar rings, will pop open a box asking whether you really want to send that file. Once you OK that, the other user has to confirm he wants to accept. For me, the coolest of all is the fact that files can be transferred without connecting to a router. You can use Airdrop over WiFi, with the caveat that the Airports must be enabled and the computers within 30 feet of each other. Useful for sharing in an office environment. VERY cool!
Lion is an upgrade over Snow Leopard — meaning if you can’t upgrade to Snow Leopard you’re out of luck when it comes to Lion. A PowerPC-based machine will not be able to install Lion, but Rosetta support is out the window anyway, so you couldn’t use any of your legacy apps either. I didn’t notice any big issues when installing Lion, no force quits or lockups. I ran into some compatibility issues with Printing in “preview” and a few Firefox plug-ins, which required some troubleshooting. Chrome experienced no issues as of yet, and I do not use Safari at all.
To run Lion, you need a 64-bit Intel-based Mac. That includes the Core 2 Duo line that arrived on the scene a few years back. Standard tasks didn’t seem much faster to me. Light users probably won’t notice drastic increases in speeds. I know some people in the office, those who do a lot with video and image, are eager to get their hands on it and test out this theory. They should see some significant improvements.
Overall, I say Lion is a great buy at $30 USD. From a corporate rollout standpoint, I recommend testing the OS for a few weeks before you roll it out to the masses. On a personal/home level. I say go for it. You might experience a few slight incompatibilities with older devices and drivers or plug-ins. But for the most part, it’s a solid OS upgrade!