Mac OS X Lion Review

If you’ve been following the site account on Twitter recently, you already know most of what I think about Lion, and I won’t be telling you anything the other reviews haven’t gone on at (sometimes inordinate) length about.

Having upgraded all of my machines to it without significant issues1 by downloading it once and using the install disk image, I can summarize the good bits as follows:

  • Restoring desktop state works pretty well for me (I shutdown my machines, since I don’t like them feeding off the grid for no use, and love coming back to find all my terminal windows in a mostly reusable state)
  • Mail is now truly awesome, even if the transition may be a bit jarring at first:
  • Inline Quicklook previews of links in mail messages is awesome, and saves me hours of time.
  • Mail attachments are automatically locked (yes, that’s a good thing - it forces you to move them to Downloads or save a copy instead of modifying the cached file and making a mess of things)
  • “Inverted” scrolling was not an issue for me at all. Can’t really understand what the fuss is about, either with a touchpad or a mouse. It does feel more natural to me.
  • The new FileVault works very, very smoothly indeed. I look forward to a front-end for diskutil to encrypt a couple of my external hard drives as well, although it seems straightforward enough.
  • Window resizing now supports proportional (+Shift) and “both ends” (+Alt) modes.
  • There are spiffy new Automator actions called Text to EPUB file and Website popup (There’s also an Encode Media and Convert Quartz compositions to Quicktime Movies that I have no recollection of seeing earlier)
  • Python was upgraded to 2.7.1 (along with a number of bundled libraries), and all my PyObjC code seems to work fine, including previously built apps.
  • Finally, there is both mainland Chinese and Portuguese speech synthesis (even if you have to download the voices separately).

And the bad bits as:

  • The pop-up window animations get old real fast (even though they were one of the mainstays of early Mac OS)
  • PDF files generated with invalid font tables still can’t be viewed in Preview
  • Full screen apps are useless in multiple monitor setups, which is by far the stupidest UI decision Apple made in recent years (if you have more than one monitor, going full screen on an app moves it to the primary display, and all others are filled with the login background texture)

Seriously, it borders on the asinine. Full screen apps should take up the screen you toggle them in, not wipe out half your working area (fortunately iTerm2 lets you do fullscreen terminals right).

The “meh” bits (of which there are a few) revolve mostly about Mission Control (it is somewhat confusing at first), Launchpad (utterly, utterly useless, and a waste considering that a simple feature such as find-as-you-type would have made it truly useful) and some application compatibility issues (Office is slightly more wonky, my personal build of QSB, as yet to be updated, crashes - but Quicksilver works fine - and I have to jump a few extra hoops for Java and X11 apps2), none of which were critical in my case.

Oh, and Dashboard. Why’s it still there anyway?

I did do my homework and got things like the new beta DisplayLink drivers beforehand, so there was minimal hardware tweaking, although lack of third-party SSD TRIM support (despite easily remedied) is still a niggling hassle - as is Apple having changed network-based Time Machine again, which means I have to upgrade my home NAS soon.

Then again, I haven’t had time to look into odd nooks and crannies yet, so there might be a few other issues yet.

But, in general, I love it so far. Worth every penny (and no, that’s not a knock-knock-knock joke).

  1. On one of them there was an error when disabling “legacy” [FileVault≠ on my user account, which was easily fixed by copying the (few) unique files there to another folder, nuking the account, and restoring it from another Mac via Migration Assistant - worked like a charm. ↩︎

  2. If you want to know more about X11 in Lion, I suggest starting here↩︎

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