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Thursday: July 21, 2011

Mac OS X Lion: First Impressions.

The latest version of Mac OS X is finally here. Being the diligent Mac fanboy that I am, I've have gone ahead and installed Mac OS X Lion twice now. Once on a brand new MacBook Air and once on my only slightly out of date MacBook Pro. The best part about this?  I didn't have to drive out to the Apple Store or wait for a FedEx truck to show up. You buy Lion online from the Mac App store and that's the only way you can buy it. By far this has been the most gratifying delivery method of any OS X release I've seen so far. My download speeds were quick and in both installations I was able to get the install file from Apple's servers in under forty minutes. Another neat thing about Lion? The licensing. As you read before, I installed the new operating system on two machines already. If these were Windows machines, I would have had to fork over some dough to Microsoft to get two product keys. Apple takes a different approach. Buy it once, put it on whatever machine you like. I happen to love this approach.

Now that I've spent a good 24 hours with Lion I'd like to spout out some first impressions.

Installation: Total breeze on the MacBook Air. With only a few clicks and some setup time and I was up and running. Slightly different story on my MacBook Pro though, for some reason Lion rebooted the machine into the special setup options and required another reboot to truly kick off the installation process. Minor issue, really just kind of a strange thing since the Air installation was ridiculously fast and smooth.

Inverse scrolling: This was a maddening experience at first. Apple calls this new feature 'natural scrolling' but it feels anything but when you try it out. I understand that this is how we 'naturally' scroll when using iPads and iPhones, but on those devices you are actually interacting with the content you are touching directly. You can see how your touches affect what you see, it's a visual experience that your brain just gets when you do it. On a trackpad the same kind of interaction doesn't exist. You are looking at the screen while your fingers are off doing something else, there is no direct visual correlation. Long story short, it certainly doesn't feel natural - not at first anyway. I'm going to stick with this for a couple more days and see if I can get used to it. For those overly frustrated, you can relax - the option to turn off 'natural scrolling' is tucked away in System Preferences under the Trackpad pane.

Gestures: There are ton of them, some are intuitive and some are not. Apple has a rundown of the ones you should know about. For the most part though, love them.

Fullscreen Apps: Love, love, love.

Gestures + Fullscreen Apps: This is a joy to use. Swiping between apps feels good and let's each app shine in their own way when in fullscreen mode. It's a little disappointing to use third-party apps that aren't taking advantage of the fullscreen APIs yet. Granted of course that Lion hasn't even been out for a week yet so I'll give said developers a pass. But pretty please, update your apps soon and utilize this feature. I would love to see Evernote in fullscreen. Hint hint.

Launchpad: Not really digging Launchpad all that much as an application launcher, app folder replacement, iPad clone, etc. It just seems a little repetitive since there is already a dock, an apps folder, a spotlight search. The gesture to bring it up (three finger pinch) is quite useful and dare I say, fun to use. I've seen Launchpad exhibit some weird behavior in regards to moving and deleting apps. For example, drag an app from Launchpad into the trash. In my case, the app doesn't actually get deleted - I had to go into the Applications folder and drag it into the trash. Fire up Launchpad again, the app you just deleted may still be there. When you click it, you'll get a question mark as if the operating system just said 'WTF' out loud. After a reboot the deleted app was removed from Launchpad. Making folders is a little strange in this regards as well.  Folders you create in Launchpad seem to only exist in Launchpad. Interesting, but a little confusing at the same time when used in conjunction with the Applications folder. The coolest part about Launchpad is it's integration with the Mac App store. Downloading an app will drop it into Launchpad and present itself in the same fashion as when you download an app on your iPhone or iPad.

Safari: There doesn't seem to be a gesture for switching between tabs. You can swipe left and right to shuffle around history of a given tab you're in, which is nice but my general workflow with Safari is each website gets its own tab. And maybe it's just me but I can't for the life of me figure out what purpose 'reading list' serves other than being an additional bookmarks folder. At first I thought Reading List would save an article offline for browsing later on but that is not the case. Turn off your Internet connection and you'll see that Reading List tried to grab the page you saved from the actual website. Perhaps I am not grasping what use this feature is in the scheme of things.

Mail: The new Mail app is a welcome change. It seems that it has some smarts built in when you setup accounts from other platforms. For example, try setting up a GMail account and you'll prompted by Lion to import your calendar info as well as your chat friends (Jabber). That was a neat little feature that I wasn't expecting. There seems to be an issue with the new 'conversations' feature, it seems to work a little bit too well for my taste. Here is an example, I sent myself a test message from GMail to verify that my Mail.app was setup correctly. The message was simple, subject line 'test', message body 'test'. Evidently, I've done this many times over the years. Mail decided to group my most recent test message along with any and all test messages I've sent to myself since the oh, the year 2007. That doesn't feel like a 'conversation' but rather more like an archive. Just thought it was interesting behavior, I don't think the GMail client functions this way in terms of grouping emails.

Conclusion: I am digging Lion so far. I think more gestures could have been worked in to make certain workflows easier. In iPhoto, I'd expect to be able to swipe left and right when in fullscreen mode to browse my pictures. At present time, you can't do it. That's not to say a software update couldn't add that feature later on.

Posted to Verbose filed in Apple @ 1:17 PM | Tags (10) | apps | day | gestures | impressions | lion | mac | one | osx | scrolling | verbose |  | Discuss (1) |  | facebook | twitter | 4 Clicks | Posted by Vin


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