Apple's latest Lion operating system is a leap forward in the right direction for Macs.
By CHONG JINN XIUNG
Mac OS X 10.7, also code-named Lion, is the latest major update to Apple's operating system and it's finally here.
After hearing about it so much since the initial announcement in October, we were quite eager to try it and we purchased Lion on the first day it was released.
Unlike previous versions of the OS, Lion doesn't come in a physical box and is available exclusively as a download via the Mac App Store.
Lion is a massive download - the 3.76GB installer will require a fast Internet connection unless you are prepared for a long wait.
You will also have to make sure that you have the latest version of Snow Leopard and a Mac running on an Intel processor such as the Core 2 Duo, Core i3/5/7 or Xeon.
The installation process was quite seamless and streamlined - you just have to sit back and let the OS install itself.
The installation process took approximately 20 to 25 minutes, which was a much shorter wait compared to the time it took to download the operating system itself.
Navigation made easy
When you first start up Lion, it's not immediately apparent that anything has changed except for the new desktop wallpaper - Andromeda Galaxy.
Almost everything we had on the Macbook Pro remained intact after the Lion installation.
Heck, even the iMovie project we were working on survived the installation process.
Once we started poking around and exploring Lion, it was quite evident that Apple has overhauled the OS quite a bit. In fact, the OS has so many new features that it's not possible to list them all here.
The star attractions in Lion's long list of new features are Launchpad and Mission Control.
Launchpad is a new interface that gives easy access to all the desktop apps in a grid-like format. In a way Launchpad replaces the long and tried method of launching applications from the Dock.
It works very much like the iOS and apps can be arranged in multiple Launchpad pages. Holding down on a icon for a few seconds will allow you to rearrange and delete apps, and create folders as well.
It may seem like Apple has been lifting a lot of elements from iOS but Launchpad definitely makes it easier to launch apps than having to pull up the Applications folder in Snow Leopard.
Another significant addition is Mission Control, an interface that unifies Exposé, Spaces and Dashboard into one.
It basically provides an overview of everything that's going on in your Mac. It shows desktop spaces, windows and programs that are running in the background.
Misson Control allows you to effectively manage a messy desktop by moving apps and windows to different virtual desktops when things get too cluttered.
Perhaps the only downside is that it simply doesn't look attractive with the multitudes of windows hovering over a plain wallpaper. Still, it is the most effective way to manage applications and we are more likely to use it than Spaces back in Snow Leopard.
The right gestures
Gestures now play a big part in the overall Lion experience. The first time you start up Lion, you'll be briefed on all the different gestures available and you're likely to forget most of them because there are just too many to remember.
Also, many of these gestures mainly apply to Mac notebooks and desktop computers with the Magic Trackpad.
If it's a pain to remember them all, you can just stick to the important gestures - swiping upwards with three fingers launches Mission Control and pinching with the thumb and three fingers brings up Launchpad instantly.
Lion's "natural scrolling" feature will take some getting used to. It's best to think of scrolling as pulling and pushing as you would with iOS - for instance, swiping your fingers down scrolls the screen upwards.
Yes, it's confusing and we could not get used to it. Fortunately, there's an option to disable natural scrolling if you can't rewire your brain to use it.
Full-screen mode for apps is another big feature and it's something that Mac users have been missing out on for a long time. Clicking on the full screen icon will make an app fill the entire screen.
It helps eliminate distractions because you get a full view of only the open app. This will greatly benefit devices with a small screen like the MacBook Air.
The full-screen mode works well with gestures - swiping left or right with three fingers allows you to navigate between full-screen apps and desktops.
It has one big downside - the feature currently doesn't support two monitor setups. If you have two-monitors hooked up to your Mac and expand an app into full screen mode, the second display will just show the wallpaper which is a complete waste of space.
Little things that matter
It wasn't just the major improve-ments in Lion that impressed us but also the little tweaks.
One such improvement is in the way window resizing is handled now. Finally, you can resize windows by dragging any part of its borders - previously you can only do so by clicking on a tiny area on a window.
You will also no longer have to worry about losing your work because Lion has your back with its Auto Save feature.
Auto Save works by saving your work every five minutes. It works in the background with supported apps like Preview, iWork and TextEdit, so you don't have to worry about losing your work in the event of a system crash or power failure.
Resume is another handy feature that lets you pick up where you left off on any number of apps.
For instance, some programs require the computer to be rebooted after the installation process. Now you can let it reboot and not worry about losing any work as Resume takes a snapshot of the system before shutting down the Mac.
Airdrop is another minor enhancement that is worth mentioning. AirDrop can make a peer-to-peer connection with other Macs within 30ft of your location.
It doesn't need to connect to a WiFi network or require an Internet connection to work which is really cool.
However, it is too bad that you are limited to sharing files with other Lion users.
Lion, the eight version of the Mac OS X, is an excellent upgrade that may just change the way you use your Mac.
It also incorporates some iOS-like features such as Launchpad and gesture driven controls which make it easier to interact with the Mac. Also, Mission Control makes it easy to manage any number of applications that are running on the Mac.
However, some features are still limited in some ways. For instance, Air Drop only works with other Macs running on Lion, AutoSave works with some selected apps, and full-screen mode doesn't support dual monitors.
Overall, Lion is definitely a worthwhile upgrade and the price tag of RM89 is more than reasonable for an OS packed with so many fancy new features.
Pros: Easy to install; Mission Control and Launchpad makes navigation easy; many new handy features like Auto Save, Resume and full-screen mode; affordable.
Cons: Full-screen mode can only handle a single monitor; AirDrop works only with other Macs running Lion; AutoSave supports limited number of apps.
Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion)
Operating system for Macs
System requirements: OS X 10.6.6 or later (Snow Leopard), Intel Core 2 Duo or Core i3/i5/i7 or Xeon processor, 2GB RAM, 7GB HDD space
Price: US$29.90 (RM89)
Rating: 4 stars