First Impressions: Lion (OS X 10.7)

My early thoughts on the all-new Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion — image via Apple), in trademarked bullet-point style:

  • I upgraded to a new OS for all of $30 and did not step out of my room. While this appeals to my height of laziness, you have to say that is an impressive way to function. The installation took about 35 minutes in total, not counting download time (a little over an hour).
  • (Update) Case in point, it just took me >30 minutes to download the 30MB new VLC.
  • I decided to leave the new scrolling as is and test it for a while first. In a couple of hours, the new scrolling is happening a lot more intuitively. I definitely like how full screen apps are being handled — pretty much a separate virtual desktop that you can scroll in and out of easily.
  • I’m having am amazing time using Twimbow — or I’d imagine any twitter-like application — scrolling through twitter columns is now identical to using an iPhone.
  • Mission Control is a brilliant add-on. Actually it’s not so much mission control itself, but the way this has been integrated with the new scrolling and the virtual desktops mode. Very seamless, intuitive to move around and it does what you think it would do. I also like that Dashboard has now setup its own screen on the far left (similar to the search screen on the iOS). It handles dual desktop better than before.
  • What remains to be seen is how seamless the change will be between using a Magic Mouse and using the trackpad. At my desk I use an external keyboard and mouse, whereas often during the day or when out, I’m glistening about the trackpad. Now the gestures are a bit different between them for some of the tasks, so it might take more than one try to get it right based on the input device.
  • I’m not so sure about the Mail app yet. I’m a active Gmail user for both personal and work, part of the reason is that they offer a significantly improved interface and controls, and the other part is my not having to manage my inbox and archive and so on and so forth — a major pain in Outlook days. Apple seems to have got the interface down real well, I’ll give them that, but I’m not as fast on it as I’d be on Gmail, simply with the shortcuts — I use keyboard almost entirely to sort, shift, search, archive, delete and send email in Gmail. Tab+Space vs Command-Shift-D? Yeaaa, no. That said, the interface is smooth, clean and the use in full screen mode can be very productive and focused. For now I’ll use it on and off, but the lack of labels and keyboard ease of use will deter me as a full-time Mail user. However, I can completely see why normal users (ie, non-heavy-gmail, outlook or previous Mail users) would be very happy with it.
  • So far, I’ve not run into an app compatabilities. However, apps that would improve upon the finder, such as say Dropboxwhich adds menu options have lost these, so a re-install will be necessary. At the same time, a variety of my pre-Lion preferences (such as changing my screenshot folder) have stayed on.
  • The all new account syncing is actually quite good, although surprising. Using my stored account info the keychain, it managed to figure out that I used 3 chat accounts that also had calendar, contacts and email attached to it, imported the accounts and gave me a prompt to chose what I wanted synchronized. Nifty.
  • I also get a feeling that the Dock is on its way out. I was barely using it anyway — a combination of Alfred and Spotlight pretty much give me everything I’d want — but with Launchpad coming on as a visual ‘Let me see all my apps’ option…
  • Finder, and just general interface wise, it’s looking a bit more polished. The buttons looks almost Chrome-HTML5 like and snazzier, and there are definitely some adjustments to contrast, shading and general whiteness.

It’s still early days. Still, 1 million downloads on Day 1 is pretty staggering (think $30m revenue and no shipping/box costs). I haven’t tried everything yet, particularly Resume & Versioning.

Overall, I think I now understand Apple’s Back to the Mac campaign a lot better. They have learnt some sharp lessons from the iOS adoption and incorporated them with good insight into the OS. Launchpad, Scrolling and Full Screen apps are great additions to both experience and productivity — and mission control seems to be a much-upgraded version of Spaces+Dashboard without losing their usefulness. I’m happy so far.

Be happy to hear your thoughts too!

Chirag Desai @Chirag