For all the fanboys and Mac-owners out there, Steve Jobs announced the next big thing from Apple- the Mac OS X Lion (10.7) at the WWDC this year. As always, he claimed it is the “World’s most advanced desktop operating system” with over 250 new features. He had announced earlier that we have now a “Post-PC world”. Thus Lion was born to put this statement into effect in a unique way.
As for the installation department Apple did start a revolution there. The latest OS is now available as a direct download from the Mac App Store. And it is also priced very reasonably at $29, by far the lowest price for an OS(from Apple of course). The installation itself is a piece of cake. It is fast takes somewhere around 10-15 minutes fornewer systems and a little longer for old ones.
The new OS has the similar interface of the iPad. This is implemented by Launchpad, a fullscreen app showing all the apps in an iPad kind of way. The gesture to shift between screens of the launchpad gives a feeling of using an iPad right there on your mac. It shows up rows of icons of the apps installed. Any new app downloaded from the App Store is automatically added to Launchpad. You can also delete an app and make folders, in the same way you do it on your iPhone/iPod touch/iPad. Holding on to the app will make them start jiggling and then you can delete them(provided it is downloadable from the App Store) and drag them over to folders or drag them to other apps to make a folder.
There are also full screen apps designed to increase productivity and efficiency of the screen real-estate. It was a long-awaited feature which was enjoyed by Windows users primarily. Some other features have been borrowed from the iOS too, namely- gray scroll bars which become invisible when not in use, ‘rubber band’ animation, used to pull back the page when the end-of-page is reached and many others.
Another rather unwanted feature/change is the natural scrolling direction. The trackpad is now inverted and scrolling right moves the page left and scrolling down move moves the page up. This is quite a cumbersome and irritating change for most users (unless someone likes this one too; a typical fanboy!). But there is an easy and quick solution to that. You can untick a box in System Preferences>Trackpad prefpane which says “Scroll direction: natural”. This change is obviously inspired by the finger gestures in iOS. It is a good idea but not quite useful or efficient.
A good and handy addition is the inclusion of the web search, wikipedia and dictionary to the Spotlight omnipresent at the top right corner. The web search option lets you search your browsing history and also show results from the selected search engine.
A fusion of Exposé and Spaces has resulted in Mission Control, the new unified app-switching app supplied with Lion. The mission control shows all the open windows of an app in a group of apps and the desktops on the top of the screen which can be switched just as easily. The older desktop-switching gesture is still there and this is a welcome new feature which helps in getting an eagle-eye view of all the apps in use.
The Mail app now has a list of messages with two-line previews on the left side of the screen. On the right are present the emails themselves, grouped together in conversations. Search now lets users drill through attachments and filter results according to sender and subject. The Address Book has the book mode as default, instead of the card-based interface of past versions.It now supports Yahoo syncing, iPhoto import, and lets you make FaceTime calls directly. iCal also has a new feature called the Quick Add, which detects phrases to determine where it fits into the calendar. These apps make it really easy to make organizing easier and faster. Quicktime has also been upgraded with a few video-editing functions like merging clips, rotating a clip, export audio-only clips and record a portion of the screen. The dashboard has moved to another desktop by default, though it can be brought back to the main desktop using the System Preferences. No other change is visible in Dashboard though. Same widgets as seen in Snow Leopard are present.
Resume, Autosave and Versions are three new additions which are really helpful for a lot of users. The Resume feature helps you to resume your work right away after starting up your mac from wherever you left off. It shows up all the apps in the same state when the mac was shutdown or restarted. The Autosave feature is surely going to be a boon for creators who may lose a lot of work in a single moment of an absent-minded flick. This feature saves several versions of the document each hour which includes each and every change made. But separate files are not created for each version, so there is no confusion for several files for a single document. The different versions can be accessed by the Versions feature which looks like Time Machine and shows the previous versions of the same document like cards. You can also lock a document so that any other change cannot made unless it is unlocked again. Though these features are revolutionary and useful, they currently support only proprietary apps like Text Edit, Preview and Automator. We do hope other popular third-party apps are supported in future too.
Safari has some upgrades which, unsurprisingly, are also available in the mobile Safari in iOS. Gestures such as pinch to zoom, double-tap to zoom, switching back and forth within the websites with the two-finger flick on the trackpad are all such features. The content and browser interaction has also been separated such that a single fault on a webpage does not crash the browser. Several security features are also updated in the new version.
Another very useful and revolutionary new feature is Airdrop. With the help of Airdrop, you can send and receive files between macs though wifi just like through bluetooth in mobile phones. Once activated, other compatible macs i.e. with Lion installed are shown up in Finder. You can drag a file over to the icon of another mac and the file will be sent through wifi to the download folder of the receiver after getting the confirmation from the receiver. The bonus here is that no router is required; peer-to-peer wifi network is created for the transfer. Though available in other OS(Windows) they lack the user-friendly interface of Airdrop.
Apart from the 250 new features available in Lion, there are several issues that make it unattractive and less efficient. The inclusion of Launchpad was a smart move and it looks stunning. But it requires an extra effort in order to open Launchpad from the dock and then open the app from there. The quick preview of any file accessed by pressing the space bar now opens only the single file and other files in the folder are not previewable from there by the use of cursor keys. You have to open the preview of each file separately. Many core frameworks like Java runtime are also missing which need to be downloaded separately. The inverted scroll gesture on the trackpad, though easily revertible, is an irritant for new users. Mission Control, though seems more useful and the integrated design looks complete, may be a bit too fancy and distracting for several users who are used to the older system in Snow Leopard.
Even though the tag of “the most advanced operating system of the World” seems a bit too flattering for the new release, but the useful new features do justify the upgrade. The price itself may also make the new OS look like a rather unnecessary yet much-wanted upgrade with the same old solid core as in the previous versions. So it is finally up to you, the user to decide whether it is worth the $29 to you. With so many new features and apps, you may miss out the new computing experience but you may also not feel anything missing in the old and stable Snow Leopard, if you choose it so.
The initial sales of Lion have been fantastic, given the low price tag and the usual clamor to experience the latest from Apple. But only time will tell whether it keeps up with the needs and wants of mac-owners.