Review: Mac OS X Lion Developer Preview

Yesterday, Apple released the developer preview of Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion).

Its intent is to bring features from iOS to the Mac platform.

Packing an updated UI, a new Mail client, Launchpad, full-screen apps, Mission Control, a new FileVault, and more, let’s take a look at how Apple is doing (while the Mac App Store was also promoted as a feature of Lion, I will not be reviewing it since it is readily available for Snow Leopard).

Above is a screenshot of the Lion desktop. Click it to view it in its full size.

Notice how the “light” icon under running apps (Twitter, Safari, and Finder in this case) is not present. Lion no longer exposes the user to the concept of apps that are/are not running.

Next we get to Launchpad, one of Lion’s major new features. Notice how it looks exactly like an iOS home screen, minus the top bar.

Above you can see a folder in Launchpad, once again exactly like its iOS counterpart.

Launchpad can be opened using the icon on the Dock (by default and in my screenshots, the second from the left, right next to Finder), or by using a four-finger pinch gesture on the trackpad, which I find reasonably cumbersome. I wish Apple would enable access of Launchpad via either a more convenient trackpad gesture or a keyboard shortcut.

Speaking of trackpad gestures, they are another key feature of Lion. Among other things, Apple has added an annoying (and default) option that reverses some gestures (it’s the checkbox at the top). They’ve also replaced scrollbars with iOS-like scrollbars that only appear whilst actually scrolling.

Here you can see some of the new user interface elements, along with the About This Mac screen, showing that this is Mac OS X version 10.7. Note the button at the top right of the Safari window. When you click it, Safari is put into full-screen mode, as seen in the second screenshot above. Whilst in this mode, Safari almost exactly resembles Safari on the iPad.

Also new in Lion is a new FileVault. Unfortunately, gone is the option for home directory-only encryption. It has been replaced with an option for full-disk encryption. I found Apple’s implementation of it to be quite impressive. Instead of being asked to log in after the system has booted, you are asked to log in immediately when the system begins booting, therefore allowing your password to be used as the encryption key. I haven’t tested this functionality with multiple users, although I question some of the security implications created by multiple users having access to the encryption keys (which is why I rather the original implementation of FileVault where each user’s home directory is encrypted using his/her own password).

Lion also adds an improved version of Apple’s Mail client, much like the one on the iPad. As with Safari, it too can be placed in a full-screen mode, making it look even more so like Mail on the iPad.

Lion includes a new management view called Mission Control. To be honest, it just seems to be a confusing and buggy replacement for Expose (which was quite useful in its original form).

Random thoughts and opinion:

Lion booted into the 64-bit kernel by default for me. Considering I was unable to make my MacBook boot into the 64-bit kernel at all on Snow Leopard, I’m thinking it may have something to do with the fact that I have Server installed (in Lion, Server is no longer a separate product; it is installable along with the client version).

Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) offers many new features. Some, like the new UI, are long overdue. Others, like Launchpad, offer innovative new ways to access apps. And the fact that running app management is now far easier makes Lion that much more pleasant to use. However, most likely as a consequence of this, some things have tended to lag a bit. I’ve also found a fair share of bugs, which is one reason why I’m glad I dual-booted Lion with Snow Leopard instead of completely replacing Snow Leopard (if there’s enough demand, I’ll post a guide on this, although sources tell me my method has issues if you’re using Boot Camp). Since Lion is not a final product, I am not going to assign it a rating as is my usual custom in reviews. Nonetheless, if Apple can iron out all the kinks, Lion looks to be quite a promising release.

5 Responses to “Review: Mac OS X Lion Developer Preview”

  1. Evan

    Thanks,

    Is their any special way to partition it using boot camp? I don’t really want to mess up my Mac, so are their any things I should know? Also, I have VMware Fusion. Would it work to install it on VMware?

  2. Justin

    I’m quite afraid I don’t use Boot Camp, so I can’t really help you there.
    Can’t say I’ve tried installing it in VMWare either.
    Considering the virtual environment can’t tamper with your Mac or anything on it, you could always try installing it in VMWare and see how it goes. No harm would come of it.

  3. Mitch

    I saw the preview for Lion and the Mission Control got me confused it just seemed so confusing and not as refined as you would think I have Windows 7 and I like how if you minimise windows they are all lined up in order and in file in the bar and you dont have to click on them to see what they are just place ur mouse over and little box’s come up and you can see whats there by moving ur mouse over them with our clicking and shows what they are but I do like the rest of lion to bad I can install Mac on my Laptop and have the best of both worlds

  4. Justin

    Meh. Aero previews in Windows are actually kinda useless in my opinion. They’re too tiny to really see anything. Not to mention, if you like tiny window previews, OSX offers those (and you could make the Dock bigger somewhere in settings if you want them bigger). Mission Control isn’t that bad. It’s basically a hybrid of Expose and Spaces, if I recall correctly (it’s been awhile since I’ve used Lion; I mostly use Snow Leopard).

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