Mac OS X Lion has been out for a few days now and has already exceeded 1 million downloads with one of those being my own. I’ve spent the last few days getting acquainted with all of the new features that Lion brings to the Mac OS, and for the most part I absolutely enjoy all of the new features and gestures it brings to the table. Considering that I’ve only owned a MacBook Pro for about a month the transition to Lion hasn’t been as traumatizing as it was for some of the lifelong Apple users, but in all honesty I think those who are b*tching about it just like to hear themselves whine. Lion is a solid OS that brings even more awesomeness to the Apple party, and for those who are familiar with iOS you should feel right at home with the king of the jungle.
Mac OS X Lion
The Awesome: Mission Control/Gestures, Launchpad, Full Screen Apps, Performance Gains
The Not So Awesome: Broken Apps, Trackpad a Necessity
First off, one of the greatest aspects of the upgrade to Mac OS X Lion is the fact that it only cost $29.99 and it is available as a download in the App Store. I just find that to be amazing especially since I used to work in the PC world professionally where there’s no such thing as $30 OS upgrades via a downloadable file. The process of updating to Lion was painless, which usually isn’t the case when it comes to Widows. Overall, I’d say the whole process took 45 minutes after Lion finished downloading from the App Store, and it’s pretty much a hands-off operation. I knew I’d enjoy Lion once I saw how easy it was to install. Please make sure to watch all of the new functionality in action with the video demo I’ve included at the bottom of this post.
Mission Control/New Gestures
One of the immediate changes you’ll find yourself facing once you upgrade to Lion is the implementation of Mission Control, and all of its new trackpad gestures that it brings to the game. Mission Control is equivalent to the brain center of your OS. It can be accessed via an upward swipe of either 3 or 4 fingers on the trackpad, and once it is open you can manage a host of activities taking place on your MacBook/iMac. MC also brings the ability to create additional desktops where you can place open apps for fast switching amongst running programs on your computer. This allows you to have clutter-free desktops at your disposal for those times where you have multiple apps open to complete a certain function on your computer. Each desktop can be accessed by swiping 4 fingers left or right as if you were turning a page in a book, except your flipping through desktops on your computer. I must say it’s very Minority Report-ish to say the least. Love it.
Lion’s Mission Control
Outside of the new Mission Control gestures some other changes have been made to the default settings of Lion’s gesturing system. The major change giving some people issues is the implementation of reversed scrolling, which flips the direction that your fingers are moving in relation to how a window reacts to those scrolls. For example, now when I 2 finger scroll down on the trackpad it will move the page contents in an upwards direction versus down. To me the new scrolling hasn’t been the bane of my existence like some of the more fickle tech writers out there. The inversion of the scrolling feels very natural after you’ve used it for awhile, and if you’re an iOS user it should come to you quicker than those who don’t use mobile devices. In my opinion, if you can’t handle the new scrolling you probably can’t handle counting to 1o either. It’s intuitive and will only throw off those who have the inability to try something new.
The next major change that Lion brings to Mac OS X is the new application management system called Launchpad. With a simple, yet still confusing gesture for the short bus crowd, you can now access all of your applications with a 3 finger plus thumb pinch on the trackpad. Once executed you’ll be taken to a screen that looks very similar to how’d you see apps on an iPhone or iPad. Apps can be organized into grouping cubes just like in iOS, and they can be organized into different screens as well. App screens can be navigated to by using a 2 finger side swipe just like you would do on one of Apple’s mobile devices.
Again, this change has chaffed the a*s of a handful of Apple users, but just like the gestures, if Steve thinks this is how we should manage our apps then he’s probably right, so I applaud the change. Besides, it just works (watch the WWDC presser you’ll understand the reference) Apps are much easier to access, and if you have hundreds of them they can now be grouped in a cube for tighter management.
