Apple’s MacOS X Lion wasn’t promised to be revolutionary. Steve Jobs himself said so. What the company’s late CEO left out was that Lion is so reactionary that it has reached near-brilliance for a machine that doesn’t cook your meals or do your laundry.
Jobs said that Lion would be the next step in integrating portable devices with computers and laptops. On that, Lion definitely delivers. The most obvious change you’ll notice in Lion is that its default setting has you dragging text instead of scrolling through it. The previous version, Snow Leopard, had you scroll down to move down on the page. Lion has you dragging your cursor down to move up. This move was hailed as more natural, since it’s the way you would drag around a sheet of paper on a desktop or-incidentally-the way you would scroll on Apple’s mobile platform, iOS.
New dog, old tricks
In Windows 95, users could auto-save a document as often as they like. Lion’s new Versions feature copies this feature, but saves a different copy each time. It’s a small change, but one that authors, students and anyone creating a lot of documents will appreciate. Similarly, Windows users have always been able to place their computer on Hibernate mode, saving their desktop, but essentially shutting down their computer otherwise. Lion presents for the first time a similar feature called ‘Resume’.
F11 will make most applications in Windows full screen and hide the toolbars and windows. It’s done this for years. Lion is Mac’s journey to overtake and catch up with everything else out there, so it makes complete sense that they’re going back and including features Windows has had for years.
Lion has even gone so far as to create new features based on free web-based programs. AirDrop is a mirror of Dropbox’s file sharing capabilities, with the caveat that you have to be attempting to connect with a Mac user who’s at least within 30 feet of you. FaceTime was revolutionary for the iPhone, but on a computer could easily be replaced by Skype. Spotlight provides a preview of files just as Google provides a large screenshot of a web page on search results.
Despite coming with a video intro before users can begin with the new OS, Lion is simple to pick up on. Several of the new touchpad-style movements are incredibly intuitive. Three swipes will bring up Mission Control, for example, where you can move between different screens. Checking your fantasy football league at the office has never been so easy to manoeuvre. None of the windows you have open on one screen will be shown on your active window.
The downward-swipe for upward-motion style of navigation feels completely foreign at first, but as long as you’re not frequently switching back and forth between a Mac and a PC, it’s completely possible to pick up in a few hours. Once you have the hang of it, scrolling down to go up begins to make sense and things begin-literally-clicking.
Most of the re-designed features in Lion have been designed precisely to make life easier. Versions is a great example of this. What’s easier than not having to remember to save your documents? AirDrop may not have all the functionality of DropBox, but it’s easier to use when you’re sitting near someone.
Similarly, you may find Skype will suit your purposes better, but FaceTime is sitting right on your desktop, waiting for you to come play with it. Full-screen apps might be nice with F11, but it’s even easier when you can simply pull together your thumb and three fingers on your touchpad (trust me, that gesture is easier than it sounds). Mac’s key strength has always been about making things easier to do once you learn all the shortcuts necessary to navigate it. Lion carries that tradition on.