Wed, 25 Jul 2012 Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion review
New features include AirPlay Mirroring, Documents in the Cloud, Reminders, Messages as Mac OS X takes another leap forward
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: iCloud is far more integrated than before; Documents in the Cloud off to a good start; Notification Centre is great; Twitter and (upcoming Facebook) sharing are useful; Reminders and Notes both well implemented; good new Safari and Mail features
- Cons: There are a few inconsistencies in the design, Documents In The Cloud isn’t intuitive after years of Finder usage
- Price: £13.99 inc VAT
- Star rating:
What do we think of the interface and design
When Apple announced it was planning to bring the best of iOS over to Mac OS X we all worried that the Mac operating system would become more difficult to use as it tried to implement interface ideas that were only really suited to the smaller touchscreen.
We’re glad to see that most interface elements from iOS being brought over to OS X are being tucked away, either as Launchpad (which serves as an addition to several traditional means of launching programs), or now as a Dashboard widget manager and that we can still very much use a Mac OS X as a computer not a glorified iPad. That said, the interface hasn’t really changed that much from Lion to Mountain Lion. The Finder still operates in much the same way, and has much of the same style (the rumoured Marble interface redesign that would make everything black and grey; like iMovie, hasn’t materialised).
The design of different apps does, however, look a little odd to us. There seems to be two main styles: all the old apps (Mail, iTunes, Safari, now have a monotone grey look) whereas apps such as Calendar, Address Book and Game Center all have this weird beige teak-wood effect. Reminders is the reverse of that being in a solid business black. Apple started to implement new look apps in Lion and has continued it in Mountain Lion, but without any real consistency.
There must be some method behind these design choices. We assume that Apple, famous for paying a lot of thought to design, has decided that things to do should be presented in an inverse colour scheme; while gaming, contacts and your calendar both belong to a fake wood effect; everything else in monochrome: but we’re darned if we can figure it out.
Of perhaps more annoyance is the creeping inconsistency with keyboard shortcuts. Auto Save (introduced in Lion) is the prime suspect here. Pressing Command-S saves a document in most traditional programs, but in iPhoto it now brings up the Straighten tool. Command-Shift-S in most programs is Save As, but in programs with Auto Save (like TextEdit, Preview, Pages, and Numbers) pressing Command-S duplicates a file. In an Auto-Save program, the unusual Command-Shift-Option-S combination now performs the Save As command instead. Confused? Imagine being new to the Mac OS X operating system.
We’re all for change, but users have a right to be confused with an operating system that has inconsistent stock commands like Save and Save As. And we’re not wholly convinced that Documents in The Cloud is going to simplify matters or muddy the waters even further. On the whole Mac OS X is still a heck of a lot more intuitive than Windows, but we think Apple should stamp out some of these interface inconsistencies.
With the cost of upgrading to Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion fairly negligible, you might be tempted to upgrade straightaway. As ever there are advantages to sitting out for the first few weeks just to see if there are any major problems. So far we’ve found the two big programs: Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite CS5 and CS6 all run fine (although we had to re-install Photoshop CS6 for some reason).
You should ensure that all software is up-to-date before installation. We had difficulty with Parallels Desktop 7 which would not launch after updating to Mountain Lion (because we weren't running the latest update). Because the program would not launch we could not update from inside the Parallels programs, although the Mountain Lion-compatible update is available from the Parallels site. We also noticed that Elgato’s GameCapture HD does not function correctly (although we imagine an update will arrive soon), and there may be a few programs that you rely on that have issues with OS X 10.8. So if you rely on programs outside of Office and Creative Suite, you might want to test them out first. A website called RoaringApps is hosting a wiki of compatible apps and programs.
Even so, there's a lot to be said for giving it a few days and letting other people spot any problems before upgrading. Although that's easier said than done when it's just £13.99 and offers so many tempting new features.