postheadericon TECH TALK: Lions, Tigers and Mail Oh My!

“Lions, tigers and bears oh my” is a reference to my favorite film of all time, The Wizard of OZ. It’s a film that’s not so popular in Nepal, although with it’s tag line “There’s no place like home,” I am always surprised that so many Nepalese have not yet adopted this classic as their own. But what has this to do with Tech you ask? The Lion has arrived, that’s what.

Apple’s newest incarnation of its famed operating system, OSX, is now for sale on the App Store for just $29.99 USD, and is downloaded and installed just like any other app. Tagged “Lion” (as opposed to the current version called Snow Leopard), this incarnation of large cat is billed as the “The World’s Most Advanced Desktop Operating System Advances Even Further,” and this review answers your question, “Does it really now?”

First, I’ve been using an advanced copy on all of my Macs for several weeks now, and I am glad to report that the upgrade is rock solid, no problems whatsoever with the new version. However, many of your favorite apps running fine right now in Snow Leopard, may need minor updating to run smoothly in Lion. And then there may be an app or two that just won’t run at all. For a list of these problem apps, just go to www.roaringapps.com to check out apps known to work well, somewhat, or not at all.

The major changes this time around, from OSX versions 10.6.8 (last update to Snow Leopard) to 10.7 (initial release of Lion) are listed on the Apple website in great detail, but after using the new features for a few weeks now, I can tell you which changes matter the most...

First, the much-touted Launchpad is a cruel joke. Launchpad is nothing more then a view of your applications resembling the view of apps you get on your iPhone or iPad. A large display of app icons that you can swipe left and right through, and even organize into “folders” by just dragging one icon onto another. This is the common method of organizing apps on most modern smartphones, but seems quite out of place on the desktop of a laptop or full-blown PC. Lauchpad is a novelty, and I suspect won’t make you give up your Dock or Menu Bar anytime soon.

Likewise with the other new and improved interface features, all now accessed via multi-touch gestures, or “swipes” from your trackpad or gestures-enabled input device (Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, etc.) – here you have more novelty: Mission Control combines the old “Spaces” feature with “Expose” so you can easily create custom desktops on the fly, and these are viewed by just doing a reverse three finger pinch. Ok, that’s great for demos and showing off, but I’ve yet to see a user put these alternative ways of dealing with a desktop into daily practice.

On the app level, Lion does do some useful things. For example, now many apps opened can easily switch into full screen mode, instantly hiding everything but the app itself – in just one click. However, this new feature seems to work best with Apple apps, and does not work with many others, for example, no help there with MS Office apps or with Adobe Creative Suite apps, which has it’s own method of going full screen.

One new feature that I really appreciate is Resume, where apps pick up right where they left off after being closed and then reopened. We are used to this with our newer web browsers, where after rebooting for example, the webpages that you were viewing are still there after the boot - now, even apps like Pages or Word works just like that. However, once again, some apps like Adobe’s do not cooperate.

But the big plus in my book is the improvement to Mail, which has been reworked in a gorgeous and useful way. I don’t know about you, but I live in my mail app, and it’s central to my personal as well as my business life, so improvements here get noticed. No longer is Apple Mail pure funk, as the new Mail has a side-by-side widescreen view of your mailboxes and messages, with bookmarks, favorites, and a threaded message display unrivaled in the industry, to include Gmail and Outlook. This new look is called Conversations, and shows the progression of email threads in a managed chain, with inline graphics and attachments. In short, marvelous.

Well, there are about 242 more new features, like Auto Save and Versions, but I’ll let you explore those on your own. However, in closing, let me say that while Lion does not really roar with innovation and new whiz-bang features, there are several new meows that deserve your attention, and will set the standard in OS operability. So whether you are using some older cat on a Mac, or Windows 7 on a PC, watch for these new features that are bound to be in all future incarnations of operating systems.

2 comments:

  1. saroj says:

    Installed it first thing in the morning. The first impressions has been really good. The only thing that took me a while adjusting was the 2 finger swipe up/down scrolling. They have switched to ipad/iphone like (natural) scrolling in Lion.

    There also seems to be a small glitch on the way they implement the mission-control interface. Try this: Lauch an application that takes a second or two to load(say Itunes), and immediately switch to mission control. The just-launched application lays over the mission-control, and you can clearly see apple needs a patch to solve this glitch. See it for yourself. (or is it just my mac? Let me know)

  2. Good for u! The swipe direction is an annoyance, but easily fixed back to "normal" by going to system preferences / trackpad and unchecking the "natural direction" box.

    On mission control, works fine here, but I find both that and Launchpad useless - it's just eyecandy to attract the masses. Cheers!

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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