Guest review: Lion = Magic

On a gut level, Lion evokes some of the same feelings my original Macintosh did back in 1984. The first Bondi blue iMac struck me this way as did the first iPod, iPhone and iPad. A guest blog by Bob Snow

A guest review by Bob Snow.

On a gut level, Lion evokes some of the same feelings my original Macintosh did back in 1984. The first Bondi blue iMac struck me this way as did the first iPod, iPhone and iPad.  These products all challenged the user in similar ways. The original Macintosh lacked the memory to get out of its own way but ushered in a paradigm shift for personal computing.

The iMac and the break with the floppy disk, serial ports and cable clutter stung like an astringent. The original iPod was expensive and Mac/Firewire only but managed to leapfrog digital music players with a perfect package. My original iPhone did seem like magic when compared to other smart phones, even running on the slow and overburdened Edge network without any third party apps. The iPad jumpstarted the tablet market years after it was conceived. Lion is the first real break with the original Mac OS user interface and it feels like it has a lot of room to grow.

What makes it magic? Why, gestures and Apple's $69 Magic Trackpad do. For me, full screen apps are the killer feature. Without the gestures, access to the best features of Lion would be a cumbersome and irritating experience. There are plenty of rough edges and a lot of tweaks were needed to make things work the way I wanted.

  • It took me about a day to get used to natural scrolling on my iMac.  After that I had to install Scroll Reverser on my legacy Core Duo MacBook to keep from going crazy.
  • I tried for more than a day, but I am a mouse person and not a trackpad person. I installed Better TouchTool to make my Magic Mouse nearly as functional as the Magic Trackpad in Lion.
  • I really need to be able to reorder my full screen apps.  For now, I just click on the running apps in the Dock to make sure the first available is Safari and the second is Mail.  It would be nicer to just drag them in the preferred order in Mission Control or set some preference to make sure they always swipe in my preferred order as I move away from the desktop.
  • I am hiding my dock for the first time.  Clearly, the dock and Launchpad have an awkward and redundant relationship.  Launchpad took a lot of tweaking and organizing.  It needs work, especially in the way it handles apps that don't come from the App Store.  I have a whole Adobe folder filled with little bits and pieces that are all seen as individual apps.  IOS was the inspiration for Launchpad and IOS really doesn't deal with files.  Launchpad on the Mac will eventually need to deal with files or it will not be able to replace the Dock.
  • Mission Control is a huge improvement to Spaces and Expose. Without it, Lion doesn't really hang together.
  • Web browsing and full screen is the best combination.  It took some changed settings and a little discipline to make sure everything opens in a new tab.  I used Better TouchTool to allow me to move from tab to tab with gestures.
  • Mail is improved and I like it as a full screen app.  Sure, not being able to drag attachments from the desktop presents a conundrum, but otherwise I like the mono-tasking serenity that it affords.<
  • If you can get past the leather ugliness of iCal, it also benefits as a full screen app.  I just couldn't and resorted to LionBleacher to change the appearance.
  • Some apps make no sense in full screen.  The Address Book Window sits open on my Desktop along with a handful of other, lesser apps.  The desktop is also where I do the serious work of multitasking between programs that need to share and work side by side.  I have not set up spaces yet for improved workflow.

For me, the finder works well enough but probably needs some major changes in the way data and folders are accessed. The Dock can't go away just yet because Launchpad doesn't replace it. Swiping away from the desktop or using Mission Control to invoke full screen apps helps me to focus on certain tasks.

Before Lion, I kept minimizing apps to the Dock or using Expose to cut through the window clutter.  Lion mimics IOS which was designed for small screen devices like phones and tablets. As a result, Lion really shines when working on smaller MacBooks. In fact, Lion stumbles with multiple monitors when dealing with full screen apps.

This is a paradigm shift of sorts and will take some getting used to. For the most part, I am awed.  Part of me is frustrated, in the same way I was with my original Mac and iPhone. Expect changes and refinements. My original 128k Mac was upgraded to 512k.  My iPhone eventually got the App Store. Lion is an awkward cub right now but there is plenty of room for growth and refinement.

Lion cub photo: Luminous Landscape

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