WWDC roundup (Part 2): OS X Lion

Apologies for the late post! Given that the release of OS X Lion is impending, I’ve finally put together some thoughts on it for you readers who want to find out more.

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First up, some information:

1. When is it released?

Soon. If you go to the OS X Lion product page, you’d notice the words “Coming in July”.

2. How much will it cost?

US$29.99, and it’s only available on the Mac App Store.

3. What are the requirements?

From the OS X Lion product page:

Your Mac must have an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor to run Lion. Find out if your current Mac has one of these processors by clicking the Apple icon at the top left of your screen, then choosing About This Mac.

On top of that, you’d need the latest version of OS X Snow Leopard, which is 10.6.8 at the time of writing.

The folks over at PCWorld mentioned that 2GB of RAM is required too*.

4. So should I upgrade?

Personally I’d say yes, because some of the features are really quite compelling; and the price is by far the cheapest OS upgrade I’ve ever made. Furthermore, OS X Lion feels a lot more like iOS than ever, which makes switching between the two platforms (as I do on a daily basis) a lot more natural.

However, upgrading might not be for you. PCWorld** ran an article about this very question; do check out their rather comprehensive list.

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Apple revealed that OS X Lion will sport over 250 new features, and went on to present 10 in the keynote. Here are some of the more significant features and my thoughts on them:

Mission Control

In the words of Apple:

Mission Control brings together Exposé, Dashboard, Spaces, and full-screen apps to give you one place to see and navigate everything running on your Mac.

Why is this significant? Basically, it’s a one button/shortcut to manage all your opened apps and documents. If that does not help you find your stuff more easily, I don’t know what will. I know I will love it, because I now close/minimize windows just to keep my desktop clean, and not use Spaces because switching between them isn’t exactly intuitive yet.

Some other nice touches to Mission Control include a dedicated gesture to activate it, consolidation of the DashBoard in it, pinch to peek documents in the same app (like how one peeks at a photo album in iPad’s Photo app), spacebar to Quick Look, and the ability to create and delete Spaces with a button (which looks a lot like how one would delete iOS’s apps).

Have I mentioned that I love it already?

Mac App Store

This is not new in that it’s already available in OS X Snow Leopard, but two things about it stand out.

First, in-app purchase is allowed. Sure it’s probably possible for Apple to roll it out in Snow Leopard, but since they are putting it with Lion, I’d take it as a new feature.

Second, is delta updates.

Why is this significant? In-app purchases are great because software developers can now ship trial software or make cheaper ones for users who don’t need the extra features.

For the uninitiated, delta updates are like smaller updates/patches compared to full downloads of the apps. This means that you’d use less of your mobile data, and updates are much faster.

Launchpad

iOS users will find this familiar:

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Launchpad. Image source: Apple.com

Basically, Launchpad is a place where you can access your apps, and move them around or make folders, just like in iOS.

Why is this significant? iOS owners switching over to a Mac will find this treatment of app installation/management superbly familiar, and comforting. It’s also faster and in some ways neater. Furthermore, what Apple has effectively done is to make the Applications folder moot — one does not need to know that it even exists.

Resume

I’m surprised that Apple didn’t include this in the top list of new features, because this is a biggie.

Resume basically ‘saves’ your workspace (as in the layout of your apps) when you close the app, or restart/shut down your computer, so as to return you to the same state when open the app, or log in.

Why is this significant? Workspaces for different apps can be easily set up and maintained, reducing the need to rearrange windows each time you open the app. In fact, the latter is a reason why many people don’t shut down their computers. With Resume, this is now a thing of the past.

You can also start on a clean slate if you so choose.

Auto Save and Versions

This is big. Very big.

Imagine working on a thesis for the past 10 hours only to have your computer crash on you… and you did not save. That’s all I need to talk about Auto Save.

Versions rides on Auto Save by giving you a visual timeline of your previous versions of your documents. It’s like Time Machine, except it’s for your documents. Two things really stand out, and that’s the ability to do manual snapshots (meaning you are not limited to Auto Save’s saving timeframe/quirks) and the ability to lock (meaning you prevent can auto-saving from happening).

Also, you can create a duplicate of your document with just a click — now you do that either by creating a copy in the folder window, or by saving as the document.

Why is this significant? Working on documents are going to get a lot easier. A case in point: I have in my computer a folder with 6 documents titled Proposal v1, Proposal v1.1, Proposal v2… you get the idea. And it’s not just about having multiple documents; imagine if I wanted to compare between versions! Granted, Versions don’t allow for multiple version comparison since I can only see the current one and another dated one, but the ease of movement between the various Versions sort of make up for it.

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Versions. Image source: Apple.com

Furthermore, with Auto Save, one cannot use the excuse of not saving (and having the computer crash) for late submission of work. Bummer.

AirDrop

Imagine working with your colleagues around a table and you need to get a file to them. What do you do? Pass around a flash drive? Or maybe email them? Maybe you’d IM them instead.

AirDrop aims to solve this by allowing Macs running AirDrop (meaning OS X Lion, unless Apple makes this an app upgrade for non-Lion users) send files wirelessly using Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Wi-Fi. It’s just drag-and-drop and there’s no setup needed.

Why is this significant? File transfer just got a lot easier. And I can save on flash drives. If one can AirDrop multiple recipients at the same time, AirDrop becomes a great way to transfer documents during meetings or in the classroom. Also, because this works P2P Wi-Fi, no network is needed; one does not need an internet or local connection.

Mail

Honestly, I don’t use Mail. Instead, I use Sparrow and am loving it so far. However, two things might move me back to Mail: searching and Conversations.

Searching in Mail just got smarter because I can now type multiple search word/topics (which Apple calls search tokens) to drill down to a specific mail. Furthermore, Mail contextualizes my search to separate between people, topics, locations etc.

We’ve all seen mails bounce around and soon there’s multiple threads running inside the mail with all those colored lines and indentation, as well as repeated text (quotes). Conversations are Apple’s take on threaded mails. What Conversations does is to separate out the replies into individual snippets, which makes reading and following the mail much easier.

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Conversations. Image source: Apple.com

Why is this significant? Searching emails were always a problem for me, and it doesn’t help that there are a lot of mail to search through. The new search functions make managing my emails much easier. Conversations on the other hand make managing multiple mails in the same thread a lot easier, and prettier.

I might just go back to Mail after all.

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That’s all for part 2! Keep a lookout for part 3 covering iCloud, and if you’ve missed part 1 on iOS 5, here’s the link.

As an endnote, allow me to quote Shawn Blanc on OS X Lion:

Lion is the the world’s most beautiful and simple operating system.

You can read more about his take on the WWDC 2011 Keynote here.

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Further readings:

Apple’s OS X Lion product page

*PCWorld: What (Else) Prevents You From Upgrading to Lion?

**PCWorld: Apple’s Lion isn’t for Everybody

PCWorld: Mac OS X Lion: What You Need to Know

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Part 1 on iOS 5 can be found here, and a followup article about OS X Lion can be found here.

 

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