Full Screen Apps
Considering that I’ve only used PC’s up until last month I was flabbergasted to find out that Mac’s didn’t have an easy way to maximize an open program to take up the full screen. There was no option to maximize the window, you had to physically drag at the edges to grow the window to the size that you desired. Let’s just say the whole process was ridiculous. Luckily, this all changes with the introduction of full screen apps in Mac OS X Lion (for the most part). In Lion, most apps will have a diagonal double arrow in the top right corner of their window to indicate that it can be maximized to a full screen view. When I say full screen I mean the full f*cking screen too! The Full Screen App functionality literally takes over every inch of your Mac’s screen, and it even gives it its own section in Mission Control for easy navigation.
iTunes Running in Full Screen Mode
As far as overall performance goes, I truly feel like the upgrade to Lion has made my 13.3″ MacBook Pro with the dual core i7 processor and 4GB of RAM much snappier than it was under Snow Leopard’s guidance. I’ve noticed the greatest gains in performance in both Safari and Chrome. Both browsers seem to zip along at a much faster pace than they did before Lion was installed. I’ve also noticed that most of the apps native to a Mac such as the iLife suite and Mail, run quicker as well. The boot process seems to have shaved off a few seconds as well, at least if you didn’t leave a bunch of stuff running on your desktops before you shut down or restarted your Mac. This is because Lion will allow you to re-open every app that you had running before you initiated one of the shut down events.
For example, let’s say that you spent hours working on a bunch of apps and projects on your Mac, but you have to shutdown to save battery power. With Lion’s new re-open feature all of those apps and projects you had running will immediately be restored to the state that they were in before you initiated the shut down event. Think of it as utilizing the re-open last open tabs feature in a browser like Chrome or Firefox, except that it’s opening recently used apps versus tabs. Very cool stuff indeed.
The Not So Awesome
Believe me when I say this, but I really had to reach for some un-awesomeness with the Lion OS. I really can’t find anything wrong with it, but I feel like I need to highlight some issues that may affect other users who decide to upgrade to Mac OS X 10.7.
One of the biggest issues with upgrading to Lion is the fact that it won’t support PowerPC based apps any longer. This means that any apps you use that have PowerPC as their Kind designation in your System Profiler will not work with Lion (if you plan to upgrade make sure to click on the Apple icon, then About this Mac, then More, then once profiler opens navigate to the Applications field and verify if you have any PowerPC apps). Luckily, I didn’t have any so it wasn’t a big deal, but I have noticed some apps not behaving the way they used to. In particular, the Seesmic Desktop client I use no longer functions properly in Lion. It opens fine and functions, but after awhile it mysteriously turns its window blank until I close it and re-open. The dev is aware of the issue, so hopefully it’ll be resolved, but it’s not like it’s some sort of major deal breaker. Oh well, I won’t be able to send out tweets from my MacBook for a few days, loddy-freaking-da!
I also had some issues with iTunes, which almost caused my to have a stroke, but like most things Apple my MacBook Pro suggested a fix and it worked flawlessly. Although, the man who pushed me over to the Darkside had his iPhoto DB completely hosed by the Lion update, so now it won’t even open. I would think Apple would be able to fix it for him, but for now his iPhoto app is toast. To avoid his mishap I’d suggest making sure your iLife suite is upgraded to version 11 before upgrading to Lion.
Desktop Users Will Need One of These Guys to Fully Realize Lion’s Features
I’m really stretching on this con, but if you’re an iMac user you will almost have to have a trackpad attachment to use Lion. All of its new gestures and functionality require some sort of touch input, so you’re crappy old mouse probably won’t be able to take advantage of the new features for desktop management found in Mission Control and Launchpad. There’s no doubt that Lion was designed from the ground up to heavily rely on trackpad gestures, so if you don’t own one you will need to pick one up to really get the full Lion experience.
Without a doubt the upgrade to Mac OS X Lion 10.7 has been one of the most flawless OS installs I’ve ever experienced. From the ridiculously low price to it’s downloadable delivery I’ve been blown away by the process. I thoroughly enjoy how familiar Lion feels to iOS, and I firmly believe those who are complaining about it are doing so just to get attention. Lion has made my MacBook Pro even more magical than it already was, and I wouldn’t want it to function any other way. Mission Control’s multiple desktops and navigational gestures make fast app switching a breeze, and Launchpad’s iOS feel will make any iOS user comfortable. The only downside to upgrading your Mac OS X to Lion is that some of your legacy apps may no longer work, but if they’re that old maybe it’s time to get rid of them anyway. For all of the improvements that Lion has brought to my already tubular MacBook Pro I give it an EB 9.5 out of 10. It truly is a revolutionary way to manage a computer, and for the price you’d be a fool not to upgrade. If you’d like to see Lion in action please watch the 8 minute hands on video below. You’ve been tempted, now just do it already…
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