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OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: Hands-on walkthrough

Apple unveiled OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion" at WWDC in June. Set for a final release in fall, here's what you can expect to see in the next-generation operating system.
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By ZDNet Editors, Contributors on
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OS X 10.8, otherwise known as "Mountain Lion", is Apple's next generation operating system set for release in July. With more than 200 new features, here is a quick run through some of them.

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The "About This Mac" screen now displays "OS X" as the operating system's name, rather than "Mac OS X". The name change was made to differentiate "Mac" hardware from "OS X" software. 

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There's a new glass-like dock. It has a less reflective feel, and the glowing blobs below that indicate when an application is running now appears down the front side of the dock bar. The icons remain the same.

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"Mountain Lion" now has notifications -- a further iOS-ification of the desktop and notebook operating system. If it's an important notification, it will stay there at the top of the screen -- though a snooze button allows the temporary subduing of the alert. Other alerts, such as tweets or Facebook statuses, will slide away after a few seconds.

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With all of those notifications, where will they go? The Notification Center, of course. It keeps everything in there from calendar reminders, Exchange and Outlook notes, birthdays, Facebook statuses, and tweets.

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The Notification Center also includes operating system updates. Just like iOS 6, it includes Twitter and Facebook buttons enabling the user to update their status as and when they please without fiddling around with the applications directly.

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Notifications can be managed just as they are on iOS 6. Alerts can be in banner form or in the middle of the screen. They can also be changed to make a sound when a new notification comes through.

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Dictation is one of the best new features to "Mountain Lion". It can be used anywhere -- including Microsoft Office for Mac. Simply double press the designated key (by default: "Fn"), and it will load up the dictation feature.

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Talk into your Mac or external microphone and it will transcribe your voice for you. Just be careful: everything you speak will be uploaded to Apple for processing. It also means if you're on a mobile broadband connection, one should be careful as to not incur excessive data costs.

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The Mac App Store now includes operating system updates, such as required software patches. These come from Apple directly, while other applications -- such as those that you have bought -- also appear here. It's an all-in-one center for all of your apps and updates.

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Messages is a new application that stores all of your iMessages and text messages on your iPhone or iPad. You can take a photo from your iPhone, send it, and see replies on your Mac. You can also send location data and photos.

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As you would expect, it also does good ol' fashioned instant messaging and text messaging -- or "legacy chat" -- as Apple calls it.

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There are new Settings in "Mountain Lion", such as Notifications, Spotlight changes, and Dictation & Speech. You will also note that since iCloud's release, there is no longer a MobileMe option. 

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AirPlay is supported on "Mountain Lion". Those with a next-generation MacBook Pro, the display can be optimised for the new Retina display.

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Dictation settings allows you to teach it how you speak. It also comes with a warning that any data will be uplaoded to Apple. No dictating the nuclear codes, Mr. President. 

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Users can also change the voice style and language of the voices used in Speech. Apple even provides three sexy British accents to play with.

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Mail, Contacts & Calendars also includes new social connectors, such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Vimeo. This means you can sign in and receive notifications in the Notification Center from friends and acquaintances you are connected with.  

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With Facebook, simply type in your user name and password and it will connect your account. It means not only can you receive Facebook notifications; you can also update your status from the Notification Center and share pictures and other things with your friends within a range of in-built applications.

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A message appears telling you what you can expect from Facebook integration with your "Mountain Lion" machine. Apps can also ask for permission to use Facebook integration.

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Facebook can also integrate your friends' details with your Contacts, including profile pictures and birthday details. If you have this sync'd to iCloud, you will also receive the same functionality on your iPhone or iPad.

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With Twitter, simply type in your user name and password and it will connect your account. It means not only can you receive tweets; you can also update your Twitter status from the Notification Center and share pictures and other things with your contacts within a range of in-built applications.

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Twitter for "Mountain Lion" takes a leaf out of iOS 5's book. You can also update your contacts with your Twitter contacts so you can contact them from your iPhone or iPad.

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Safari has a few new features. One of them allows you to tweet your friends with articles and other things. This is one good example of using the "share" button (located next to the back/forward buttons) to share content with your Facebook friends or Twitter contacts.

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The same works with Facebook. You can post website links or images to your Facebook timeline, and even edit who gets to see it -- including preventing certain lists of Facebook friends. You can even add your location to your statuses.

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When you check your Facebook, you will notice the notification comes from "OS X" rather than the in-built Twitter client.

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Another new feature added to Safari is the Tab View. If you're using a MacBook Air or Pro, or a Trackpad on the Mac mini, you can "pinch out" and see all the tabs open in a large, snapshot view. The tiles offer live previews so you can switch between pages as things happen.

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You can now play a game on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, put it down and pick it up pretty much where you left off. Game Center is now in "Mountain Lion". You can connect with your friends and share your scores on Facebook. You can also see your friend requests and other game details.

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Documents in the Cloud allows you to store text documents, pictures, and other content in iCloud and access it from anywhere. No manual uploading required -- simply drag in your files to the window and they will be uploaded to iCloud automatically.

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Another new app to "Mountain Lion": Reminders. It's another port-over from iOS 5 and iOS 6, allowing you to see your list of things-to-do on your Mac. It also supports location-based reminders, so you can be buzzed about something when you leave work or arrive back at home. 

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Another new app: Notes. You can scribble something down on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and see it live on your Mac. Notes supports iCloud.

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It supports text, images and links, which means you can bang in a recipe on your Mac from your favourite cookery website, and see it straight away on your iPhone or iPad downstairs. 

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Lost mode also works in "Mountain Lion", just as it works in iOS 6. If you lose your Mac, you can send it a message. You can also remotely lock your Mac in true iOS-style, and even remotely wipe the device from iCloud.

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Gatekeeper is a new feature to "Mountain Lion" allowing only Mac App Store and/or identified developers' access to your Mac. If the developer is not registered with Apple, or the application was not downloaded from the Mac App Store, it won't run unless you change the settings.

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You can see here, an app called "Cocktail" was not downloaded from the Mac App Store, meaning it simply won't run. You can always change this setting, but be careful.

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Users can now search for apps in Launchpad. There is a small search bar at the top of the window, allowing you to search for your apps in real-time.

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Users can now search for apps in Dashboard. There is a small search bar at the top of the window, allowing you to search for your widgets in real-time.

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