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.