Sometime around now, Apple will unleash Mac OS X 10.7 Lion to the world. It’s been almost two years since the last paid-for update, which was Snow Leopard in September 2009. Snow Leopard wasn’t a major update to Leopard (10.5), and in some respects this trend is continued with Lion – although Apple boasts of there being 250 new features, some of them aren’t particularly ground-breaking.
- Multi-touch gestures – this is something I may use, and would be further justification of my purchase of a Magic Mouse last year; at the time, I was a little hesitant to pay £50 for a mouse but I’ve found it to be pretty good on the whole, and hopefully having more gestures will make it feel like an even better investment.
- Full-screen apps – interesting but I don’t actually use many of Apple’s built-in apps like Safari and iPhoto. Once more third-party applications make use of the full-screen APIs then this may become quite a compelling feature.
- Mission Control – I make some use of Expose (but not perhaps as much as I could) so this may be useful. Again, depends how many third-party programs make use of full-screen.
- Mac App Store – listing this as a new feature is cheating a bit as it’s been available in Snow Leopard for months now, and is necessary to install Lion. I’ve used this for a few applications but the majority of programs on my Mac are still downloaded directly from the developers’ websites. However, with the Mac App Store becoming more prominent I expect to see more applications being available only on there.
- Launchpad – I could see this being very useful for apps not already in the Dock. Right now, I have a stack called ‘Other useful apps’ in which I keep aliases for applications that I use semi-regularly, and Launchpad could replace that.
- Resume, Auto Save and Versions – again, could be useful once more third-party apps use them.
I’m not going to rush to upgrade to Lion, although may look at it either on Sunday or next week. Whilst it may not seem like a massive update, it does bring backend changes that will break some programs. Thankfully, someone has made a database of apps and whether they work, including notes as to what features work and what don’t. It looks like most do, but you may need to download the latest versions of your programmes to ensure that they will still work after the update. In particular, any really old applications that do not run natively on Intel processors and use Rosetta probably won’t work at all in Lion.
Also, make sure you have a full system backup just in case something really bad happens.
Like with all new versions of Mac OS X, support for some older Macs are phased out. Snow Leopard would only run on Intel-based Macs, not the older PowerPC Macs; with Lion, you need to have an Intel processor capable of 64-bit processing. This means that if you have an early iMac, MacBook or MacBook Mini with an Intel Core Duo or Core Solo processor, you’re out of luck.
Finally, as I’ve mentioned before, you will be installing Lion through the Mac App Store. Over the past couple of OS X releases Apple has been reducing the package size, and this brings it to the logical conclusion of requiring no packaging at all. Presumably, if you have several Macs all using the sane Apple ID, you’ll only need to pay for Lion once to install it on all of your Macs, but if you live with someone else who has their own Apple ID, you’ll each have to pay separately.
If you have installed Lion, I’d appreciate your feedback about how it went, and in particular if any programs are no longer working.